Illustration: MK Aryeh Eldad Speaking at Jordan Option Ultimate Solution Conference (Courtesy Ted Belman, Screenshot 01:58)
Former Knesset Member (MK) Prof. Aryeh Eldad, MD, has arguably been the most vocal activist in Israel among those exploring the idea of Jordan as a viable alternative for “Palestinian” Arabs seeking a national political entity.
Prof. Eldad will bring his experience and knowledge to the question: ““Is The Jordan Option Even Possible? Two states for two people on two sides of the Jordan River,” which he will present at the upcoming Jerusalem conference, The Jordan Option: The Only Road to Peace. The conference, which will take place on October 17th, aims to shape public discourse by offering fresh options for peace and stability for Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Prof. Eldad spoke with The Jerusalem Herald about his upcoming presentation, and predicted that Jordan is on the cusp of a dramatic national upheaval. He also expressed his resolute commitment to the Jordan Option proposal, which he laid out in his 2004 plan “Two States for Two Nations on Two Sides of the Jordan River.”
In that plan, Eldad noted that he “takes into consideration the Palestinian need for self-determination, the need to resolve the problem of the refugees – who are the real foundation of terrorism since the State’s inception, in the geopolitical, economic and historical common sense.” At the same time, he emphasized that “the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel by virtue of every conceivable right: Divine promise, the course of history and international law.”
First elected to the Knesset in 2003, MK Eldad sparked a heated discussion of Jordan as a homeland for the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria during a Knesset debate in 2009. Subsequent to his suggestion that these Arabs should all receive Jordanian citizenship since Jordan is the de facto Palestinian state, 53 Knesset members drafted a resolution that Jordan be designated as the official home for the “Palestinians.”
Eldad’s proposal prompted a strongly worded protest from Jordan’s government, with the foreign minister of Jordan summoning the Israeli ambassador to formally demand an explanation, and to let him know that Jordan absolutely rejected the Knesset proposal. Jordanian lawmakers urged the severance of diplomatic ties with Israel over the incident.
Not content to let things quietly fade away, MK Eldad delivered the keynote address to the 2013 conference “Two States for Two Peoples on Two Sides of the Jordan River,” organized by Physicians for a Strong Israel in Jerusalem.
Reflecting on the 2013 conference and its connection to the current conference, Eldad told The Jerusalem Herald that he felt there had been “unfortunately no results” from the previous attempt, but expressed his hope that “if we will be insistent it may work.”
How to make it happen?
Stating his awareness that the “Palestinian Authority” (PA) is likely to actively oppose Arab residents of Judea and Samaria leaving for Jordan, he predicted that the incentives outlined in the Jordan Opposition Coalition’s (JOC) proposed plans - including land grants, education, job training, business loans, healthcare, and voting rights - would entice very few Arabs to leave.
However, according to Prof. Eldad the Arabs of Judea and Samaria do not have to leave for Jordan in order for the plan to have an effect. Rather, he said they may remain in Israel as residents but not as citizens. In a short video interview, shown below, Eldad describes the large-scale program that will be needed to actually resettle refugees in Jordan, which includes “creating desalinization of water, water resources, [and] energy supply in Jordan, [as well as] resident’s jobs.”
Reiterating that deportation is not part of his thinking, he goes on to say that “the core issue of the plan is whatever Palestinian wants to stay in Judea and Samaria will become [not] Israeli residents but Jordanian citizens. They will work in Israel, they will enjoy national security in Israel, they will pay taxes in Israel, but they’ll vote for the parliament in Amman.”
“Jordan is Palestine, the only solution?” MK Eldad on YouTube
Eldad has said he is convinced that the “Palestinians” in the UNRWA refugee camps “must be resettled, preferably in Jordan. Jordan is effectively Palestine. Seventy percent of the Jordanian population are Palestinians. This is the de facto fulfillment of ‘the two state solution.’”
“If a large scale international program was created to bring water, energy, housing and jobs to a designated area in Jordan a willing transfer could happen. Within a few years we would be able to resettle 2-3 million refugees in Jordan,” he estimated, indicating that an infrastructural program could show dramatic results.
“A civil war is unavoidable”
However, when asked about the practicalities of how such a change in Jordan’s status and the absorption of “Palestinians” into the new state would actually take place, Prof. Eldad expressed concerns to The Jerusalem Herald.
Even as he noted that he has no indication of the kind of local support that exists in Jordan for the idea of replacing Jordan’s King Abdullah II with a leader such as JOC Secretary General Mudar Zahran, Eldad made a dire prediction that a change in Jordan will indeed come - but not through peaceful means.
“I think a civil war is unavoidable,” the former MK assessed.
Further, he asserted there are no steps Israel can take to ensure Jordan would not intensify its hostility after a national change were to occur, especially given the existing high level of antagonism towards Israel in the state.
Eldad is convinced that “at the end of a civil war, Jordan would become a Palestinian State, if we want it or if we do not.”
“Hostility will not be changed,” he predicted, while adding, “‘Jordan is Palestine’ would become a fact with no connection to their hostility.”
In thinking about the results of his work since the 2009 Knesset debate and resolution proposing two states on the two banks of the Jordan River, he reflected, “I organized a conference and suggested the bill. I think no government in Israel will support it unless there is a civil war in Jordan and the king will be removed or stripped of his power.”
Given his prediction of an imminent war across the border, the former MK’s informed assessment of the Israeli government’s pattern of action would seem to indicate Israel may soon be forced to reconsider its position vis-a-vis Jordan - and the sooner it starts planning its steps in advance, the better.