Netanyahu and Trump hatch plan for a Jordan exclave in West Bank

September 18, 2019 by David Singer
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute election pledge to apply Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank could possibly see a large part of the remainder of the West Bank being offered to Jordan as an exclave in direct negotiations between Jordan and Israel.

An exclave is a piece of land that is politically attached to a larger piece but not physically conterminous (having the same borders) with it because of surrounding foreign territory.

Netanyahu’s pledge was clear:

“We will apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea as soon as the next government is established in the next Knesset.  Today I have appointed a working team led by the director-general of my ministry, Ronen Peretz, to formulate an outline for applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea”

Netanyahu has now gone even further reportedly saying that if re-elected he plans to annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank in coordination with the United States.

Trump’s Ambassador in Israel – David Friedman has already indicated that Trump’s plan will not call for the creation of an additional Arab state between Israel and Jordan based on the 1949 ceasefire lines agreed between those two former enemies.

Friedman declared:

“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Friedman then declined to say how the United States would respond if Netanyahu moved to annex West Bank land unilaterally – stating:

“We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves. These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Trump seemingly has not yet secured an ironclad guarantee from Jordan or any other Arab interlocutor that they stand ready to negotiate with Israel on Trump’s plan. Releasing it without such a guarantee would constitute political suicide for Trump.

Netanyahu’s pledges provide sufficient justification for Trump to further postpone his deal’s release.

One can visualise Trump’s advisors carefully scrutinising Netanyahu’s final map – or any map drawn up by a non-Netanyahu led Government – prior to Trump releasing his deal – to see if common agreement can first be reached on Israel’s demands – and then advancing to the next stage to see if agreement between Trump and Netanyahu – or Israel’s new Prime Minister – can be reached on what should happen in the remainder of the West Bank.

It would then make sense for Trump’s plan to be released only after concluding these discussions.

Trump will not be proposing the creation of any new Jew-free State in all of the West Bank for the first time in recorded history – whilst the PLO has rejected negotiating on Trump’s deal if it does not meet these core demands articulated by Abbas and the PLO.

Two solutions therefore emerge for resolving sovereignty in the remainderof the West Bankterritorythat will notcome under Israeli sovereignty:

  • Israel unilaterally annexes that territory including its existing Arab population
  • Israel and Jordan create a Jordan exclave within that territory as may be agreed in direct negotiations.

A Jordan exclave would materially help end the 100-years-old Arab-Jewish conflict.

Details such as the demilitarization of the exclave and who controls access into and egress from the exclave would be negotiated.

Trump is the driving force to bring Israel and Jordan together to enable these negotiations to be successfully concluded.

Author’s note: The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”- one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog

David Singer is a Sydney lawyer and foundation member of the International Analysts Network

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