By Daoud Kuttab
25 June 2015
The absence of a political horizon has
strengthened Palestinians’ attempts to reach a different form of independence.
Failure on the political front made them
work on a more doable idea: to empower Gaza and the West Bank economically
through improving trade with their natural Arab environment.
Jordan, which has the longest border with
Palestine and the only way in and out of the West Bank, is perfectly situated
to help it carry out an accelerated economic boost that can focus on trade,
investment and joint projects.
Joint visits by economic, business,
industry and tourism Palestinian and Jordanian officials, along with connecting
Jericho and other Palestinian areas to the Jordanian electric grid appear to be
key components of this process.
But European diplomats working quietly on
this front noticed that attempts to improve trade exchanges between Jordan and
Palestine are not moving quickly.
Instead of a win-win situation for each
side, the trade exchange is apparently subject to political constraints.
Jordanian-Palestinian relations under
President Mahmoud Abbas and His Majesty King Abdullah are unprecedented.
Yet, one can detect a certain hesitation in
this relationship on the part of the Jordanian government.
Jordan’s uneasiness with the Palestinians
was recently revealed in a meeting between a senior official and journalists.
Jordan seems to be worried that something
sinister is going on between the Palestinians and Israelis behind Jordan’s
back. Jordan and others (including senior Palestinian leaders and major world
powers) remember how the Oslo Accords were cooked in secret meetings without
consultation with allies.
The Jordanian official says that Jordan,
one of two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel and is
custodian of holy places in Jerusalem, does not want to be caught short again.
The recent problems between Jordan and
Palestine began in late December when the Palestinian leadership rejected the
advice of Jordan’s U.N. representative Dina Kawar and insisted to move ahead
with a vote on a UN Security Council resolution putting a deadline to Israel’s
Kawar and Jordan’s top leadership argued
that the resolution did not have a chance to win in the setup at the time, and
that it required more time. An expected change in the membership of the
Security Council, in early January, would be more accommodating, she argued.
But Palestine insisted, the resolution was
put to a vote and failed to muster the needed nine positive votes, thus
averting even the need for the US to veto it.
Since then, a few other cases contributed
to a worsening of relations, including an assault on Jordan’s Chief Islamic
Justice Ahmad Hilayel, who was prevented from giving a sermon at Al-Aqsa Mosque
by militant Hizb Al Tahrir worshipers.
This was followed by the controversy over
Palestine’s position regarding the nomination of Prince Ali amidst accusation —
denied strongly by the Palestinians — that their vote was cast for FIFA’s
President Sepp Blatter.
Nevertheless, Abbas and his intelligence
chief Majed Farraj quickly moved to smooth relations with a personal visit to
the home of Prince Ali.
Whatever the circumstances, it is
imperative that Jordan and Palestine bury the hatched and move quickly to
resolve some of the issues that have damaged relations.
An important move in this direction could
be reaching agreements on better trade relations as well as on the movement of
people and goods across King Hussein Bridge.
Removing obstacles and tariffs, and
enabling speedy travel (hopefully by one’s own car) at both bridges can go a
long way in strengthening the steadfastness of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
A peace deal might be elusive at the
moment, but this should not deter the intensification of Palestinian-Arab
relations with the aim of at least laying solid foundations for an economically
viable Palestinian state within the internationally agreed-to 1967 borders.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in
Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media
Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm)
a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia
(penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street.