[Published 15 November 2012]
Jordan appears ready to fill the negotiating void that will be left by the PLO - should its expected application to be admitted as a non-member observer state at the United Nations be successful on 29 November.
Such unilateral action by the PLO - in violation of the Oslo Accords and international law - will amount to an act of political suicide. It will invite similar unilateral action by Israel. This could include termination of all further negotiations with the PLO through its negotiating mouthpiece - the Palestinian Authority.
Statements made in recent weeks by Prince Hassan of Jordan and PLO power broker Farouk Kaddoumi have confirmed the desirability of the West Bank being reunified with Jordan after a lapse of 45 years.
Added impetus has now been given to these statements with the release of two textbooks issued by the Jordanian Education Ministry for use in grades 1 to 12 in Jordanian schools.
The textbooks purport to teach students about bad eating and the dangers of smoking - but a wall map featured on some of its pages reportedly relays a skewed lesson in geography by excluding the names of Jordan and Palestine - inviting the following comment from the West Bank Association:
“In effect, the exclusion of these names annexes Palestine to Jordan”
The Jordanian Association Against Zionism and Racism was also quick to join in expressing its anger.
The chairman of the Jordanian agronomists’ association, Mahmoud Abu Ghanima and the chairman of the teachers’s association Mustafa Rawashdeh reportedly said those who helped distribute the textbooks should be indicted.
Their criticisms should fall on deaf ears.
Transjordan was the last Arab state to occupy the area known as “Judea and Samaria” between 1948 - 1967. In 1950 Transjordan adopted the name “West Bank” for these areas after they had been unified with Transjordan to create a newly named territorial entity called “Jordan”.
Transjordan’s 1947 Constitution was repealed and replaced with a new Jordanian Constitution in 1952 - in which Article 1 declared:
“The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an independent sovereign Arab State. It is indivisible and inalienable and no part of it may be ceded. The people of Jordan form a part of the Arab Nation, and its system of government is parliamentary with a hereditary monarchy.”
This provision still remains intact and unamended in 2012.
In 1988 Jordan severed all legal and administrative ties with the West Bank.
King Hussein’s meticulously crafted address to the Jordanian people at that time made it quite clear that Jordan was ready to resume its previous role in the West Bank should circumstances arise.
“Arab unity between any two or more countries is an option of any Arab people. This is what we believe. Accordingly, we responded to the wish of the Palestinian people’s representatives for unity with Jordan in 1950. From this premise, we respect the wish of the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, to secede from us as an independent Palestinian state. We say that while we fully understand the situation, nevertheless, Jordan will remain the proud bearer of the message of the Great Arab Revolt, adhering to its principles, believing in one Arab destiny, and committed to joint Arab action.
Regarding the political consideration, since the June 1967 aggression we have believed that our actions and efforts should be directed at liberating the land and the sanctities from Israeli occupation. Therefore, we have concentrated all our efforts over the past twenty-one years of occupation on that goal. We did not imagine that maintaining the legal and administrative relationship between the two banks could constitute an obstacle to liberating the occupied Palestinian land. Hence, in the past and before we took measures, we did not find anything requiring such measures, especially since our support for the Palestinian peoples right to self-determination was clear.
Lately, it has transpired that there is a general Palestinian and Arab orientation which believes in the need to highlight the Palestinian identity in full in all efforts and activities that are related to the Palestine question and its developments. It has also become clear that there is a general conviction that maintaining the legal and administrative links with the West Bank, and the ensuing Jordanian interaction with our Palestinian brothers under occupation through Jordanian institutions in the occupied territories, contradicts this orientation.”
Described as a “disengagement” on King Hussein’s official web page (the same term used to describe Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005) - the reasons given were as follows:
“Prior to 1989, Jordan’s last parliamentary elections were held in April of 1967, two months prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Since their union in 1950, the East and West Bank had been allocated equal representation within Parliament: each had thirty representatives in the House of Deputies. The 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the 1974 Arab Summit resolution at Rabat, which designated the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, posed constitutional and practical obstacles to the holding of general elections.
On July 28, 1988, King Hussein announced the cessation of a $1.3 billion development program for the West Bank, explaining that the measure was designed to allow the PLO more responsibility for the area. Two days later, he formally dissolved Parliament, ending West Bank representation in the legislature. Finally, on July 31 King Hussein announced the severance of all administrative and legal ties with the occupied West Bank.
Accordingly, electoral districts were redrawn to represent East Bank constituencies only. This disengagement decision marks the turning point that launched the current democratic process, and began a new stage in Jordan’s relationship with West Bank Palestinians.
The decision to sever legal and administrative ties with the West Bank allowed Jordan’s electoral law to be changed, redrawing the map to include only East Bank districts. During the same period, mounting economic difficulties led to a spate of rioting in certain parts of the Kingdom. Circumstances had therefore coalesced to produce a situation favoring the resumption of the democratic process King Hussein had initiated early in his reign. In November 1989, general parliamentary elections were held in Jordan for the first time since 1966, ushering in a new era for the institutionalization of Jordan’s democratic experience.”
Jordan’s disengagement from the West Bank in favour of the PLO has proved an abject failure.
Reinstating Jordan's severed legal and administrative ties with the West Bank in direct negotiations with Israel is now rapidly shaping up as the most viable option to resolve sovereignty in the West Bank as the PLO slowly sinks into the political sunset.