Millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who live outside of the territories and hold foreign citizenship would be ineligible for a “right of return” to Israel under US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed framework deal, a Jordanian lawmaker said.
Mohammad al-Qatatsha said that Kerry had revealed details of the proposal during a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday and that it contained “secret terms,” the Ma’an News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Although no official data exists on the subject, estimates put the Palestinian population of Jordan at around three million people, possibly more than half of the country’s population. After Jordan withdrew its claims to the West Bank in 1988, it granted citizenship to the Palestinian refugees within its borders, except for those who came from the Gaza Strip. West Bank Palestinians living in Jordan were eligible for citizenship as long as they could prove continuous ties with the West Bank through Israeli-issued residency permits.
However, for years Jordan systematically revoked its nationality from citizens of Palestinian origin, traditionally justifying the procedure as a means of preventing Israel’s forced transfer of Palestinians eastward into Jordan. But observers suspected that Jordan was more worried about its own demographic makeup than the citizenship rights of Palestinians.
According to a report published by Human Rights Watch in 2010, over 2,700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin were stripped of their nationality between the years 2004 and 2008. The practice was reportedly suspended in April 2012.
Descendants of Palestinian refugees in other countries, such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, are typically barred from obtaining citizenship.
Al-Qatatsha also said that while the Jordanian leadership supports the Palestinians’ rights and objects to isolating a future Palestinian state with Jordanian and international forces controlling the borders, Jordan would not push an agenda out of respect for the Palestinian Authority’s independence in negotiations.
Kerry has been toiling over the past several months to formulate and propose a framework deal that both the PA and Israel will accept as a basis for continuing negotiations toward toward an end-of-the-year target for a final accord. In his attempts, he has run into opposition from both sides over issues such as security arrangements and the right of return, and has reportedly not obtained backing from US President Barack Obama to impose a “binding” deal on the sides. The Israelis have signaled a willingness to accept the deal with reservations, but grumblings from the PA camp seem to indicate that it has reservations on the terms of the framework.
King Abdullah is scheduled to meet with Obama on February 14 in California.
On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the United States for five days in the first week of March, during which he will meet with Obama at the White House, presumably to discuss the faltering peace process with the Palestinians as well as differences between Jerusalem and Washington regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.