The Annexation of the West Bank by Jordan

Did you know that from 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan? During these 19 years, Jordan officially included the West Bank as its territory, and the idea of creating a separate Palestinian state there wasn’t widely discussed. This period is an important piece of the history between Jordan and the West Bank.

Early 20th Century Context

Our story starts during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, the area went through big changes. The British took control of a region called the British Mandate of Palestine, which included what we now know as Israel, the West Bank, and Transjordan (which became Jordan). This was a time of changing borders and new countries being formed in the Middle East.

1948-1967: Palestinians as Part of Jordan

In 1948, Israel was created, leading to a big war called the Arab-Israeli War. Jordan, led by King Abdullah I, fought against Israel. When the war ended, Jordan controlled the West Bank and made it part of Jordan in 1950. This was a big deal in the area and changed how countries around there interacted with each other.

Annexation and Integration

In April 1950, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank, a move that was recognized by only two countries: the United Kingdom and Pakistan. This annexation was not merely territorial but also administrative and political. Jordan extended its law and governmental system to the West Bank and granted all residents Jordanian citizenship. Palestinians in the West Bank did not face discrimination and were given the same equal rights as the Jordanians of the East Bank. Having said that, the integration did face its challenges – many Palestinians felt underrepresented and marginalized, leading to political and social tensions.

Palestinians in the Jordanian Parliament

A significant aspect of this integration was the representation of Palestinians in the Jordanian Parliament. Roughly half of the seats in the House of Representatives were allocated to West Bank representatives, giving Palestinians a significant voice in the Jordanian political system. This move was part of King Abdullah’s broader strategy to strengthen his rule by incorporating the Palestinian population and territories into the Jordanian state.

In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed. Later it became Fatah – the current ruling party in the West Bank. They never made the case of liberating the West Bank nor Gaza from Jordanian and Egyptian rule, and mostly concentrated on terror attacks against Israelis::

  • Avivim school bus massacre (1970), killing 9 children aged 7 to 14 and 3 adults
  • Dawson’s Field hijackings – hijacking 4 aircrafts
  • Munich massacre (1972), killing 11 Israeli Olympians

1967-1988

The landscape changed dramatically after the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan. This loss led to a significant shift in Jordan’s approach to the West Bank. In 1988, following the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and amidst the First Intifada, Jordan formally severed its administrative and legal ties with the West Bank, in a move known as “disengagement” or “de-annexation.”

This de-annexation had profound implications. Palestinians in the West Bank lost their Jordanian citizenship, and the political representation they once held in the Jordanian Parliament came to an end. This move was also a clear signal of Jordan’s support for Palestinian self-determination, although it left many Palestinians in a state of political and legal limbo.

Limbo

This limbo is almost unprecedented on the international level. On one hand – the West Bank was conquered by Israel from Jordan, and Jordan no longer recognized the territory as their own. According to the international law, this makes Israel the owner of the territory. Also, there was no other recognized country that resided in that area in the modern history – the whole region changed hands quite a lot of times, since the First Jewish-Roman war in 67 CE, the last time there was an independent country in that area.

The Roman rule ended in the year 390, then the Byzantines came to power until 634, which were replaced by Arabs in 635, which were replaced by the crusaders in 1099, Muslims again in 1187, and Crusaders again in 1229. It didn’t last long, and the Tatars sacked Jerusalem in 1244, followed by Turks in 1516, which marked a four-century status of being part of the Ottoman Syria. In 1918, during WWI, the British took over the area from the Turks.

But back to our times. Israel did not annex the West Bank – except for East Jerusalem. Since there was no formal annexation of the rest of the West Bank by Israel, the region entered a unique and complex legal and political status. This ambiguity has been a source of ongoing debate and contention in international politics. The West Bank, recognized by many as occupied territory (from whom?) Jordan has no claims over West Bank), has been administered by Israel but without full sovereignty.

Conclusion

1947 – clearly the word “Palestinian” didn’t mean what it means now

The possibility of establishing a sovereign state in the West Bank was present when Jordan annexed the territory in 1950. However, at that time, the concept of a distinct Palestinian nation was not recognized, even among the local Arab population. The term “Palestinian” in 1948 was a broader designation, applied to all residents of the region, including Jews and Arabs. Indeed, some Jewish inhabitants of the area from that era still possess documents labeling them as Palestinian. Not only this, but for centuries, the word “Palestine” was translated to Hebrew as “The land of Israel”.

Reflecting on the journey towards Palestinian statehood, it becomes apparent that the path has been complex and marked by a lack of consensus about Palestinian nationhood. For a significant part of history, neither the Palestinians themselves nor neighboring countries like Jordan and Egypt fully embraced the idea of an independent Palestinian state. This situation contributed to what can be described as a condition of self-inflicted statelessness for the Palestinian people, a scenario that has been a recurring theme in the region’s history.

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