Developments in Palestinian Occupied Territories;
The Politics and Society Institute held a closed workshop with a group of Jordanian politicians and experts to discuss developments in the occupied territories and their regional implications, assess the Jordanian position during the events and include a reading of what is expected for the next phase.
In the discussions about the previous topics, the attendees followed the Chatham House rule. The institute kept track of the various points of view and opinions discussed, producing a paper as one of the institute’s decision papers and providing an assessment of the situation at hand. The paper was presented to the participants, and their feedback was gathered before working on publishing and presenting it so that decision-makers in various places could benefit from what was stated in it.
The peaceful and armed confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied territories mark a qualitative development in the Palestinian situation in particular, as well as in the regional political trends and international policies towards the region. And while this is not the first armed engagement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, there are significant new changes that distinguish the situation today from past encounters;
First – Considering the status of Jerusalem, the symbolism it bears, and the unprecedented clashes it has seen in recent years.
Second – The West Bank theatre and the peaceful protests that have followed the course of clashes at checkpoints between Israeli police and enraged Palestinian youth.
Third – On the level of the Israeli interior and the confrontations between Palestinians who possess “Israeli citizenship” and Jewish Israelis.
Fourth – In terms of the growth of Hamas and other resistance groups’ missile capabilities, and their potential to reach farther targets, which poses a greater threat to the Israeli interior, and brings to the test the Israeli deterrence policy that has been used in recent years to maintain the ceasefire.
On the other hand, the new transformations reinvent the same international, regional, and internal Palestinian contexts in an opposite direction than what was developed in previous years, and have progressed to an advanced stage with the administration of former US President, Donald Trump, which culminated in the “Deal of the Century” and the process of normalization and Arab settlement with Israel based on the priority of the conflict with Iran and on the assumption that the importance of the Palestinian cause is retreating among the Arab people.
In Jordan, the Palestinian issue is deeply linked to Jordanian national security, and intersects with Jordanian strategic interests and geopolitical priorities on many levels; regional security, Jerusalem and the Hashemite custodianship, refugees, stability in the West Bank, the internal political equation.
The incongruity is that King Abdullah II was the first to warn about the dangers of relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem and the implications for regional security, and he reinforced this via significant diplomatic efforts at the time, as well as contact with the former US president. These warnings caused Trump to ridicule what he saw as intimidation about the ramifications of this, then proceed with the deal of the century, which Jordan did not support, and afterward the Arab-Israeli normalization procedures, all of which were heading in a path opposed to Jordanian national interests, which are founded on defending Jerusalem and its identity, and on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 territories, with Jerusalem as its capital.
This paper examines the current Palestinian popular uprising and its internal and external ramifications, as well as the extent of regional variables’ influence on the future of the Arab-Palestinian conflict in light of the emergence of a new balance of power, and the impact of all that happens on the future of Jordan’s position on the Palestinian issue and means of strengthening it strategically in both the immediate and long terms.
First: The factors behind the outbreak of the comprehensive Palestinian popular uprising:
– The peaceful popular uprising:
Due to its political, religious, and historical symbolism, the “deal of the century” and the resulting normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries; returned the city of Jerusalem for what may be described as a “war of places” and “ideology of place,” forging Palestinian unity and strengthening their Jerusalem affiliations, thereby forming the center of the Palestinian identity and the source of anger and popular protest against the systematic Israeli violations in it. Furthermore, a new spontaneous mass deterrent technique centered on large-scale protests began to emerge among Arab Jerusalemites. Large crowds shook the walls of Jerusalem to their chants, beginning with the “electronic gates uprising,” progressing to the “Mercy gate uprising,” and eventually to the present one, through which they were able to establish a balance between the occupying power and the machine of oppression it employs, in contrast to the large numbers of Jerusalemites.
The occupation authority’s violations documented the extent of its aggressive behavior toward Palestinians, particularly at Damascus Gate when it prevented Palestinians from remaining at the gate’s Square, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque and forcibly removed worshipers from it, and limited the arrival of Palestinians within Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of Resurrection, in a systematic attempt to minimize mixing and integrating Palestinian components, especially after the Damascus Gate stairway and squares became a socio-cultural hub for Jerusalem youth and a Palestinian public place where the new generation and cultural elites met, while simultaneously, protests sponsored by Zionist settlers demanded the expulsion of Arabs and Palestinians.
