The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine

The election of Donald J. Trump and the potential of a vast expansion of Jewish settlements brings to the fore the old left-wing argument against the integration of populations on the West Bank. An Israeli liberation of Judea and Samaria will become a double-edged sword. In all likelihood, it will mean a Palestinian demand for a bi-national state, i.e. the one-state solution. Then Israel will be forced to choose between remaining a Jewish state — with a permanent presence of a large disenfranchised population of Palestinians — or a democratic state — with the eventual likelihood of a Jewish minority population. The Israeli Left (and the US establishment, whom Trump despises) prefer the two-state solution to counter this strategic dilemma. The Israeli Right (and the Trump administration) have, as yet, to propose an adequate diplomatic alternative.

A large proportion of Israel’s historical relationship with the United States is based on the concept of shared values. But with the vast expansion of settlements, and the absence of a viable separation of Israelis and Palestinians living within the confines of such a small territory, Palestinian demands for democracy and equal rights will eventually erode America’s support for Israel. Whether this erosion takes place in four years or eight years is completely irrelevant. The Israeli Right cannot simply fudge this crucial issue. It has now become paramount for the Likud and all other parties within its current orbit (or potential orbit) to bring forth an alternative narrative to conquest and Messianic hope. Within this context, Israel must offer the Palestinians a democratic option that does not erase the concept of a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

In other words, a future Israeli Center-Right or Center-Left coalition must come forward with a new peace plan to replace the now (or soon to be) defunct two-state solution. This will be even more essential when settlement expansion becomes mixed with the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Offering autonomy to the Palestinians, as a replacement for citizenship, will be met with derision. This will be true both on the West Bank and in the US. Expanding the settlements without offering the Palestinians any democratic alternative plays directly into the pre-1974 PLO radical playbook. Once Israel has completely eliminated the concept of a two-state solution, Likud politicians (like the current Prime Minister) will no longer be able to use the plan like a fig leaf. Instead, they will be exposed — by the Palestinians — with no other political choice than a bi-national state.

The territory east of the River Jordan has always been an historical Jewish and Christian province of Israel. The name Palestine, however, replaced the name Israel when the European Romans put down the great Jewish rebellion nearly two thousand years ago. The name Palestine had never been a geographic concept within the context of Muslim history or culture. When European Great Britain took over the southern Levant from the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI, it renamed this particular territory from the Ottoman “Southern Syria” — including the West Bank and the East Bank of the Jordan River– as Palestine.

The Ottomans had never designated the Land of Israel to be Palestine. Neither did they refer to their Muslim subjects as Palestinians. In fact, no Muslim Empire or Muslim invader ever referred to this historic and religious land as Palestine. Only Christian European Crusaders did. It was only when the British Mandate was established in the 1920s, that this geographic territory became officially designated as Palestine. And it was then originally established to create a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River.

Enter the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine. This was the name that King Abdullah (the first) wanted to call his Kingdom after it was separated as a province from a Jewish homeland (a state) to be established on both banks of the Jordan River. The British had given the Jewish authorities an ultimatum — either accept the loss of the East Bank to the Hashemites or risk losing the rights to a homeland (a state) on any of the territory west of the river. The Zionist leadership relented. Thus, the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine was created. However the British had one caveat for the Hashemite ruler. They advised him not to name his kingdom with the designation of Palestine. Instead, they advised him to call his new kingdom with the purely geographic designation of Transjordan — later to be shortened to simply Jordan.

The British didn’t want the Hashemites to be challenged by Arabs living west of the river. These Arabs (to the west of the river) had no particular rights under international law other than to live under eventual Jewish sovereignty. In other words, under the revised Mandate for Palestine, there was to be a Jewish state west of the river and a Hashemite Kingdom east of the river. Today a similar structure still stands. Jordan is still the Hashemite Kingdom under royal sovereignty. However Israel controls the West Bank without sovereignty. This became the situation because the British never allowed Jews to settle on the West Bank during the time of the Mandate. Then with direct British military assistance — and in complete contradiction to their original advice on mixing Jordan with Palestine — Jordan annexed the West Bank in the aftermath of the Arab world’s aggressive 1948 invasion to destroy Israel. Hence, the intertwining of Jordan and Palestine has become an essential element of the Arab-Israeli conflict ever since.

