The Jordanian constitution recognizes the Jordanian occupation (1949-1967) of land obtained in an aggressive war against Israel as an inseparable part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In fact to this very day, even with a dramatic change to that very same constitution, nearly every Arab living on the West Bank of the Jordan River could still claim citizenship in Jordan. They are subjects of the Jordanian king.
Even the Oslo peace process is ruled by the joint delegation of Jordanian-Palestinians linked to the Madrid International Peace Conference and UN Security Council Resolution 242. Neither the conference nor the resolution ever accepted the notion of a West Bank Palestinian state. Oslo failed to negotiate the sovereignty of the West Bank. While Israel claimed legitimate sovereignty over the totality of Jerusalem, it never annexed the West Bank, and it never claimed to be an occupier. Since the 1922 San Remo Conference, Israel’s legitimate sovereignty claims to the territory have never been exercised.
Israel holds a much stronger case for West Bank sovereignty — based on Article VI of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine — than any other country in the world. But in the aftermath of the six-day liberation of the territory from Jordan, Israel never claimed its just sovereignty rights. Under UN Security Council Resolution 242 the territory was not formally assigned a sovereign, and for all intents and purposes its final adjudication must be negotiated between legitimate states within the region.
In other words, Jordan could be such a state, but only if it seeks to press a claim for the territory that it once occupied. But what if Jordan continues to refuse to negotiate? And what about the Jordanian citizens living in the territory as represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA)? They attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate an alternate sovereign authority over the territory. But after twenty-two years, the Oslo negotiating process has failed, and the sovereignty of the territory still remains in limbo.
As constitutional citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom, but under the authority of the Oslo Agreement’s PA, the Palestinian people seem resigned to press their flimsy case for sole sovereignty at the International Criminal Court and in the General Assembly of the United Nations. But only the Security Council can take mandatory international action, and only under the provision of a Chapter VII ruling (aggressive war). This action would contradict the very essence of Resolution 242 and make a complete sham of the aggressive actions of Arab states in the wars of 1948 and 1967. This will never happen. Israel was not the aggressor in 1967, and UN Security Council 242, established under a Chapter VI ruling (non-binding) proves the very point. But if Oslo is dead, and for reasons of demographics Israel refuses to press its claim of sovereignty over the West Bank, how then can the future of this disputed territory ever be decided?
The Israeli right-wing always makes the claim that Jordan is Palestine, and before 1922, that was the case. But Jordan was established under the same international treaty that established Israel (Articles 6 and 25 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine). If Jordan was indeed Palestine (like before 1922), its territory would have been included in the area of the mandated Jewish state. But that ended in July 1922 at the San Remo Conference. Jordan is Jordan, and all the Arabs living on the West Bank were incorporated into Jordanian jurisdiction through an aggressive occupation of land (assigned to the Jewish people at San Remo).
This invasion in 1948 was led by UK officers in cooperation with the Jordanian Arab Legion and was in direct contradiction to the norms established by the United Nations just a couple years before. It was during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 that Israel was attacked and its rights to the full territory of the Mandate interrupted by war and occupation. The so-called West Bank never existed in history. It was not until the shooting of 1948 stopped that the territory Jordan illegally occupied came to be called the West Bank. At that moment, the Arabs of this territory became citizens and subjects of the king of Jordan, and the international community acquiesced.
Israel has never denied that those same citizens are Jordanian, because Israel has never claimed sovereignty over the so-called West Bank. It doesn’t want to incorporate them into the Jewish state as citizens because it rejects the feasibility of a bi-national state. But while Israel recognizes West-Bank Arabs as citizens of Jordan, it never accepted Jordanian claims of sovereignty over the territory either (and no one else did except the UK and Pakistan).
The admissibility of the acquisition of territory by aggressive war is clearly against international law. The question of sovereignty for the territory has been decided by treaty (1922) though never exercised by Israel since it came in possession of the territory in 1967. This leaves the final dispensation of sovereignty ambiguous. What is paramount and completely clear is that Israel came into possession of the territory in a defensive action and has the right under international law to remain in the territory until such time as its mutually-negotiated adjudication renders its final status fixed. In other words, the Israeli presence on the West Bank can proceed indefinitely as a part of international law, or until such time as a mutually-agreed conclusion to the issue can be negotiated.
But if the Oslo process is a dead end, and Jordan won’t negotiate, then what? Simply put, Israel should drop the Oslo process and render its jurisdiction null and void. If the Palestinians continue with their unilateral quest for international approval leading to sovereignty without negotiations, Israel should not annex Area C but instead surprise the world with a most unanticipated action. It should declare its support for a democratic Jordanian federation inclusive of all Palestinians (with Jordanian citizenship) living on the West Bank. It should invite Jordanian elections on both banks among any political party willing to recognize the Jewish state. And it should recognize the winner of such an election as the legitimate head of the new Jordanian government.
At the same time, Israel should encourage the king of Jordan to step forward in support of such a democratic East Bank-West Bank federation as its constitutional monarch and head of state. If the king refuses, so be it. Israel would press forward with negotiations between itself and a legitimate West Bank Jordanian government. If the king accepts his new (and limited) role, then he should be welcomed in Jerusalem for talks and consultations. Either way, Israel must support a democratic outcome for all Jordanian citizens leading to an Arab political and administrative reunification of the two banks.
But Israel must insist on its rights to the disputed territory as well. Because the democratic Jordanian-Palestinian federation would possess a military, Israeli security concerns would become paramount. The disputed land could be partitioned with a solid Israeli military presence throughout its strategic highlands, or joint sovereignty could be negotiated. Joint sovereignty would mean autonomy for the two communities on the West Bank; Jews would be linked to the Jewish state, and Arabs to their democratic federation. Either way, an Arab military would be seated east of the river, and the IDF west of it. This could all be negotiated to establish maximum security for all citizens of both democratic countries.
After over twenty years, the idea of an independent West Bank Palestinian state has failed, and new ideas must begin to alter an unlivable status quo. Now more than ever before, the Sunni Arab states need a strong Israel integrated within the Middle East. If Iran is to be stopped, Israel must be a partner in a new balance of power within the region. To accomplish this task, a peace plan must be found, and it must be fair and offer hope to all the people of the region. The Arab Spring was originally all about democracy. Only true pluralism can save the region from the ravages of war and authoritarian rule. Without a Jordanian component, there can never be peace between Arab and Jew.
Two states for two peoples living within the geographical boundaries of the original Mandate for Palestine will untangle what has become an unworkable triad of despair (the Israel-Palestine-Hashemite triangle). Only a democratic Jordanian-Palestinian federation with a form of dual sovereignty for the historic, religious and strategic West Bank (Judea and Samaria) can suffice to offer justice for all. I urge both the king and his subjects on the West Bank to come forward in the spirit of justice and democracy. Because in the final analysis, Jordan is not exclusively Palestine, but nearly all Palestinians are Jordanian.