[Published 19 October 2012]
Prince Hassan Bin Talal - Jordan’s former Crown Prince and the uncle of Jordan’s current ruler - King Abdullah - has floated a possible new diplomatic initiative by reminding the world that the West Bank was once part of Jordan.
Prince Hassan pointed out this very important historic and geographic fact whilst addressing a meeting of the Ebal charity organization in Nablus on 9 October.
That meeting had been organised by Jordanian Senate President Taher Al-Masri - indicating that the King in all likelihood would have been given advance notice and approved what Prince Hassan intended saying.
The Jordanian website Almustaqbal-a.com reported that Prince Hassan told the meeting:
”the West Bank is part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which included both banks of the [Jordan] River”
The report added:
“The attendees understood that Prince [Hassan] is working to reunite both banks of the [Jordan] River, and commended him for it.”
The West Bank and Transjordan had existed as one territorial entity between 1950-1967 following Transjordan’s occupation of the West Bank in 1948 after the newly declared State of Israel had been attacked by six invading Arab armies.
Transjordan - as a result - changed its name to “Jordan” and named the territory west of the Jordan River as the “West Bank”. Until then - the West Bank had been known for thousands of years as “Judea and Samaria” - the biblical and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.
These decisions were not taken in isolation by a victorious occupier against the wishes of a defeated and dispirited population - but at the request and urging of the exclusively Arab population living in Judea and Samaria. All the Jews who had been living there prior to the 1948 war had been dispossessed and forcefully driven from the area conquered by Transjordan.
A conference was held in Jericho on 1 December 1948 - attended by several thousand people including the mayors of the towns of Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, the Arab Legion Military Governor General and military governors from districts in Judea and Samaria, and other notables.
The meeting resolved:
“Palestine Arabs desire unity between Transjordan and Arab Palestine and therefore make known their wish that Arab Palestine be annexed immediately to Transjordan. They also recognize Abdullah as their King and request him proclaim himself King of the new territory.”
Wells Stabler - America’s charge d’affaires in Transjordan - reported to the Acting Secretary for State in a confidential cable dated 4 December 1948 that following the meeting - a large delegation proceeded to the King’s winter quarters at Shuneh to present the resolution to the King and request his acceptance. The King had replied that the matter must be referred to his government and that he must also ascertain the views of other Arab states. Although usual jealousies and frictions had been apparent during the meeting, the King believed it to be of significance and might be regarded by him as his mandate from Palestine Arabs.
On 6 December 1948 Stabler sent a secret cable to the Acting Secretary for State in which he reported that UN Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche had met with the King - when the following matters had been discussed:
1. The King believed that annexation of Arab Palestine to Transjordan would be an “actual help” in reaching a final settlement.The subsequent annexation of the West Bank by Transjordan two years later was only recognised by Great Britain and Pakistan. The failure of other members of the United Nations to recognise such annexation has prolonged a conflict that with a little bit of give and take could have been resolved more than 60 years ago by negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan.
2. Arab Palestine was then in a vacuum which needed to be filled and Transjordan was in best position to do it.
3. Basically any Palestine settlement rested with Egypt, Transjordan and Israel. Egypt and Transjordan could overcome any opposition from other Arab states.
4. Emir Abdel Majid Haidar, Transjordan observer at the United Nations General Assembly had held talks with Egyptians in Paris but without result.
5. Bunche had hinted to His Majesty that the annexation of Arab Palestine by Transjordan would probably be accepted as fait accompli in view of Transjordan’s present position in Arab Palestine.
Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and renounced any claims to the West Bank in 1988.
After 19 years of fruitless negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization since 1993 - the settlement of competing claims by Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in the West Bank still remains undetermined.
Prince Hassan’s statement on 9 October clearly attempts to resuscitate Jordan’s territorial claim to the West Bank.
Writing in the 1982 Spring issue of the quarterly publication “Foreign Affairs” - Prince Hassan had asserted:
“We Jordanians must add that practically speaking a settlement must also take into account our perceptions. Small as Jordan is, our country is politically, socially, economically, militarily and historically inseparable from the Palestinian issue”
Indeed the fate of Jordan and the West Bank has been tied together ever since both these areas of the former Ottoman Empire were included in the territory covered by the 1922 Mandate for Palestine within which the Jewish National Home was to be reconstituted.
The attempt over the last 19 years to divide Jordan and the West Bank into two independent Arab states for the first time ever in recorded history has proved an abject failure - leading Prince Hassan to observe that whilst he did not personally oppose the two state solution - that solution was irrelevant at this stage since:
“both sides, Arab and Israeli, no longer speak of a political solution to the Palestinian problem.”
The vacuum existing in 1948 has returned - and once again Jordan is the party that can fill it by opening negotiations with Israel to end the the Jewish-Arab conflict by reunifying the two banks of the Jordan River - taking into account the vastly changed circumstances to those existing 64 years ago.
The dividends could be immense including:
1. The return to Jordan of a very substantial part of the West Bank lost by Jordan in the Six Day WarSeizing this rare opportunity should not be missed.
2. No residents of the West Bank - either Jew or Arab - having to move from his present home
3. The restoration of Jordanian citizenship to the West Bank Arab population
4. The resolution of the competing claims by both Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in the West Bank
5. Placing a political solution to the Palestinian problem in the hands of the Arabs