Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Hawks Push “Jordanian Option” for Palestine

As President Obama pushes Israel toward a two-state solution, right-wing hawks are pressing the U.S. administration to adopt the “three-state solution,” under which Jordan would take over the West Bank and Egypt would control Gaza.

As President Barack Obama prepared to deliver a major foreign policy speech in Cairo and his administration pushes aggressively for a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine, neoconservatives and other foreign policy hawks back home were calling on him to scrap the two-state solution altogether and consider alternatives to Palestinian statehood.

The main alternative many right-wing supporters of Israel are pushing is the so-called “three-state solution” or “Jordanian option,” in which the West Bank would be returned to Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip to Egyptian control.

Although calls for a “three-state solution” have cropped up periodically over the years and have been dismissed by most Middle East experts as unrealistic, in recent weeks the three-state approach has received an unusual amount of attention and support on the right.

Part of the reason that some hawks suddenly seem willing to reevaluate the Middle East peace process may lie in the Obama administration’s strong push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the rightists who previously gave tacit support for the two-state solution because they believed it was a remote possibility now seem to fear it may actually become a reality.

The newfound appeal of the three-state approach was evident on June 3, when the Heritage Foundation —arguably Washington’s most prominent conservative think tank —hosted a conference devoted to alternatives to the two-state solution.

The Heritage event, which was sponsored by right-wing U.S. casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, came only two weeks after right-of-cent er Israeli parties hosted a similar conference in Jerusalem.

The keynote speaker at the Heritage event was Sen. Sam Brownback, a prominent Kansas Republican who ran for president in 2008.

Brownback argued that the past 16 years have proven the futility of prioritizing Palestinian statehood. “It just doesn’t work, and it’s time to move on,” he said.

He suggested that a better option would be for both the West Bank and Gaza Strip to “pursue confederation” with their “respective contiguous Arab neighbor[s].”

Brownback also argued that the United States should use its economic leverage over the Arab states to persuade them to absorb Palestinian refugees, thereby preventing them from “threaten[ing] Israel with the false concept of a ‘right of return.'”

Other speakers echoed Brownback’s call to consider the “Jordanian option.”

Israeli Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a leading “three-state” advocate who was also featured at the Jerusalem conference in May, claimed that “the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is too small to create two viable states.” He suggested incorporating the West Bank into a “United States of Jordan,” with political and military authority concentrated in Amman.

Alternately, Eiland suggested that Egypt could cede territory from the Sinai Desert that would be joined to the Gaza Strip. He argued this would increase Gaza’s viability, while compensating the Palestinians for West Bank territory that Israel would absorb.

The idea of Israel ceding control of the occupied territories to its Arab neighbors has been discussed for decades, ever since Israel seized the territories from Jordan and Egypt during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

But in recent years, as the cost of occupation has become increasingly unsustainable and Palestinian leadership has split between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, Israeli hawks and their U.S. allies have shown a newfound fondness for the idea.

During the Gaza war in January, prominent U.S. hawks endorsed the three-state approach, notably former U.N. ambassador John Bolton (who acknowledged that the idea “would be decidedly unpopular in Egypt and Jordan”) and Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes, who addressed the Heritage event.

Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs differentiated the proposals made at the Heritage event from the traditional conception of the “Jordanian option,” in which Jordan would reassume full sovereignty over the West Bank.

“If there was a Jordanian here, he would be terrified by this discussion, because he’d think … [we’re] discussing the alternative homeland solution, the nightmare to the Hashemite kingdom,” Diker said, referring to widespread opposition in Jordan to efforts by some in Israel to create an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians on Jordanian territory.

“So I’d like to say for the record that we’re not talking about the Jordanian option,” Diker added. “ We’re talking about a new animal, and the animal is a combination of federal and con-federal cooperation” between Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Many experts view the three-state approach in any form as wildly unrealistic.

Marc Lynch of George Washington University called the approach a “zombie idea,” since it “reappears like clockwork whenever there’s an Israeli-Palestinian crisis,” despite being deeply unpopular with Jordanians, Egyptians, and Palestinians alike.

“The Jordan option, the Egypt-Gaza option, the ‘three-state solution’— these are fantasies which have little to do with the real problems on the ground or feasible solutions to this intractable conflict,” Lynch wrote in January on the website of Foreign Policy magazine.

Fantasy or not, the sudden flood of events and discussion suggests that variations on the three-state approach are becoming more, not less, popular on the U.S. right.

The Heritage event was the foremost U.S. forum in recent memory for three-state advocates. In addition to Brownback, notable speakers included former Central Intelligence Agency director R. James Woolsey, and Rep. Doug Lamborn  (R-CO).

The Jordanian option’s newfound popularity comes as the Obama administration has signaled that it plans to make the two-state solution a top foreign policy priority.

While the George W. Bush administration endorsed two states, it proved unwilling to push Israel to make any concessions towards this goal.

Obama, by contrast, has already pushed Israel in blunt terms to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank—something the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which has totally rejected Palestinian state hood, is unwilling to do.

As a result, many observers see the United States and Israel heading for their most heated diplomatic spat in years, with the two-state solution the most urgent yet divisive issue.

Most hardline U.S. supporters of Israel have so far been reluctant to attack the idea of the two-state solution itself, arguing instead that Obama should put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on the back burner and focus on stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

Nevertheless, the recent conferences in Washington and Jerusalem suggest that if Obama pushes harder for two states, hardliners will grow bolder in questioning the legitimacy of Palestinian statehood.

Daniel Luban writes for the Inter Press Service and PRA’s Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and is widely considered to be a future presidential candidate.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Josh Rogin is a journalist known for his support for neoconservative policies and views.


Laurence Silberman, a senior justice on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was a mentor to controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and has been a vocal supporter of right-wing foreign and domestic agendas, including the campaign to support the invasion of Iraq.


The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, advocates regime change in Iran and has strong connections with a wide range of top political figures in the U.S.


Eli Lake is a columnist for Bloomberg View who has a lengthy record of advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policies towards the Middle East.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that not only appears to be behind the assassination of a U.S. resident and respected commentator but is also responsible for thousands of civilian casualties in Yemen—the majority killed with U.S-supplied bombs, combat aircraft, and tactical assistance.


The contradictions in Donald Trump’s foreign policy create opportunities for both rivals and long-standing (if irritated) US allies to challenge American influence. But Trump’s immediate priority is political survival, and his actions in the international arena are of little concern to his domestic supporters.


While the notion that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is decades old, it has been bolstered in recent years, by the campaign to add to the definition of anti-Semitism any criticism that singles Israel out and doesn’t apply the same standard to other countries. The bottom line is that this entire effort is designed not to combat anti-Semitism but to silence criticism. 


Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that have turned their guns on American soldiers and civilians.


Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


RightWeb
share