[Published 10 June 2011]
The 44th Anniversary of the Six Day War occurred this week on 5 June 1967.
It is therefore opportune to recall some of the significant events that led to Jordan’s loss of the West Bank in that War ending 19 years of uninterrupted occupation - and to understand why all of the West Bank - or its equivalent area - will never again return to Arab control.
I am indebted to the Six Day War Comprehensive Timeline for much of the material that follows. This website should be required reading for all who wish to understand why international pressure to return all of the West Bank to the Arabs must fail.
Jordan’s path down the road to its disastrous loss of the West Bank began on 30 May 1967 - 6 days before the start of the Six Day War. This was the fatal day that Jordan signed a five year mutual defence treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian General.
Jordan’s King Hussein had been caught up in the Arab euphoria and vitriol emanating from Egypt’s President Nasser who had declared on 28 May 1967:
“We will not accept any…coexistence with Israel.…Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel….The war with Israel is in effect since 1948”.
Such was the mood of Jordan’s population that Jordan’s Army Commander-in-Chief General Sharif Zaid Ben Shaker warned in a press conference that :
“If Jordan does not join the war a civil war will erupt in Jordan”.
The West Bank had been unified with Transjordan in 1950 and the country renamed Jordan after unanimous ratification by a Parliament comprised equally of representatives from the West Bank and Transjordan. No demand was made in the next 17 years for the creation of a separate Palestinian Arab State - even though all the Jews living there had been driven out by six invading Arab armies in 1948.
On 31 May 1967 President Aref of Iraq declared:
“The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map”
Al Akhbar - Cairo’s daily newspaper correctly summed up Jordan’s involvement on the same day:
“Under the terms of the military agreement signed with Jordan, Jordanian artillery, coordinated with the forces of Egypt and Syria, is in a position to cut Israel in two at Qalqilya, where Israeli territory between the Jordan armistice line and the Mediterranean Sea is only 12 kilometres wide”.
What was true in 1967 remains as valid in 2011. Israel’s vulnerable waistline of only 12 kilometers would return again with all of the West Bank under Arab control.
On 5 June Israel made its pre-emptive strike against Egypt. That same morning, Israel sent a message to Jordan’s leader King Hussein via the US State Department, the UN and the British Foreign Office, saying that, despite the outbreak of war, it would not attack the West Bank if Jordan maintained quiet on that front.
Jordan ignored Israel’s appeal to avoid conflict and launched immediate multiple attacks on Israel:
1. civilian suburbs of Tel-Aviv were shelled by artillery;
2. Israel’s largest military airfield, Ramat David, was shelled;
3. Jordanian warplanes attacked the central Israeli towns of Netanya and Kfar Sava;
4. thousands of mortar shells rained down on West Jerusalem hitting civilian locations indiscriminately, including the Hadassah Hospital and the Mount Zion Church;
5. Israel’s parliament building (the Knesset) and the Prime Minister’s office, each in Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem, were targeted;
6. 20 Israelis died in these attacks; 1000 were wounded. 900 buildings in West Jerusalem were damaged.
All this happened before Israel reacted militarily against Jordan, or moved at all into the West Bank.
The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 242 on 22 November 1967 recognizing that secure and recognized boundaries needed to be drawn between Israel and its neighbours to ensure the Arabs would not be tempted to again try and cut Israel in two in the future as the first step in any attempt to wipe Israel off the map.
Egypt and Jordan eventually came to realise the folly of their action. Both entered into peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Syria refused to join them. But the current upheaval in Egypt, Jordan and Syria now put the continued operation of these two treaties at real risk.
Jordan withdrew all its claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1988. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created in 1993 as a result of the Oslo Accords - stepping into the void left by Jordan.
The PA has since then sought to undo the 1950 reunification and substitute the creation of a Palestinian Arab State in all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza for the first time in recorded history
The PA is now threatening to approach the United Nations in September to achieve this outcome. The UN’S abject surrender to an Egyptian diktat was the catalyst that led to the Six Day War.
UN Secretary General U Thant had of his own volition agreed to Nasser’s demand that the United Nations Emergency Force be withdrawn on 18 May 1967 - just seven hours after Egyptian ambassador Kony had informed U Thant:
“Egypt has decided to terminate the presence of the United Nations Emergency Force from the territory of the United Arab Republic and Gaza Strip. Therefore I request that the necessary steps be taken for the withdrawal of the Force as soon as possible.”
Britain made its position very clear when its Foreign Secretary George Brown stated:
“UNEF was established with the full concurrence of the United Nations…any decision to withdraw the force should be taken in the United Nations after full consultation with all the countries involved – it should not be taken as the result of some unilateral decision.”
It is unthinkable and immoral that Jordan’s heinous conduct should be rewarded by the United Nations now ignoring Security Council Resolution 242 and returning Israel to the vulnerable 1967 armistice lines.
That the UN might seek to do so in clear contravention of its own resolution and international law - specifically the Montevideo Convention 1933 - would certainly not surprise. Treachery knows no bounds when it comes to double standards by the UN in dealing with Israel.
Jordan paid a high price for joining in an alliance with Egypt and Syria - the loss of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Those pre-June 1967 halcyon days are not going to return in 2011 - either for Jordan or the PA.