I had a great time last night drinking adult beverages with a collection of Jordanian academics and journalists, whose identities don't need to be divulged here but who certainly do not agree on all things political. Every one of them thought that a Jordanian return to the West Bank would spell doom for King Abdullah. One thought that the security services and mukhabarat would be enough to keep control, but by the end even this one was angrily saying that Jordanians should be out in the streets right now protesting against a confederation before it's too late. This is consistent with almost all of the comments and emails I received from Jordanians the last time I wrote warning against the reappearance of the "Jordan option". It also is consistent with the overwhelming consensus of Jordanian journalists, intellectuals and politicians, and almost all published op-eds over the last month. It's also consistent with the recently, very forcefully restated rejection of the idea by King Abdullah. And don't even get me started on the Islamists...
The Transjordanian nationalist Nahid Hattar complained the other day that Jordan's political consensus against confederation with the West Bank was its best defense against plans to solve the Palestinian issue at Jordan's expense, but that this consensus wasn't enough because nobody really takes Jordanian public opinion seriously. It really is quite astonishing the extent to which discussion of this Jordanian option continues in American and Israeli circles. Even some Palestinians seem open to the idea - not just the aging remnants of the pre-67 era... I have it on some authority that Mahmoud Abbas is increasingly open to the idea because he fears that Fatah will soon lose the West Bank to Hamas without a Jordanian liferaft. And so trial balloons keep going up, despite a virtually unanimous Jordanian consensus against it.
Batir Wardum, a very smart Jordanian writer who often takes (thoughtful, polite, and very welcome) issue with my pessimism about Jordanian politics, commented in the course of defending Jordan's stability that "The only fear for Jordan is for the USA to exert pressure on the King to act as Israel's gate keeper in the west bank which will polarize the Jordanian populations." I basically agree with that. If the US is stupid enough to force the West Bank onto Abdullah - who probably would not be able to say no to his primary constituency, should it come to that - then I think Jordan is probably doomed. It's really up to the United States to make sure that it does not come to that - folks, this is not the time to try and play a longshot.
Oh, by the way, here's a question which came up, which honestly hadn't even occurred to me despite all my famous Jordan pessimism. A few years ago, King Abdullah removed Hussein's son Hamza from the line of succession (despite what were supposed to have been promises to the contrary). To the best of my knowledge (and that of my Jordanian friends last night), he has not since announced any formal successor. So what happens if Abdullah takes a bullet, or chokes on a chicken bone, or has a heart attack, or has his plane shot down as he visits Amman? Why is there no Crown Prince - or is there? Who exactly would navigate Jordan through the succession crisis which would follow? Abdullah's thirteen year old son? Rania? Mohamed Dahabi? Ambassador Hale?