At midnight on the 31 July 1988, one million Arab residents living in the West Bank who had been “Jordanians” since 1950 were no longer “Jordanians”
On 1 August 1988 those one million Arabs amazingly became subjected to a semantic conversion - to be known thereafter as “Palestinians”.
This remarkable transformation came about by an amendment to the Jordanian Nationality Law as a result of a speech given by Jordan’s King Hussein on 31 July 1988 announcing the severance of Jordan’s administrative and legal ties to the West Bank and relinquishing claims of Jordanian sovereignty in the West Bank. No laws were passed by Jordan on the details of such disengagement.
Two days before the king’s disengagement speech, Jordan’s Ministry of Interior had issued disengagement instructions comprising 22 articles.
Article 2 of those instructions provided for withdrawal of Jordanian nationality from residents of the West Bank stating:
“Every person residing in the West Bank before the date of 31/7/1988 will be considered as [a] Palestinian citizen and not as Jordanian.”
With one stroke of the pen one million West Bank Arabs entitled to exercise self determination as citizens of Jordan were reduced to a group of stateless citizens with no political rights at all.
There are strong arguments to justify the claim that the substance and manner of that decision violated Jordanian law.
Article 1 of the 1952 constitution stated :
“The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an independent Arab State. It is indivisible and no part of it may be ceded…. “Furthermore Article 33(ii) of the constitution required parliamentary approval by the National Assembly for all decisions affecting the general or personal rights of Jordanians. None was obtained.
The government maintains that King Hussein relinquished the West Bank and East Jerusalem in an administrative act, not an agreement or a treaty, and therefore the constitutional article does not apply.
Jordan - prior to its unification with the West Bank in 1950 - occupied the 78% of historical Palestine located east of the Jordan River. Jordan had only received its independence and release from the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1946 - and from that time on was called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan”.
The West Bank and East Jerusalem were subsequently captured by Transjordan following the end of Britain’s mandate over the remaining 22% of Palestine - located west of the Jordan River - and in the ensuing Arab-Israeli war in 1948.
On 1 December 1948 the Palestinian National Conference in Jericho decided to place the West Bank under the sovereignty of Transjordan - which in 1949 then changed its name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
On 11 April 1950 elections were held for a new Jordanian Parliament in which the West Bank Arabs were equally represented.
On 24 April 1950 the Parliament unanimously passed the following resolution:
“In the expression of the people’s faith in the efforts spent by His Majesty, Abdullah, toward attainment of natural aspirations, and basing itself on the right of self-determination and on the existing de facto position between Jordan and Palestine and their national, natural and geographic unity and their common interests and living space, Parliament, which represents both sides of the Jordan, resolves this day and declares:
First, its support for complete unity between the two sides of the Jordan and their union into one State, which is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, at whose head reigns King Abdullah Ibn al Husain, on a basis of constitutional representative government and equality of the rights and duties of all citizens….”
Only Great Britain and Pakistan recognized this unification but it continued to exist uninterrupted until 1967 when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six Day War,
The relevance of these historic, geographic and demographic facts becomes very relevant when looking to solutions to allocate sovereignty in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 2010.
Jordan’s current ruler - King Abdullah - in a recent interview asserted:
“There are pushes by certain elements of the Israeli government to say Jordan takes a role in the West Bank. That is never going to work and we have to be very clear that Jordan absolutely does not want to have anything to do with the West Bank.King Abdullah is deluding himself in seeking to believe his re-entry to the West Bank would merely involve replacing the Israeli Army with the Jordanian army.
All we will be doing is replacing Israeli military with Jordanian military. The Palestinians do not want that. They want to have their own statehood.
And again, what type of West Bank are we talking about? We are talking about a viable entity. What I think these people are offering to try and pull Jordan in is really nothing that would create enough statehood or make the Palestinians feel that they have something that’s called their home. So Jordan –I’m on the record; we’ve said this so many times –we will not have any role in the West Bank.”
As easily as
1. His great-grandfather -Abdullah - was able to unify the West Bank and the East Bank and make West Bank Arabs Jordanian citizens- so Abdullah can once again as easily re-unify the West Bank with the East Bank, free the stateless Palestinians from Israeli occupation and make them once again Jordanian citizens.
2. His father - Hussein - was able to sever the West Bank from Jordan and make the West Bank Arabs “stateless Palestinians”
As the idea of creating a separate state in the West Bank between Jordan and Israel - the “two state solution” - disappears down the drain in the face of continuing Palestinian Authority intransigence to change its negotiating stance over the last 16 years - the re-entry of Jordan into the West Bank to be granted sovereignty in such of the area as shall be agreed between Jordan and Israel becomes increasingly more attractive.
The Hashemites - not the PLO or Hamas - have been responsible for securing that 78% of Palestine - today called Jordan - has remained exclusively as an Arab homeland for the Arab residents of former Palestine after it had been first included in the area destined for the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home.
An opportunity is now opening for Jordan to regain a substantial part of the West Bank and once again reunify it with Jordan after an absence of 43 years.
Abdullah could reclaim a substantial part of what historically was part of Jordan for 19 years and offer to some 2.5 million Arabs now living there statehood rather than statelessness.
The West Bank is not - and never has been - a viable entity. Its reunification with Jordan will restore the political reality for its citizens that existed between 1950-1988 and its territorial status prior to its loss to Israel in 1967.
Such a solution may not end the Arab-Israeli war nor give the West Bank Arabs their own separate state - but it will be an effective end to the Israeli occupation of the majority of the West Bank and the statelessness of its Arab residents.
Hopefully this time round Jordan would also receive United Nations backing and Arab League blessing - as no other negotiated solution is remotely possible