by Rod D. Martin
July 14, 2013
Forty-six years after the Six Day War, its memory invariably produces a deluge of propaganda attacking “the Zionist Entity” and promoting “an independent Palestine”, restricted to the territories Israel took in 1967 (for English-speaking audiences), or “driving the last Jew into the sea” (in Arabic and Persian). Lost in the din are some particularly “inconvenient truths”, both historical and contemporary, but none more so than this: there already is a Palestine, and it’s called Jordan.
This may be news to you. It is certainly not news to the Jordanians (the vast majority of whom are actually Palestinians). It’s not news to the Israelis either, who having made peace with Jordan don’t care to raise the issue. It certainly isn’t news to the terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza: it just doesn’t serve their purpose.
But truth is truth. And it might ultimately serve everyone’s interests to remember it.
“Palestine” (from the Greek for Philistine, the deadly enemies of ancient Israel) was a creation of the World War I Allies after they severed it from the Ottoman Empire, or Turkey. It was largely empty, and even then a large percentage of the people in the western portion (today’s Israel) were Jews.
In 1917 the British committed themselves in the Balfour Declaration to creating an independent Jewish homeland in Palestine, in much the same way that the Allies shortly carved Europe into independent homelands for the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Finns, Hungarians, Slovenes, Serbs, Bosnians, Montenegrins and Croats. This was based in large measure on Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the driving principle of which was the end of empire and the right of self-determination.
Hardly anyone opposed this. As Hussein ibn-Ali, the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca and leader of the Arab Revolt against the Turks, wrote in 1918, “The resources of the country are still virgin soil and will be developed by the Jewish immigrants. [The Arabs know] that the country [is] for its original sons, for all their differences, a sacred and beloved homeland.” Implicit in his statement was the emptiness of the land, largely depopulated for two millennia.
The next year, Hussein’s son Faisal, newly King of Syria and chief representative of the Arab nations at the Versailles Peace Conference, signed a treaty of friendship with Chaim Weizmann, leader of the Zionist Organization, jointly adopting the Balfour principles. It said: “All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible….” King Faisal further wrote: “We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our delegation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper.”
To implement this clearly enlightened position, Britain was given control over Palestine by the new League of Nations. But that “Palestine Mandate” covered neither what we think of as Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza, two concepts which did not yet exist) nor the PLO’s idea of Palestine (any territory currently held by a Jew). Oh no. “Palestine” meant what Weizmann, Faisal, Hussein, Churchill and all the powers at Versailles understood it to mean: Biblical Palestine, all of today’s Israel and Jordan. And the borders were drawn accordingly.
Hence, 80% of Palestine is today’s Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. And from this, things began to go off the tracks.
The problem began when France was granted Syria at the San Remo Conference the next year. It promptly invaded its new “mandate”, made it a French colony, and expelled Faisal. His brother Abdullah prepared to march on Damascus, but Churchill persuaded him not to attack Britain’s ally, and instead offered to make him Emir of a new British protectorate, “Transjordan” (literally, “the other side of the Jordan”). With the stroke of a pen, the Jews lost 80% of their land.
They didn’t complain that much. The Zionists understood that Jordan was filled with Palestinian Arabs, and there simply weren’t enough Jews to settle there anyway. They also hoped for continued peace and cooperation with the Hashemites: Hussein, Faisal and Abudullah, who had made peace with Weizmann and now ruled most of Arabia.
But of course the rest is history. The rising House of Saud drove Hussein’s Hashemites out of the Arabian Peninsula, which meant out of control of Mecca and Medina. Despite long-promised support, the British did nothing. They did make Faisal King of Iraq, but Iraq is not Mecca, or even Syria, and multiple broken promises by the European powers increasingly soured the Arabs on their deal with the (largely European) Jews.
Compounding stupidities, the British appointed the violent anti-Zionist Haj Amin al-Husseini (uncle of longtime PLO leader Yasser Arafat) Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. From this high post he not only incited ever-increasing hostility between Arab and Jew, but also, seeing the Germans as a superior alternative to the duplicitous British and French (like most Arab and Persian nationalists of the Thirties and Fourties), he openly collaborated with Adolf Hitler to bring the “Final Solution” to Palestine, adopting much of Nazi ideology in the process. Rabid anti-Semitism thus became the dominant sentiment of Arab leaders throughout the Middle East. It still is.
By 1947, the situation had deteriorated beyond repair. The UN attempted to resolve matters by partitioning the remaining 20% of Palestine into a Jewish half and an Arab half, leaving Jerusalem neutral and under international control. The Jews readily agreed to this 10% solution, and to peace. The Arabs instead chose war.
Failing to annihilate the Jews, Jordan instead annexed the West Bank. Egypt annexed Gaza. Even though these territories roughly corresponded with the UN’s planned Palestinian state – to which Israel had agreed – no Arab power even considered that an option. No Palestinian wanted it. And Jordan already existed: as King Hussein put it as late as 1981, “The truth is, Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”
No, the only thing the Arabs wanted was the extermination of the Jews. Which is still true of most of them, particularly the “Palestinians”, the ones on the west side of the Jordan River at least.
So is there a solution in all of this? Maybe.
The overwhelming majority of all Palestinians are today called Jordanians. Except for the Hashemite foreigners, they are the same people who live in the West Bank and Gaza.
But whereas Jordan is a functioning country, “the territories” are not. Gaza is a city-state with no commerce or industry occupied by 1.5 million largely unemployed and unemployable people whose primary skill is firing mortars at Jewish subdivisions. The largely rural West Bank is better, but not by much, and has no desire to be ruled by the city-dwellers in Gaza. There are virtually no jobs (other than “assassin” and “suicide bomber”) in either territory, and cannot be: who will invest in a country almost completely cut off by sea and air, that has a population whose chief skill is slitting throats, and is semi-permanently at war?
And then there’s Israel, just nine-miles across in its most populated region if the West Bank were independent. Which might be okay if the West Bank were populated by Canadians instead of Jew-hating suicide bombers.
Under the current diplomatic approach – the “two state solution” – Palestine can never be more than a seething economic and military dependency of Israel. Unless, of course, it achieves its sworn aim of actually destroying Israel.
But what if, instead of creating a dependent postage-stamp state with no future, “Palestine” was reattached to Jordan instead?
It would not be easy. Jordan doesn’t want the terrorists: it already fought a civil war in 1970 to drive the PLO (today’s Palestinian Authority) out of Jordan. And Israel would have to get some or all of the land, work out a permanent “neutral zone” under Jordanian authority but Israeli military and police, or somehow be able to trust the Jordanians with a border leaves Israel just nine miles across. Both sides would have to eradicate Hamas and the PLO, much easier said than done, but on the other hand, a boon to the entire world, most especially the Palestinian people.
Even so: recognition that Jordan is and always has been the promised Palestinian state restores the possibility of a meaningful solution instead of a violent stalemate. It permits geographic and security options now impossible for either side. It allows the possibility of peace based on equality with Israel, not dependence. And given today’s friendly ties and even free trade agreement between Jordan and Israel, it opens the door to genuine prosperity and freedom for all involved: a rolling back of the clock to a time when Arab and Jew lived confidently and cooperatively in mutual respect and peace.
For many, it is indeed an inconvenient truth. But it’s long past time someone pointed it out.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed from Rod D. Martin was originally published by the Center for Security Policy.