It is difficult to explain King Abdullah of Jordan's angry statement four days ago that his country would fight any attempt to turn it into a substitute Palestinian homeland.
An Israeli official suggested on the Ynet Internet site that the king's reaction stemmed from his kingdom's precarious situation. But contrary to this official's claim - a wretched one in itself in view of rising Israeli-Jordanian tensions - it appears Abdullah was reacting to a statement from Israel. Specifically, he was reacting to something said by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Uzi Dayan, a Likud member and chairman of the national lottery, Mifal Hapayis.
On Sunday, Dayan spoke at a panel discussion on "The declaration of a Palestinian state and its impact on the Middle East peace process" during a conference at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. There, he said that if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state, then the Oslo agreements have failed and there is no peace process, so Israel is facing a new reality.
"Ultimately," he said, "the best thing is a Palestinian Hashemite kingdom headed by the king of Jordan," with its capital in Amman and consisting of three provinces: the current kingdom of Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He later confirmed this to Haaretz.
Thus Dayan effectively told the surprised audience that Jordan should be the Palestinian state, with the West Bank and Gaza as its provinces.
Among the 250 people in the hall was a Jordanian official who passed the statement on to Amman. This official later told a former senior Israel Defense Forces officer that Dayan's statement was a grave error. The royal family, which sees Dayan as part of the Israeli establishment, was shaken by his words, the official said.
"Dayan is a reserve general, a Likud member and a former National Security Council head," the official explained. "He is familiar with the most sensitive issues." Hence the Jordanian king's emotional reaction: Abdullah "jumped out of his chair when he heard those things."
Despite the irresponsible declarations from Israel, on thursday the Jordanians conveyed a pointed lack of enthusiasm for the Palestinians' statehood bid: Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said his country would vote yes in the UN General Assembly, but would prefer the Palestinian state to be established in negotiations with Israel.
We're lucky that at least Jordanian officials aren't rushing to make ill-considered statements.
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