– The armed popular uprising:
The Palestinian resistance, represented by the Gaza-based Hamas movement, replied to these abuses and attacks by threatening the occupying force with new military rhetoric that was acute and decisive. The Israeli administration, which was taken aback by missile attacks and a military operation named “the Sword of Jerusalem” during the last ten days of Ramadan, which Israel had not seen anything like since 1948, as the range of rockets and their impact reached the farthest reaches of the occupied territories and into vital areas in Tel Aviv. As a result, the occupying force launched a brutal military air attack on the Gaza Strip, resulting in an armed and violent conflict between the two parties, with significant Palestinian casualties. According to the media, estimated at 248 deaths of whom 66 were children, 39 were women, and 17 were elderly. Moreover, the UNRWA stated that Israeli attacks had resulted in 75,000 Palestinians leaving their homes either to schools or to their relatives’ homes in other Palestinian territories.
Second: The internal and external implications of what is happening in the occupied lands:
– New Balance of Power
Despite Israel’s long-standing efforts to dismantle the Palestinian front, recent events have resulted in Palestinian unity that transcends faction dialogue, political considerations, and even political divides between the 1948 Palestinians, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and has resulted in a socio-political reconciliation between three centers of power.
– Qualitative military development of the resistance factions
Direct combat engagements between Hamas resistance units and the Israeli army demonstrated an unprecedented military record.
The Israeli populace remained in the shelters for extended periods, while Hamas built its war media discourse and revealed its capabilities in cybersecurity and directly addressing settlers via their mobile phones.
The above suggests that the Israeli theory of deterrence, which is based on achieving the greatest amount of military destruction in exchange for any military action, is eroding as armed resistance capabilities and ability to reach new areas develop, and the dimensions of military wars themselves change, including the symbolic, moral, and political dimensions.
And, if the armed resistance continues to expand its military capabilities and tactics, it will reach a point where it is more capable of inflicting harm on the opponent, as shown in the latest clash.
– Bringing up regional and international public opinion
The Palestinian popular uprising in general, as well as the military confrontation between resistance factions and the occupation army, have resulted in unprecedented international interaction, which has contributed to the formation of social media platforms through influencers sympathetic to the violations committed by occupation forces and extremist settlers. Thus forming what is known as public opinion in the digital context, which backed the Palestinian cause and culminated in solidarity marches in towns and capitals all over the globe, including the image of the American community for human rights on the scene of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its reflection on governmental and academic institutions that openly stated Israel an apartheid state, which brought the Palestinian issue back to the foreground after a long absence, and returned Jerusalem to the international forums, UN security council, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the European Union for discussion again.
– The disintegration of Abbas’s legitimacy and the rise of Hamas’s popularity
In the equation of the outcomes, the scale of the losses on the Gaza Strip was great and painful compared to the material losses on the Israeli side, but the symbolic, strategic, and moral aspects favored the resistance, which celebrated the moral triumph, which was also celebrated by many other nations as well.
However, the disintegration of Abbas’ power and his obvious weakness at all levels were among the most spectacular political outcomes, sending a message to everyone that he is unable to wield decision-making tools in anything that transpires, whether in Jerusalem, Gaza or domestically. Even the internal popular movements in the West Bank were spontaneous and undirected, headed by groups of young Palestinians who were not politically organized.
Abbas recently chose to postpone the elections in which Hamas would have participated, while Hamas found a political dimension in the short and long term in deciding to go to war with Israel, and developed a presence for itself at the Palestinian, Arab, and worldwide popular level, as evidenced at least by the content of social networking sites which confused major corporations like “Facebook,” which prohibited anything related to it. However, after the accumulation of materials connected to the resistance and rumors of users threatening to close their accounts, she subsequently issued an official apology.
At the settlement level and despite the recent US and European actions in the Palestinian issue, which can in future cause a headache at the regional and international policy level; we do not feel that the peace settlement file is fundamentally changed, All of this is relevant to what will happen in the future in Israel’s behavior toward Jerusalem, which may lead to another armed conflict because the ceasefire between the resistance and Israel does not signify the end of the war because the circumstances that led to its onset remain standing.
On the level of the American-Israeli relationship, the relevance of Israel to the current American administration, whose interests are more focused on the Russia and China issues, is visibly declining. Furthermore, the democratic administration wishes to distance itself as far as possible from the noise of human rights breaches, particularly after the murder of “George Floyd,” which has racial and ethnic implications, and particularly after the recent stigmatization of the Israeli state in more than one forum and report that it is a country with an apartheid system.
