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Speech before the 5th Annual Jerusalem Conference

US Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Regency Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

I’m very happy to be here today speaking to such a distinguished group of Rabbis, scholars, professionals, students, and friends who care passionately about the future of Jerusalem. So passionately you came out even in the snow!

On behalf of the people of Kansas, I express my sincere thanks for your efforts to bring the issue of Jerusalem to the forefront of the national and international discussion. As a way of showing our gratitude, maybe my wife and I should invite you all back to our house in Topeka for a good old fashion Kansas barbecue. And don’t worry, I know—no pork, shellfish, or dairy. I’ll probably just throw some pickled herring on the grill.

We are living in troubling times. There’s no doubt about that. Iran, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others are spreading radical Islamist ideology all over the world.

Concerning the future of Jerusalem, the words of Abraham Lincoln come to mind, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Well, today we have gathered in this place to proclaim to the world that the city of Jerusalem divided against itself cannot stand.

We must protect and preserve Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people for all time. Doing so will not only be historically just, but it would also protect the freedom of all religions to worship and pray in all of the holy sites just as Israel has guaranteed for 40 years.

I am also very happy to join you in Israel during the 60-year anniversary of the State’s independence.

Given the tremendous odds against those brave men and women who gathered in Tel Aviv to declare independence, surviving for 60 years is an amazing feat in and of itself. But think of how far the State of Israel has come in that time: a global leader in defense technology, medical research, telecommunications, agricultural development, energy innovation, and bad techno music.

And all with a tiny slice of land, with few natural resources, constantly under threat by neighboring states. No other nation on earth has accomplished so much, in such a short amount of time. You’re like an NFL expansion team winning the Super Bowl in its first year.

Where was the United States 60 years after independence? I’ll tell you. We were busy electing President Martin Van Buren, who was most famous for refurbishing the White House and having huge sideburns.

But I didn’t come here today to discuss comparative history. Rather, I came to talk to you about the future of Israel and of Jerusalem, and what I believe is the most promising and hopeful direction for Israelis and Palestinians.

We have reached a crossroads in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. What is clear to me, and many others with whom I have spoken, is that the time has come to chart a new course in the Israeli-Palestinian process.

The time has come to shift the paradigm to focus on political confederation and economic improvement, and to solve the problems facing Palestinian refugees.

Such a shift will result in improving the lives of the Palestinians and increasing the security of Israel, twin goals that have proven elusive thus far.

The Palestinian Authority has not proven capable of independently administering the West Bank or the Gaza strip.

Its leadership is unwilling or not capable of confronting the radical terrorist groups in its midst, and as a result is failing to achieve the most fundamental element of statehood—a monopoly on the use of force by the government.

After fifteen years, billions of dollars of aid, massive international attention, unlimited diplomatic support from around the world, what do the Palestinian people have?

And what has Israel obtained from this course? Her cities are under siege from rockets, her soldiers being kidnapped, bombings in the streets, and a violent takeover in Gaza by Hamas, whose sponsor is Iran.

Why is the question on the lips of all the leaders and diplomats, “how soon can we hand the Palestinian Authority the keys to a new, independent state?”

In the global war against terror, we cannot afford to rush into an arrangement that will create a terrorist sanctuary for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda. The result in Gaza should be all the evidence we need to stop us from advocating such a position.

Many people say that the only way out of this difficult situation is a 2-state solution with an independent state of Palestine side by side with Israel. I have heard this line personally many times. But I believe this is the wrong way to go.

Another option does exist, and I believe it should be pursued with at least the same vigor and intensity than that which was pushed in Annapolis. This alternative has been put forward in various iterations by different scholars and groups over many years.

If our leaders wish to talk in terms of a 2-state solution, it is high time that we start thinking about confederation with Jordan as the second state in that equation. To be sure, a Palestinian area, under Palestinian leadership, but in confederation with Jordan.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean the old historical argument that Jordan is the original Arab Palestine. While any serious historical inquiry reveals that this happens to be true, it is no longer relevant in the context of today’s problems.

What I am talking about is a confederation of states—Jordan and the West Bank.

What would this look like?

While there are several ways to think of the allocation of political and security rights in a confederation, one model could be that West Bank Palestinians possess autonomy over certain local matters, such as judicial decisions and basic services, but the Jordanian central government has control over security and defense issues.

Confederation makes sense both historically and practically. Historically, Jordan administered the West Bank for 40 years before relinquishing its rights after Israel had effectively taken control following the Yom Kippur War.

Confederation solves a number of practical issues immediately. For example, the Palestinians would immediately tap into the diplomatic and defense capabilities of the Jordanian government, which for a new, independent state could take decades to arrange.

Second, the contentious issue of Jerusalem would not have to be negotiated. Israel and Jordan have had a working relationship on the administration of Jerusalem for many years, and this relationship would continue unabated, with Jerusalem remaining the undivided capital of the State of Israel.

Third, Israel would also continue to work with the Jordanian government to counter security threats in the West Bank up to the Jordan River. This aspect is crucial for Israel maintaining defensible borders.

The most common critique of this approach alleges that Jordan has no incentive to undertake such a project. Why would Jordan want to be in confederation with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank? Wouldn’t this strain the already tenuous demographic problem between Jordanians and Palestinians in Jordan?

In fact, Jordan has numerous incentives for confederation with the PA. Foremost, the answer lies in the current instability in Iraq. No policy maker in Jordan wants to see the kind of instability on Jordan’s western border like is being encountered on the eastern border with Iraq. By working with the PA on the broader aspects of security and diplomacy in the West Bank, the Jordanian government would be improving the country’s national security by avoiding a situation where they are sandwiched between two unstable places.

Another critique that is alleged is that we should not impose a solution upon the Palestinians that they reject. However the truth about how the Palestinians feel about confederation is astoundingly different than what the critics would like to believe.

Eight months ago, in June 2007, the Palestine Center for Survey and Policy Research conducted a survey of Palestinian feelings about a number of issues and proposals. Included in this list was a question of support or opposition to confederation with Jordan. Here were the results:

1. 25% support confederation immediately, before a Palestinian state is formed
2. 17% support confederation after a Palestinian state is formed

Taken together, that is 42% who support confederation to the 51% who opposed. This indicates that in fact the idea could be moved forward in discussions without a sense of imposition—this is what almost half the Palestinians want already without any public campaign!

My feeling about foreign policy is that often times we try and get too clever with the solutions—two states, side by side, but also contiguous, even though they are separate, final status issues, etcetera. I believe you need to look at the factual situation on the ground and do what makes sense. In this case, clearly the best path is confederation between the PA and Jordan.

Now is the time to get Jordan and the PA actively involved in the discussions of confederation. We cannot allow a Palestinian state to be created, only to soon fall under the rule of Hamas. By then, confederation with Jordan would be too late, and the whole region would be in even greater danger.

With Palestinian frustration against the Hamas government in Gaza, we have a unique opportunity to push for alternative solutions that can do more than merely grant political independence to an entity that has quite limited authority or influence. And we must stand to keep Jerusalem united, whole ad free, the capital of Israel.

I look forward to your thoughts and guidance, and wish you well with the rest of this important conference. G-d bless you, G-d bless Israel, and G-d bless the peacemakers!

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