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A homeland ... in Jordan?

Some Israeli lawmakers support a bill declaring an official Palestinian homeland in Jordan.

But for Jordan, one of two Arab nations to hold a peace treaty with Israel (the other is Egypt), the discussion taking place in the Knesset is seen as a prelude to human rights violations against Palestinians and an encroachment on Jordanian affairs. There is a fear that were the bill to become law, Israel could use it to force people from their homes and say they have to go to their "homeland" in Jordan instead.

“What is happening in the Knesset is an aggression toward the regime and the laws and international resolutions of the U.N. security council,” said Khalil Atiyah, a member of Jordan’s parliament.

The situation is not helped by Israel’s new, conservative government. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was last in power in the late 1990s, he ordered an assassination attempt on a member of Hamas inside Jordan. At the time, the incident almost brought peace talks to a halt and today it stands as a reminder to Jordanians about the hard-line measures Netanyahu is willing to take.

Despite the strong reaction of some Jordanian parliamentarians, Mohammad Al-Momani, a political science professor at Yarmouk University, said that ultimately it’s the king and ministries that control foreign policy in Jordan, not the parliament.

If the king or other major foreign policy figures in Jordan had reacted strongly to the Knesset bill, it could have stalled the peace process, Al-Momani said. “Obama would have had other things on his plate to look at instead of focusing only on this two-state solution that the current Israeli government is not committing to.”

So although the Knesset bill is not likely to become official policy, many Jordanians are not quite so confident. “Since we have an extremist government [in Israel], we do not expect any good actions from it,” Atiyah said.

Since Israel’s recent war with Gaza, there has been mounting pressure from the Jordanian public on the government to take a firmer stand against Israel. Given King Abdullah II’s efforts to reignite the peace process over the last several months, it remains highly unlikely that the government will take action on any of the parliamentarians’ calls to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. The king has, however, said that there will likely be renewed fighting if there is no peace within the next 12 to 18 months.

“The Jordanian public opinion, already as it is, is not favorable of the existing government or the coalition that is in charge in Israel. This simply makes it worse,” said Nawaf Tell, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. “The Israelis are sending all the wrong signals to the peace camps in the region and Jordan in particular, who is trying to relaunch the peace the peace process on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

More GlobalPost dispatches on Jordan:

Jordanian heavy metal bands: Rock and a hard place

Jordanian tourism seeks papal blessing

How to shoo off a Jordanian jinn


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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/jordan/090531/jordan-israel-palestinian-homeland