Third: International and regional variables
The region is witnessing a remarkable diplomatic movement, since the advent of US President Joe Biden’s administration, in light of that. New channels of communication and mediation have appeared with the American administration for a ceasefire between the two parties of the conflict, which were limited to the Egyptian and Qatari sides. While despite its political and legal relationship to the main crisis axes of the custodianship of the holy sites and the issue of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the Jordanian role was limited to royal speeches, diplomatic communications, and humanitarian aid, and focus on the most important goal of a ceasefire, and it is clear that there is a regional movement to rearrange the cards and balance regional roles in the next stage.
– The rapprochement of the axis of resistance
The region is witnessing shifts in the balance of resistance and Israel, and the parties of the resistance axis in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and possibly Yemen will strengthen at the expense of Arab regimes that have normalized relations with Israel, and this change, of course, is not in the interests of Israel, which has become more threatened by resistance missiles in the event of regional clout.
– The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement
Iraq was embraced at the highest levels during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, during which he visited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi-Iranian talks via Iraq aimed at a new Iranian-Arab normalization in the area, resulting in Iran and Saudi Arabia exchanging good signals on the official level concentrating on the significance of a political solution and rejecting divisions between the two nations notwithstanding their depth and ramifications.
Diplomatic ties are a great step toward reducing tensions in the area, but what is notable about the rapprochement is that Iran continues to perceive its power and project in the area as dependent on the development of military militias.
– Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement:
Following exploratory talks in Cairo, Turkey and Egypt set out eight years of cold relations to restore their strained ties through political consultations to improve official and economic diplomacy and ways to move it forward. In return, Ankara accepted a high-level Egyptian visit, and Egypt would not consider anything less than a solution to the Palestinian problem in its geopolitical dimension. It has a political presence in the Gaza Strip, as it became a negotiating and powerful force, as it led the talks, sent aid, and contributed to the truce between Hamas and the Israeli army, which was approved by the US administration which thanked the Egyptian role in convincing the resistance to ceasefire.
– The UAE’s and Syria’s reconciliation
The UAE recently made contacts and sent assistance to Syria related to support for the Syrian health sector to combat the Corona outbreak, and as is well known, the Syrian land embraces the militias of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Kataib Hezbollah. The Lebanese, who fought alongside the Syrian army against the Islamic State “ISIS,” and before that against Syrian opposition forces, and after the organization’s defeat at the hands of the international coalition and with field assistance from the United States, Because of the emergence of strong-armed opposition on Syria’s borders with Israel, the equation of potential conflict will shift from a unilateral confrontation in Gaza to a multilateral confrontation involving Syria and Lebanon. As a result, the Gulf countries, including the UAE, are eager to establish ties that aim for “zero problems” in the two countries’ relationship.
Fourth: Assessment of the Jordanian position and recommendations
No country in the world has embraced the Palestinian issue diplomatically like Jordan. In the king’s speeches, meetings, and diplomatic activity, the issue of a peaceful settlement always lies, and the emphasis on the importance of a political solution, and the refusal to change the status quo by Israel are among the priorities of Jordanian diplomatic work.
Jordanian diplomatic and political activity increased in support of the Palestinians in recent years, particularly since the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the announcement of the deal of the century, emphasizing a political solution and refusing to change the situation in Jerusalem, and Jordan was outside the regional context that was formed on the basis of Arab-Israeli relations and enmity with Iran.
Jordan’s position was distinguished in rejecting and confronting the deal, a position that was costly to the Jordanian regime and led to a kind of estrangement between the king and the Trump administration; on top of that, Trump came out sarcastically downplaying the importance of the Jordanian reading of the decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem and the king’s warnings that Jerusalem would explode the situation in the entire region. Yet Trump went on to say, “We relocated the embassy and nothing occurred.”
On the other hand, Jordan’s position remained steadfast, and the king traveled to Turkey, while Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi traveled across the world to affirm the severity of the deal of the century and what is occurring in Jerusalem, the repercussions of relocating the embassy, what it is seeing and highlighting Jordan’s concern for what is going on in Jerusalem.
Remarkably, the strong Jordanian stance was not clearly represented in Jordanian politics and media discourse throughout the crisis, and instead of what transpired being a confirmation of the legitimacy of the warnings and a strengthening of the Jordanian discourse and support for it domestically and abroad, it appeared as if it’s someone who fell asleep.
The Jordanian, Arab, and worldwide public engagement with the Palestinian crisis does not represent the magnitude of Jordan’s efforts and the strength of its stance over the years, which has resulted in the region’s diplomatic and political stalemate in the face of new changes.
