Jordan will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Kingdom’s foreign minister declared, expressing a latent Hashemite fear of Jordan becoming the de-facto Palestinian state.
“Whoever thinks Jordan will become someone’s alternative state is delusional,” Nasser Judeh told members of parliament Sunday evening during an update session on the peace process and the recent visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Jordan.
“With regards to the rumors surrounding the Jewish state, Jordan’s consistent position — aligned in this regard with the Palestinian position — is that this formula and this proposal is unacceptable,” Judeh was quoted by the official Petra News Agency as saying. He was apparently referring to reports that Kerry’s framework proposal will provide for recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.
Judeh’s detailed speech — outlining seven Jordanian principles regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, ahead of the framework agreement — was the most comprehensive public articulation of the Jordanian position to date.
The Jordanian minister largely echoed Palestinian negotiating points, but warned that the Hashemite Kingdom will not accept “any framework which does not fully address its highest interests,” an allusion to the feared naturalization of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Jordan, as well as concerns over security arrangements along the border of a future state.
Since relinquishing its claim over the West Bank in 1988, the Jordanian government has stealthily revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians who originated from the area through a series of sophisticated bureaucratic measures. (Some additional 200,000 refugees originating from Gaza never received Jordanian citizenship.) Ever-mindful of a demographic takeover, Jordan has recently begun blocking the entry of Palestinian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.
Now, official Jordan is concerned that defining Israel as a Jewish state may eventually lead to the forced deportation of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan river. As early as 2003, King Abdullah II conveyed to then-president George W. Bush his fears that Ariel Sharon may take advantage of the turmoil in Iraq as an opportunity to deport hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to Jordan.
“Jordan is worried that Kerry’s framework agreement will establish a Palestinian state sometime in the future, but naturalize the Palestinian refugees in Jordan immediately,” Assaf David, an expert on Jordan at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, told The Times of Israel.
Consecutive waves of refugees have left Jordan in a demographically volatile position since 1948.
According to some estimates, approximately half of Jordan’s population of 6.4 million does not hold citizenship. The massive number of non-citizens is comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees, but also war refugees from Iraq and Syria more recently. Over 3 million Jordanian residents are of Palestinian origin, with almost 2 million registered as refugees with UNRWA, the UN Agency entrusted with employing and educating the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The Jordanian government will most likely adopt Kerry’s framework agreement, David estimated, a move that will expose it to harsh resistance from both parliament and the wider public.
“The king will be placed under immense pressure from both the East-Jordanian (non-Palestinian) elite as well as the Palestinian-Jordanian elite,” David said.
In his speech before parliament, Judeh repeated the often-used Jordanian message that a Palestinian state is a top national strategic interest. But David of Hebrew University wondered which “Jordan” the minister was referring to.
“Is it the Hashemite regime? Is it the East-Jordanian population? the Palestinian-Jordanian population? Each player in this game has different views regarding the Palestinian state.”