As a newcomer to these issues, to me, there seemed to be underlying contradictions in the discourses of the various speakers in Amman, Jordan. On the one hand, speakers were saying that the road map for the two-state solution is worked out in some detail, including land-swap solutions for the settlement areas and ways of administering the holy sites in Jerusalem. There are even some principles on the thorny issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees. In its broad outline, the two-state solution is widely regarded as acceptable by people and parties on both sides of the conflict (though certainly not by all). It sounds relatively hopeful. On the other hand, speakers were reporting that the peace process is stalled and that it might be moribund. They said that, in the last few years, there has been a feeling of hopelessness, especially among Palestinians, regarding the possibility of a two-state solution. The current political climate is one of despair.
What the Jordanian speakers said also seemed to contain another contradiction, underlying the first. On the one hand, they indicated that the region needs a two-state solution. For both the Palestinians and for Israel, long-term security and prosperity requires two states. For Israel, the demographics indicate that, in the long-term, there will be an increasing percentage of Arabs within Israel and increasing absolute numbers of people living in the Palestine. Demographics indicate that it is Israel’s interests to have an independent Palestine: this is a requirement to keep Israel Jewish. On the other hand, some of the speakers also said that it was in the interests of Israel to maintain the status-quo: to keep building settlements and keep the Palestinians separate and in limbo. These two views cannot both be correct. If is in Israel’s interests to maintain the status-quo then it cannot also be in the interests to agree a two-state solution.
I wanted to understand how these contradictory Jordanian perceptions of the situation are possible. There emerged several interesting points representing Jordanian perspectives. First, several speakers commented on the lack of leadership towards a two-state solution. They criticized recent American leaders from Clinton to Bush to Obama for not having the strength of will or persistence in negotiations. This lack of leadership represents dashed hopes. They also suggested that the Arab world has been more fragmented in recent years and in disarray since the Arab spring. There is no unity to support the Palestinians. The Arab world is now more concerned about Iran and the possible Israeli reaction to Iran. They also said that Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, has lead Israel towards increasingly right wing views and unyielding negotiating positions. This is in part because of an increasing inflow of Russian immigrants who are not committed to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. There is also a general drift towards more right wing views. The leadership in Israel, the speakers said, is against a two-state solution, which reflects a general mood in the country. These points might help resolve the first contradiction: even if a two-state solution is widely acceptable, it might not be politically possible at this time. However these points don’t really address the second contradiction, which is about Israeli interests. I will write about that next time. I am looking forward also to hearing other analyses.