Jordan rejects alleged US proposal for confederation with Palestinians

Abbas appears to warm to idea on condition Israel is involved, but Amman unwilling to even discuss plan; PA official says scheme has been under consideration for decades

Jordan's King Abdullah II, right, welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Royal Palace in Amman on December 7, 2017. (AFP/ KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

Jordan on Sunday rejected a proposal, allegedly floated by US administration officials, calling for the creation of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said that joining the kingdom with the West Bank — the bulk of the area Palestinians want for a future state and controlled by Israeli since 1967 — is not a matter that is open for discussion.

In comments reported by the Khaberni news agency, Ghneimat said that “discussing the idea of a confederation with the regions of the West Bank is not possible.”

She clarified that Jordan’s position, which is based on the two-state solution of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, is fixed and clear.

But Nabil Abu Rudeinah, the official spokesman of the Palestinian Authority presidency, said that the idea of a confederation has been on the agenda of the Palestinian leadership since 1984.

However, the Palestinian spokesperson signaled that a two-state solution is a prerequisite for any future arrangement with Jordan, reported Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency.

US President Trump’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the president’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Rudeinah added that a decision regarding a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation is a decision for the two nations to make.

The comments came hours after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a delegation of Israeli peace activists — including lawmakers — about the US confederation scheme and his support for it.

According to the dovish Peace Now group, a senior delegation of which met Abbas on Sunday in Ramallah, the Palestinian leader said senior US administration officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt asked him recently about his opinion on a “confederation with Jordan.”

Abbas allegedly voiced interest in a tripartite confederation with Jordan and Israel, in what would appear a dramatic departure from his longstanding insistence on a two-state solution, according the to Israeli peace activists and a Palestinian official.

“‘I said [to Kushner and Greenblatt]: Yes, I want a three-way confederation with Jordan and Israel.’ I asked them if the Israelis would agree to such a proposal,” a statement by Peace Now quoted Abbas as saying.

While some Israelis who are opposed to an independent Palestinian state have long suggested some kind of confederation, with or without Jordan, the PA has so far clung to its demand for sovereignty in the framework of a two-state solution.

Despite the confederation suggestion, Abbas said US President Donald Trump had assured him of his support for a two-state solution. Abbas said he himself was in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state with NATO securing the agreement, according to Peace Now.

Mahmoud al-Habash, Abbas’s religious affairs adviser who was present at the meeting, confirmed to The Times of Israel the content of the Peace Now statement.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, attends a Cabinet meeting at the White House on August 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Abbas’s statements.

The US administration also did not directly comment immediately on the Peace Now report.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Greenblatt said, ‎”Over the past 19 months we have probed all relevant parties about many ideas and possibilities.”

“The plan, when released, will reflect ideas that we think are realistic, fair and implementable that will enhance the lives of the Israeli and Palestinian people,” Greenblatt continued. “We will not discuss any specific ideas or private conversations that may or may not have been had with leaders in the region.”

Sunday’s meeting with Abbas was attended by Peace Now executive director Shaqued Morag, Meretz MK Mossi Raz (a former Peace Now director), and Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova.

According to the PA’s official Wafa news agency, unnamed “peace activists” from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party attended the meeting as well.

Trump officials have said they are finishing their peace plan and working on rolling it out, but have not offered any timeline. Details of the plan have remained firmly under wraps.

Palestinian officials have been publicly boycotting the White House since Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, Abbas’s claim to have spoken with Kushner and Greenblatt recently appeared to signal that some lines of communication remain open.

Trump has said he does not necessarily endorse a two-state solution, breaking with decades of US policy and saying in 2017 that he would back whatever formula both sides decide on.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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