Talk about a confederation between the Palestinians and Jordan has once again resurfaced, this time after a series of unofficial meetings in Amman and the West Bank in the past few weeks. Jordan, fearing that such confederation would end up with the Hashemite kingdom transformed into a Palestinian state, is not currently keen on the idea.
Many Palestinians have also expressed reservations about the idea. They argue that a confederation could harm their effort to establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The confederation talk returned during a recent high-profile visit to the West Bank by former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Salam Majali. During a meeting with representatives of large Palestinian clans in Nablus, Majali voiced his support for the confederation idea, saying it was the “best solution for both Palestinians and Jordanians.”
The former Jordanian prime minister told some 100 Palestinians who gathered to greet him in Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank: “Jordan cannot live without Palestine and Palestine cannot live without Jordan.” Stressing that such a confederation should be created after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Majali said that the confederation would mean that Palestinians and Jordanians would have a joint government and parliament.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has revealed she is to travel personally to Jordan within days in the hope of securing the necessary assurances that will allow Qatada to be deported.
But even with those guarantees Qatada may be able to launch a fresh legal challenge in the UK courts over any new deal and potentially go back to Europe.
That raises the prospect of another protracted legal battle before he is put on a plane.
However, fresh guarantees may at least allow the Government to secure the extremist’s return to custody while the deportation process continues.
The Government has faced intense pressure to simply ignore a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that has said Qatada cannot be deported because he risks facing trial on evidence obtained by torture.
So what should be done in Britain about foreign terrorist suspects and the European Court of Human Rights?
In the wake of the decision yesterday by Britain’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission to free the al Qaeda mastermind abu Qatada on bail (true to indefensible form, the BBC reportedly instructed its journalists not to make a ‘value judgement’ by calling ‘an extremist’ the man described by Home Secretary Theresa May as ‘a serious risk to our national security’ and a dangerous foreign national’), and with the prospect now looming that other notorious terrorist suspects may be similarly freed, virtually everyone from the Home Secretary downwards is outraged and declares that something must be done. But what?
The debacle was inevitable ever since the European Court of Human Rights moved the goalposts by ruling that Britain could not deport abu Qatada to Jordan to stand trial since some of the evidence in such a trial there might come from someone who might have been tortured.
The extremist preacher was freed from Long Lartin top security jail but will be banned from holding lengthy conversations with anyone beyond his family and will not be allowed to leave his home for 22 hours a day — including going into his garden. He is prohibited from using a mobile phone, computer or the internet.
Officials hope that the measures will prove temporary as James Brokenshire, the security minister, prepares to fly to Jordan, where Qatada has been convicted in his absence of terrorism-related offences.
The European Court of Human Rights blocked Britain from deporting the 51-year-old Islamist cleric to Jordan after ruling that he might not receive a fair trial.
However, Qatada’s own mother last night said the hate preacher should be sent back to Jordan.
Aisha Othman, 70, told the Daily Mail from her home in the Jordanian capital Amman: “He has been away too long. We want him home now.
“Underpromise, overdeliver” is one of those handy rules of politics that those in Government should keep in mind at all times. At some point today, we are told, Abu Qatada will be released from Long Lartin prison. What happens after that is a bit of a mystery. We know the bail conditions are strict, and as Hizzoner the Mayor explains in his column today, police surveillance will require 60 officers a day divided over three shifts to keep a 24 hour watch on him wherever he is (his family moved a few months ago and no one seems to be quite sure where he will turn up). The matter is exercising politicians and officials alike. David Cameron is under heaps of pressure to stick him on a plane back to Jordan, not least from Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman today would not rule out the idea that Qatada could simply be sent back to Jordan, as the 51-year-old was about to walk free for the first time in six years.
This would ignore a decision by the European Court of Human Rights that Qatada would not get a fair trial in his own country.
Qatada is being released on bail in Britain today, even though he has been convicted in Jordan of terror offences in his absence.
He has been fighting extradition to Jordan, but he is being freed because the European Court of Human Rights has concerns that evidence to be used against him was obtained by torture.
A growing number of Conservative MPs have been calling for Qatada, known as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, to simply be sent back.
Do you recall when Boris Yeltsin had his tank top moment back in the hot summer of 1991? I don’t mean he was caught wearing a tank-top, though I wouldn’t have put that past him, I mean he actually stood on top of a tank. He did this to face down a coup led by generals, who were hardline communists.
The reason I mention it is that when the BBC reported these events, it didn’t describe the hardline communists as hardline communists. It called them “hardline conservatives”. See what they did there? Quite an Orwellian insinuation, wasn’t it? As a character in 1984 says: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
But that was back in the good old days when you knew where you stood with the BBC. They had a Left-wing bias and they made no apology for it. Now they have become almost pathological in their desire to avoid making any value judgments whatsoever. As James Clappison MP asked on Wednesday: “It makes you wonder what you have to do for the BBC to call you an extremist.