Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority: Did Better Fences Make Better Neighbors?

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority: Did Better Fences Make Better Neighbors?

Article excerpt

The following article explores whether the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 led to an improvement in relations between the Palestine Liberation Organization/Palestinian Authority (PLO/PA) and Jordan since 1994. The issue is important in determining the viability of the partition approach over a more integrative confederal or federal alternative between the two entities. The findings point to an improvement of relations. Nevertheless, some very core issues between the two sides, such as the territorial limits of citizenship and the issue of the Temple Mount, remain unresolved between the two sides.

Do better fences make better neighbors politically? Political scientists have recently engaged in a tense debate whether partition or more integrative frameworks between different peoples on relatively small geographic areas yield greater stability.1 The debate has not only been academic. In Israel, a major debate took place during the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations among those advocating a partition approach regarding the Palestinians and those who favored a more power-sharing integrated framework. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, for example, presumably advocated the partition approach. He wanted separation into two states.2 His successor Shimon Peres, by contrast, favored the power-sharing approach that included a place for Jordan in the relationship.3 Simlar debates emerged between the PLO/PA elite and their Jordanian counterparts regarding the merits of partition, federation, or confederation between Jordan and Palestine.4 Eventually, the peace process between Israel and the PA was predicated to a great extent on the assumption that good fences make good neighbors, that is to say, on the partition approach. As much as the Jordanian-Palestinian relationship was discussed, most felt that the effect was going to be the same. Thus, Lawrence TaI, in a dramatically titled article in Foreign Affairs "Is Jordan Doomed?" came to the conclusion that not only was Jordan not doomed but that indeed good fences would make for good neighbors.5

The following article analyzes whether the establishment of the PA in 1994, which basically transformed the PLO into a quasi-state, made for better relations between Jordan and the Palestinians (outside Jordan) now that both sides have become separate territorial entities. Addressing this question should improve our understanding of whether even better fences, in the form of a sovereign Palestinian state, would yield even better results or should one imagine a political reality beyond state sovereignty?


Though it might be going too far to describe the Jordanian-Israeli relationship regarding the Palestinians as collusion, as one prominent study is indeed entitled, one can hardly deny that the Hashimites and the Israelis often perceived the Palestinian Arabs as their prime adversaries more than they did each other.6 Jordan and Israel's shared interest in obstructing Palestinian nationalism in the attainment of its objectives stemmed from a very basic fact created in 1948. Both states partitioned mandate Palestine at the expense and destruction of the Arab Palestinian community. Their triumph was the Palestinians' disaster. The bitter legacy of the PLO presence in Jordan culminating in Black September 1970, the final ouster of the PLO from Jordan in July 1971 and the subsequent assassination of Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal in November 1971 in Cairo by the PLO's Black September group colors Jordanian-PLO relations to this day.7

Even after the loss of the West Bank after 1967, Jordan aspired, if not to restore it to the Kingdom, at least to make sure that it had the upper hand in any integrative scheme with the Palestinians. As late as the October 1991 Madrid talks, Jordan was more than happy to attend the conference in a joint delegation with Palestinian representatives from the territories instead of insisting, as the PLO wished, upon a joint Jordanian-PLO delegation. …

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