Israeli proposal: Make Jordan the official Palestinian homeland
The controversial idea – though not new – could still undermine Netanyahu and erode Israel's relations with moderate Arab countries.
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Officials in Israel's foreign ministry tried to minimize the importance of the bill by pointing out that it was not supported by members of the ruling coalition. The National Union party holds only four seats in the 120-seat Knesset.Skip to next paragraph
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"This proposal doesn't represent the government," says Andy David, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "In a parliamentary system, there are many suggestions that turn into policy, and some of them don't. If it turns into policy, we'll discuss it then."
Main damage: peace process
Nawaf Tell, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, doubts that the bill will go much further. But he says it may damage the peace process that Jordan's King Abdullah II and other Arab leaders have been working to restart.
"What one wants from Israel today is basically to prove its peace credentials, especially given the current composition of Knesset and the trends that are becoming evident in Israeli public opinion," says Mr. Tell. "What these groups are doing ... is to maintain the status quo and to prevent the peace process from relaunching and achieving its desired results."
He adds that newly elected Netanyahu brings the baggage of his last term in the late 1990s, in which he alienated many Jordanians with his hard-line polices.
Khalil Atiyah, a member of Jordan's parliament, is among those unable to fully trust the new Israeli government. Aside from questioning Netanyahu's commitment to peace, he says that Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is "against all types of coexistence and peace process." So although he recognizes that it's unlikely Israel's bill about Jordan will come to fruition, he says that is not outside of the realm of possibility.
"It's not a remote idea that the Knesset might take foolish steps towards the peace process," he says.
Bid to undermine Netanyahu?
Most Israelis are quite dismissive of the proposal, however. Prof. Shmuel Sandler, a Bar-Ilan University professor who specializes in Israeli politics and the settlement movement, says the bill was more of a symbolic move meant to frustrate Netanyahu and outflank him on the right. Professor Sandler notes that the National Union didn't even make it into Netanyahu's government because the rightist prime minister chose to put the traditionally left-wing Labor party in his coalition over far-right parties that would rule out options for peacemaking.
"As for how serious this is, I don't think the Jordanians have to worry about it. Most Israelis in the establishment see Jordan as an important ally," he says. "The National Union doesn't carry much weight. But it can cause trouble to Netanyahu by making his effort to evacuate settlements more and more difficult."