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Jordan’s ‘West Bank’

Oct 23,2017 - Last updated at Oct 23,2017

Some Israeli likudniks and ultra-right-wingers are asking for a conference to create a Palestinian state on the East Bank of the River Jordan (or Jordan); that calls for a revision of Jordan’s stand on the Palestinian issue as a whole.

In 1967, Jordan, under the late King Hussein, participated in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war following immense Arab pressure and accusations by some Arab regimes that the Kingdom was standing against Arab interests by not joining their war efforts.

King Hussein had to make a choice, which led to the loss of the West Bank as an integral part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1974, Arab leaders agreed, at the Rabat Conference, that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat, would be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. 

When his pleas failed to alter the positions of Arab leaders, King Hussein made a historic Cabinet reshuffle.

According to the Agreement of Unity between the East Bank and West Bank, the Cabinet, ambassadorial positions and government employment as a whole, it was agreed, would be divided on a 50/50 basis.

The decision at the Rabat Conference annulled, de facto, that terms of agreement, and King Hussein responded accordingly.

In 1988, before the start of the negotiation process of 1991 in Madrid, Jordan took the decision to sever legal and administrative relations with the West Bank, with the exception of the management and custodianship of the holy places in Jerusalem. That decision evoked a constitutional debate. Some legal experts saw in the decision a breach of the 1952 Constitution (Article 2), which prohibited in absolute terms the abrogation of sovereignty on any part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Others saw in it an unavoidable necessity to safeguard Jordan’s strategic interests and to allow the Palestinians the right to self-determination over the West Bank and Gaza.

Regardless of the consequences of that decision for both Palestinians and Jordanians, it was vague. What does “severing legal and administrative ties” really mean?

If it had meant that Jordan was giving up sovereign parts of its geography, then it was a flagrant breach of the Constitution.

The term means, to me, that Jordan had delegated the PLO to act on its behalf in legal and administrative matters on the West Bank. That is the only plausible interpretation.

So far, the Palestinian Authority is not recognised as a full state by the United Nations. Yet, when Jordan joined the UN in 1955 after vehement objections by some Arab states, the West Bank’s geography was clearly delineated as a part of the Kingdom. Even resolutions 242 and 338, upon which the whole peace process of the 1990s was based, stated that these territories were occupied Jordanian lands.

Jordan is thus the country that must negotiate with the Israelis over the return of the West Bank as an occupied territory.

It is obvious that the two-state solution is losing its realistic possible materialisation. The PLO is in no position to rule the West Bank, and thus Jordan’s delegation is now irrelevant.

The pronouncement of Prince Al Hassan Bin Talal that the West Bank is an integral part of Jordan is a statement of the status quo and a brave answer to Israel’s attempts to create a surrogate Palestinian state in Jordan.

The writer is a former Royal Court chief, deputy prime minister and member of Senate. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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