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A new/old idea for Palestinian peace

Jordan is quietly discussing closer ties – even some form of official union – with the Palestinian West Bank.

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It was almost 40 years ago that this city, like the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, fell out of Jordanian hands and into Israeli control in the course of the Six-Day War.

Call it retro geopolitics, or history repeating itself, but the idea of the Palestinian territories – at least the West Bank – rejoining the Hashemite Kingdom to form some kind of confederation seems to be gaining traction on both sides of the Jordan River.

The concept has been raised quietly before but was deemed taboo, in part because Palestinian leaders feared it could squelch their larger aspirations for an independent state.

But given the deteriorating security in the Palestinian territories amid an ongoing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, some Palestinians are again looking east to Jordan – a country whose majority population is of Palestinian descent. Jordan's King Abdullah II – concerned about a full collapse of the Palestinian Authority as well as unilateral Israeli moves in the West Bank – is increasingly involved in bringing opinion-shapers and would-be peacemakers together to reconsider the idea.

When the king invited some 200 Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians to Aqaba earlier this month, the confederation idea was part a big part of the buzz, says Samih Shabib, a lecturer in political science at Bir Zeit University here.

"The official Jordanian position is that no Jordanian-Palestinian confederation will be established before there is an independent Palestinian state, but we all know there's more to it than that," says Dr. Shabib. "There seems to be an exceptional interest on the part of the king in internal Palestinian matters, and this has manifested itself in a huge effort in the last few months of bringing us together, and there are many meetings on this that are continuing."

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