Oraib Al-Rantawi
February 3, 2011 - 1:00am

Over the last decade, Jordan's policies have centered on a single assumption: that the creation of a viable Palestinian state is a major pillar of Jordan's security and stability. Even more so, it is vital to Jordan's existence and identity.

Based on this assumption, Jordan stood firm behind the peace process and was a strong supporter of the two-state solution. In that light, Jordan supported the Arab Peace Initiative and US President George W. Bush's vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Equally, Jordan called for the implementation of the roadmap and signed agreements.

From Jordan's perspective, the failure of the peace process would lead to regional chaos, the spread of fundamentalism, violence and extremism and endanger the moderate camp in the Middle East. Jordan's decision-makers strongly believe that if the peace process comes to nothing, then it will pay a price greater than others.

These fears are among the factors that unite Jordan with moderate forces in the region. Nonetheless, Jordan has its own overwhelming fears and anxieties regarding the failure of the peace process, in case Israeli-Palestinian talks reach a deadlock or impasse.

The more the prospect of a two-state solution recedes, the more other options and solutions loom in the horizon at the expense of Jordan. Among such options are looking for a resolution of the Palestinian problem outside Palestine, including knocking on the doors of Jordan.

The fears of Jordan being viewed as an "alternative home" and of "tawtin", i.e. settling refugees in Jordan, have in the last decade become a pressing issue on the agenda of the Jordanian political elite and media. This has become even more profound and acute in light of the failure of political reforms and democratic change. In addition, there is the failure of successive governments in addressing social imbalances that color the relationship between state and citizens. Moreover, there is the failure to integrate citizens of Palestinian origin in the state and society structure.

Strikingly, the moment there appears to be a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the more the debate heats up over who is Jordanian and who is Palestinian, the refugee right of return and political and civil rights. Paradoxically, when negotiations reach a deadlock, the questions resurface about what will be the fate of more than three million Palestinians in Jordan.

Lack of progress in resolving the Palestinian problem has retarded issues of political reform and democratic change. This has in turn led to social and political stagnation, manifesting itself in protest centered around "protecting Jordan's national identity" and reducing the level of representation or participation by Jordanians from Palestinian origin in Jordan's political system and state institutions. This is expressed in disturbing forms of protest, as seen at football matches and on university campuses.

The deadlock in peace talks and the receding prospects for the creation of a Palestinian state make the chances for comprehensive reforms dim indeed.

Today, Jordan's decision-makers find themselves in a difficult and critical situation. On the one hand, there is a need for comprehensive political reforms and on the other hand, the leadership feels the pressure of the street and the impact of the tsunami waves of change that started in Tunisia and endanger the regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Then there is the deadlock and impasse in the peace process.

To sum up the situation, Jordan views the success of the peace process and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as a safe outlet for many chronic and pressing problems and a healthy solution to the challenges Jordan is facing. The fact that there is a deadlock alongside the deepening economic and social crises Jordan is facing and growing social and political protest in the Middle East means the winds of political change are blowing across the Arab region


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