Response

Jordan Is Not Palestine

Reannexing the West Bank is an impractical idea that would threaten Jordan’s stability, deny Palestinians the right to self-determination, and reward Israel’s illegal settlements.

By , a Jordanian attorney, political activist, and blogger.
Demonstrators lift flags during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Amman, Jordan on May 16.
Demonstrators lift flags during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Amman, Jordan on May 16. KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images

Hasan Ismaik begins his recent article in Foreign Policy—in which he advocates the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Jordan as an ingenious solution to the Palestinian problem—by evoking the philosophical notion of Occam’s razor, proclaiming that “the simplest solution is almost always the best.”

Yet there is absolutely nothing in Ismaik’s proposal that can be remotely described as simple. In fact, his attempt at out-of-the-box thinking is riddled with countless complications, contradictions, unrealistic assumptions, and unachievable end results.

First and foremost, readers must ask why Ismaik reduces the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, my birthplace and my eternal homeland, to a mere laboratory tool. Jordan is not a dispensable political entity whose entire foundations, constitution, and demographic makeup can be irreversibly disfigured, mutated, and remolded to serve as a guinea pig for experimentation, all primarily aimed at appeasing Israel—an illegal occupier of Palestinian land—and rescuing it from its current predicament.

Hasan Ismaik begins his recent article in Foreign Policy—in which he advocates the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Jordan as an ingenious solution to the Palestinian problem—by evoking the philosophical notion of Occam’s razor, proclaiming that “the simplest solution is almost always the best.”

Yet there is absolutely nothing in Ismaik’s proposal that can be remotely described as simple. In fact, his attempt at out-of-the-box thinking is riddled with countless complications, contradictions, unrealistic assumptions, and unachievable end results.

First and foremost, readers must ask why Ismaik reduces the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, my birthplace and my eternal homeland, to a mere laboratory tool. Jordan is not a dispensable political entity whose entire foundations, constitution, and demographic makeup can be irreversibly disfigured, mutated, and remolded to serve as a guinea pig for experimentation, all primarily aimed at appeasing Israel—an illegal occupier of Palestinian land—and rescuing it from its current predicament.

Ismaik assures readers that “Jordanian unification does not in any way equate with what the Israelis called the ‘Jordanian option.’” His justification rests on the argument that consensual annexation is legal while Israel’s occupation is not, ignoring the fact that this distinction fails to address the justified ire of the majority of the Jordanian people, who rightly view any attempt to resolve the conflict at the expense of their country as an existential threat to their own sovereignty and distinct national identity.

To be fair, I happen to agree with some of the premises of Ismaik’s article. Yes, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands is an incontrovertibly illegal endeavor. And, yes, Israel’s prospects of sustaining this inhumane apartheid system indefinitely are close to none. (Apartheid is my description and choice of words, not his.)

Why reward Israel instead of selecting the easier approach: demand that Israel adhere to international law and immediately withdraw from the occupied territories?

But since the author invokes Occam’s razor, it is odd that he ignores the much simpler solution to what he rightly describes as an illegal occupation. Indeed, why reward Israel with pipe dreams of economic prosperity and fairytales of cooperation between the occupier and the occupied instead of selecting the easier approach: demand that Israel adhere to international law and immediately withdraw from the occupied territories?

Letting the Palestinian people exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and to freely decide who will rule them should occur—but only after the illegal occupation has ended, not under its unbearable weight.

When confronted with the substantial obstacle of the 675,000 settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Ismaik proposes yet another purported solution that is fundamentally flawed and impossible to envisage in reality. While he acknowledges that the religious hard-liners among them may not want to leave what they regard as God-given holy territory in the West Bank, he is willing to offer these extremist zealots living on stolen Palestinian land the gift of full Jordanian citizenship. To add insult to injury, he even makes the preposterous suggestion of granting these settlers a quota of guaranteed seats in the parliament of what he would call the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Palestine.”

Just as the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords between Israel and Gulf countries attempted to rewrite the history of the Palestinian struggle for independence and liberation by imagining it as some kind of a business deal, Ismaik is seeking a quick political and economic fix rather than requiring an honest application of the rules of justice and countless United Nations resolutions.

It is akin to someone suggesting with a straight face that the solution to the Palestinian catastrophe and ongoing dehumanization is to send the Palestinians to Mars. What about the astronomical costs and unattainability of the whole enterprise? When such sobering realities are acknowledged, the author shrugs off these insurmountable obstacles with an admission that “there are countless complex wrinkles to iron out.” You don’t say!

The hard questions remain largely unanswered: What if Israel refuses, as it most certainly will? Tempt it with economic benefits and reward it for breaking international law, Ismaik suggests.

The hard questions remain largely unanswered: What if Israel refuses? What if Jordanians object? What if Palestinians don’t want to be dissolved as a nation? 

What if Jordanians object? They will eventually come around, by inserting a clause guaranteeing permanent Hashemite rule, he imagines.

What if Palestinians don’t want to be dissolved as a nation only to be ruled by Jordan after decades of struggling for their own national identity? Who cares?

Ismaik seems to assume that the fact that many Palestinians can assimilate socially in Jordanian society is sufficient evidence that they would be willing to abandon their dream of statehood and independence. This assumption is misguided.

Ismaik does make a valid point when he states that “every attempt at a solution since the Six-Day War in June 1967 has been deeply flawed, unnecessarily complex, or downright lopsided.” Unfortunately, his Jordanian annexation idea ranks up there with those equally unrealistic and inherently inappropriate attempts at escaping the root cause of the conflict: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The simple and obvious solution for William of Ockham, had he been living among us, would be to call for the immediate end of the occupation by allowing the Palestinian people to freely determine their destiny on the undisputed land of their ancestors. There is no other alternative path to peace in the Middle East.

Zaid Omar Nabulsi is a Jordanian attorney, political activist, and blogger. He is a partner at the law firm of Nabulsi & Associates and a member of Jordan’s Royal Committee for Modernizing the Political System, appointed by King Abdullah II in June 2021. Twitter: @ZaidNabulsi

Join the Conversation

Commenting on this and other recent articles is just one benefit of a Foreign Policy subscription.

Already a subscriber? .

Join the Conversation

Join the conversation on this and other recent Foreign Policy articles when you subscribe now.

Not your account?

Join the Conversation

Please follow our comment guidelines, stay on topic, and be civil, courteous, and respectful of others’ beliefs. Comments are closed automatically seven days after articles are published.

You are commenting as .

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration of a captain's hat with a 1980s era Pepsi logo and USSR and U.S. flag pins.

The Doomed Voyage of Pepsi’s Soviet Navy

A three-decade dream of communist markets ended in the scrapyard.

Demonstrators with CASA in Action and Service Employees International Union 32BJ march against the Trump administration’s immigration policies in Washington on May 1, 2017.

Unionization Can End America’s Supply Chain Crisis

Allowing workers to organize would protect and empower undocumented immigrants critical to the U.S. economy.

The downtown district of Wilmington, Delaware, is seen on Aug. 19, 2016.

How Delaware Became the World’s Biggest Offshore Haven

Kleptocrats, criminals, and con artists have all parked their illicit gains in the state.