In terms of Palestinian politics, there is a big problem with the “strategic ambiguity” in demarcating the borders of Jordanian national security. If Egypt considers Gaza an extension of Egyptian national security, it is, and puts all its differences with Hamas on the shelf, and considers itself an important party in defining mediation and a truce and decide matters. It is a priority for Jordan to be clear with regard to the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Palestinian issue, which is not an extension of the Jordanian national security, but rather is part of it. It touches on the internal politics, national security, borders, common interests, and custodianship of the holy sites. Therefore, it is not logical for the Jordanian role to be outside the context of live accounts in these events.
It is clear that there is a catastrophic confusion occurring between the considerations of national security and the vital Jordanian interests in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue in general on the one hand, and the issue of fear of an alternative homeland on the other hand, and if the policy of King Abdullah II from the outset was based on a clear adoption of a strategic approach that was titled with “Jordan is Jordan: Palestine is Palestine” which have ended a well-known historical debate in this context, but that does not mean that Jordanian interests are not extended and intertwined with the Palestinian situation at the levels of security, politics, society, and culture, and related to what happens west of the river.
The weakness of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority enfeebled the Jordanian position and its political and diplomatic efforts. The events made clear Abbas’s individualism in making decisions related to the common national interest. Therefore, the relationship with Abbas must be evaluated and alternatives should be sought that would rise to the level of Jordanian political aspirations, and how to achieve the best interests of both countries. Thinking strategically in the post-Abbas era, and not limiting the relationship to security coordination, expanding options and activating political, social, and cultural relations, and popular diplomacy.
Within the regional movement, Jordan did not have a direct role in mediation, and the American administration’s appreciation went towards the option of Egypt, which had taken a previous position in linking Gaza directly to the Egyptian national security, and there was also the option of Tunisia, not in its capacity as a representative of the Security Council, but also for its influential capacity on Islamist movements, also The State of Qatar is among the options. Therefore, there must be a reassessment, demarcation, and determination of the Jordanian regional role within the new geopolitical movement in the region and in light of what happened in the occupied territories. This leads us to ask questions in this context: Why was Jordan late in restoring relations with Syria? Despite its importance to Jordan more than the rest of the countries that establish relations with it! And why has Jordan not yet thought about Jordanian-Iranian relations? Although Saudi Arabia took the initiative to restore relations with it, and Jordan earlier expelled the Iranian ambassador, in line with the Saudi interest?
The international community has recently warned that the Jerusalem issue is important and central in the region’s stability and peace efforts, and the emergence of a homogeneous Palestinian position capable of overturning equations in light of the futility of the two-state solution, and the Palestinian national project requires effective institutions, and in light of the current regime’s weakness.
With the implicit fall of the Oslo Agreement, Hamas has returned to intervene in regional accounts and has achieved a political and symbolic heel of the movement, factions, and resistance, particularly with the rapid international changes that the regional and international geopolitics are witnessing, which are going against the direction of Israel’s interests, which is facing. As a result, there is a great deal of significance to the Palestinian group at home, which could be more important than the relationships with Fatah and Hamas, for a variety of reasons, the most important of which are: internal Arabs have the ability to grasp Israeli mentality and control it politically and socially.
According to experts, Jordan has a problem defining Jordanian national security, Jordanian national interests, and sources of threat, and the absence of literature that embraces a clear concept of national security and its contents, trends of interests, national interests, and the relationship with the West Bank and regional neighboring countries, which is reflected in Jordan’s political practice.
Regional dynamics of change necessitate ongoing assessments of Jordan’s role in the Palestinian issue as it relates to Jordan’s national and national security interests, as well as efforts to adopt the “rights” approach as a parallel and adjacent option to the two-state solution in light of the failure of the two-state solution, the development of new strategic political tools in the West Bank, and the conduct of a review
Work to improve the home front through a serious political reform program, since one of the most critical conditions for developing diplomatic and political capabilities in coping with geostrategic realities is the strength of the state at home, as well as bridging the troubling gaps that have emerged in recent years between official institutions and the street, and for reform. The political plays a significant role in economic recovery and not relying on economic aid, especially those that influence political decisions.
Paticipants of the workshop: Marwan Al Muasher – Jordanian Politician and Diplomat
Mohammad Al Momani – Jordanian Senator and Professor in Political Science
Ibrahim Saif – Executive Director of Jordan Strategy Forum and Economic Expert
Mohamed Saqr – Jordanian Politician and Businessman
Zaid Al Nawaiseh – Jordanian Political Analyst
Mohamed Al Masry – Jordanian Political Researcher
Muhammad Abu Rumman – General Director of Politics and Society Institute
Oraib Al Tarawneh – Executive Director of Politics and Society Institute
Abdallah Al Jbour – Researcher in Politics and Society Institute
Ahmad Al Qudah – Head of Media and Communication in Politics and Society Institue