Jordanians are going absolutely berserk over comments attributed to Robert Kagan, John McCain's "foreign policy guru", who supposedly said that McCain thinks that Jordan is the natural homeland for the Palestinians and their permanent resettlement there the best solution to their problem. The response to the report has been something to see. The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Jordanian Parliament has demanded a formal clarification from the U.S. Ambassador, while a range of politicians and pundits and even cartoonists are denouncing him. Even the King has weighed in in an interview to reassert that Jordan is Jordan and not Palestine. Kagan has denied making the comments (and here also) but Jordanian outrage seems undiminished.
The so-called "Jordan option" is a perennial idea floated by the Israeli right in various forms. It conflicts directly with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which assumes negotiations towards a two state solution west of the Jordan River. It also sharply contradicts the essential pillars of the American relationship with one of its most reliable allies in the region, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The "Jordan option" - which Jordanians call the 'alternative homeland [al-watan al-badil] raises existential fears in Jordan across ethnic and partisan lines. Nothing, really nothing, can generate more heat and fury among Jordanians across the board than this issue - hence the furious roiling of the Jordanian public in response to a report about a McCain adviser's remark posted on some Arabic blog. (*)
So.. is this a case of irresponsible journalism by Ammon News and other Arab media, egged on by excitable new media? Or of the exposure by the (Arabic) blogosphere of real remarks to a sympathetic audience getting outed? Right now, I incline towards the former. Kagan, I repeat, reportedly told the Jordanian embassy in no uncertain terms that he did not make the alleged remarks, and had not spoken at NYU (which NYU reportedly confirmed). If he supported those ideas, I assume he'd just say so - it would make at least some folks on the right very happy and be pretty "maverick" to boot. As long as this isn't really his position, then McCain's campaign should just make a clear statement that this does not represent his position - that he does not think that Jordan should become the Palestinian state - and put a quick end to the Jordanian political firestorm generated by the report.
(*) note: it was originally described as appearing on an Israeli website, but more relevantly it was posted on a blog which describes itself as supporting a "democratic secular state in Palestine for both Palestinian and Jews who were born in Israel before 1990" and overthrowing the Hashemites peacefully to include Jordan in Greater Palestine- good catch by Naseem Tarawneh. Judge for yourself whether that increases or decreases its credibility, but it's important context.
UPDATE - if he doesn't volunteer such a statement, some journalist should just ask him and help out. Reader MV helpfully sends in a few links to demonstrate that the Jordan option is indeed once more making the rounds (like clockwork... or a broken clock, depending on your preferred metaphor):
- Eiland, Giora (2008).
"Back to the Jordanian option", Ynetnews,
April 16. (http://www.ynetnews.com
- Karsh, Efraim, Asher Susser,
Robert Satloff & Shmuel Bar (2008). "Jordanian Option", Middle East Strategy at Harvard-blog, April 23.
- Friedman, Thomas (2008).
"Time for Radical Pragmatism", New
York Times, June 4. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06
- Garfinkle, Adam, Barry Rubin,
Walter Reich & David Schenker (2008). "Radical pragmatism’
and the Jordanian option", Middle East Strategy at Harvard-blog, June 4. (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu
So it wouldn't be a bad question to pose: whatever Bob Kagan did or didn't say, what does John McCain think about the Jordanian option?