Articles > > Twenty Years Ago

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2020-06-11
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

Nearly twenty years ago, in April 2001, Jordan and Egypt presented a joint initiative to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank, and bring the Palestinian and Israeli sides back to the negotiating table.
 
This happened at the height of the second intifada in the wake of the failure of the [July 2000] Camp David summit between Arafat, Barak, and Clinton, and the Arab League summit in Amman a few weeks after George Bush Jr. ascended to the U.S. presidency bearing a new vision for peace in the region based on leaving each party to fend for itself until they become mature enough to accept proposals and compromises.
 
The point is not to dredge up the ghosts of that era, which was marked by Palestinian graves proliferating throughout their occupied homeland following [then Israeli PM] Sharon's decision to reoccupy the West Bank, bring the PA down over its leaders' heads, and assassinate Yasser Arafat; a crime that would, in fact, be carried out three years from that date.
 
Rather, the point is to discuss the need for joint Jordanian/Egyptian action at this pivotal Palestinian moment that poses even greater difficulties than when the two countries initially launched their joint initiative.
 
Anyone who closely monitors the Palestinian scene with its regional and international extensions would note Egypt's near-total absence from the stage. There has been no Egyptian action regarding inter-Palestinian [Fatah/Hamas] reconciliation, at least not recently, nor has there been any active Egyptian movement to fight the [U.S.-sponsored] 'deal of the century' and the schemes to annex one-third of the West Bank to Israeli sovereignty, thereby putting paid to the notion of a viable Palestinian state and a two-state solution for ever.
 
A lot has happened in the Nile valley since Amman and Cairo launched their joint initiative in April 2001: Egypt has gone through three presidents and the January 2011 and June 2013 revolutions. Today, Cairo finds its national security threatened on three fronts: In the interior, with the terrorism in the Sinai sometimes extending into the valley to the West; in Libya, where Turkey is building a creeping power base from West to East in coordination with Fayez al-Sarraj's [Tripoli-based GNA (National Accord Government)] government and its Islamist (and Muslim Brotherhood) backers, and to the South, where the Ethiopian Renaissance dam threatens Egypt and the Egyptians' beating pulse.
 
Washington is the arbiter in the dispute with Ethiopia over the dam and sharing the Nile's waters, as well as a major aid donor to Egypt. There are strategic dimensions to its relations with Egypt, as well as with Amman, that extend beyond aid and grants, to security and intelligence, the war on terror, and many other dimensions.
 
The 'deal of the century' infringes on Jordan's interests, security, stability, identity, and existence. For this reason, Jordanian diplomacy has adopted a more proactive stance to contain the fallout, preempt the damage, and ward off the risks. However, the 'deal of the century' also infringes upon Egypt's leadership role, its regional position, and its vital area of engagement (Palestine's geography and its cause).
 
The damage and threat many not seem comparable or equally critical, but they are sufficient to constitute the basis for a second joint initiative, whereby the only two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel take action to prevent deterioration and collapse, build a barrier against Israel's encroachment upon Palestinian land and rights, and salvage the existing peace process, before their respective peace treaties lose all value.
 
There is no reason to prevent Jordan from doing so, and any reluctance may mainly come from Egypt for fear of provoking Washington's ire at a defining moment in the Libyan and Ethiopian issues, and Cairo's preoccupation with domestic concerns and troubles; from the economy, to the coronavirus pandemic, to terrorism in the Sinai and beyond.But whatever the reasons, the Palestinians are in greater need of joint Egyptian/Jordanian action and initiative today than in 2001.