All Palestinians living on the West Bank remain constitutionally citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom. In my four-point peace plan published internationally on April 22, 1985 by the Christian Science Monitor, I called for an election to be held based on the concept of one person-one vote for all citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This plank of my peace plan is as valid today as it has ever been. Israel and the Trump administration need an alternative to the establishment’s two-state solution. The King of Jordan needs legitimacy in the era of failed Arab States. While the Palestinians need a moderate, democratic alternative leadership to replace the extremism of Hamas and the treachery of the PLO. Who better to construct such a working relationship than America’s long-time ally — the Jordanian royal family .

The Palestinians make up the majority Jordanian citizens living east of the Jordan River. Along with all the Jordanian-Palestinian citizens on the West Bank, this population group comprises almost ninety percent of all Jordanian citizens. But they have been poorly represented. The PLO and Hamas both claim through their charters that neither Israel nor the Hashemite Kingdom are legitimate entities. These two Palestinian leadership groups are both far to extreme to ever be considered as legitimate partners for peace. This extremism is the true reason why the Oslo agreements have never reached fulfillment.

This is also the true reason why the two-state solution could never work. The PLO might have the liberal US Democratic Party fooled, but the Trump administration claims to represent a different (and more realistic) understanding of reality. Hamas and the PLO can’t even get along with each other, let alone achieve peace with Jordan or Israel. On the other hand, King of Jordan is the key to peace between Jews and Sunni Arabs in the Middle East. A dual capital under the concept of condominium (shared sovereignty) in Jerusalem with a democratic Jordanian constitutional monarchy is the only way forward. Of course, this shared sovereignty for Jerusalem would extend to the entirety of the West Bank (two other planks to my four-point peace plan).

Who other than the Hashemites — originally welcoming of Zionism in 1917 and now at peace with Israel since the 1990s — to recognize Israel as the one-and-only state of the Jewish people (final plank of my peace plan). The Israeli Right has always said that “Jordan is Palestine”. Of course, this is only partially true. It is time to update this concept to include Jerusalem, the disputed territories and a modern, moderate, monarchy based on democratic principles. This peace plan is Israel’s only hope in our new age of permanent Arab and Jewish integration on the West Bank. The plan maintains Israel as a Jewish state, while offering Palestinians a democratic government with shared sovereignty on the West Bank, and complete sovereignty to the east of the Jordan River.

Both Israel and the US must put the case to both the Jordanian King and all his subjects. Will the Palestinians accept a democratic framework under the umbrella of the Jordanian royal family? And will the Hashemite royal family modernize by becoming a constitutional monarchy based on the British model — the King as head of state, but not head of government? In Israel, an unusually large Center coalition is ready to accept an historic peace compromise. But they need a true peace partner. The two-state solution was conceived by the PLO as a phased alternative to the immediate liberation of all of Palestine. It was never meant to be the formal end to the conflict, and it was never specifically meant to be democratic in nature. In the Middle East, the transition from royal and authoritarian rule to democratic construction could help shape the future — from failed states to a democratic Arab model of governance.

Jews and Arabs are integrating on the West Bank. The idea of a West Bank Palestinian state under the PLO or Hamas has fueled the demise of the Israeli Left. The rise of right-wing Israeli governments has been a direct consequence of Palestinian intransigence. But the right-wing’s many facts on the ground (settlements) have not been linked to an alternative peace plan. This process of settlement expansion was severely stymied under the administration of Barak H. Obama. In all likelihood, this will not be the case with the advent of Donald J. Trump and his coalition of evangelicals within the American populist Right. When the Palestinians of the West Bank come to the Israeli authorities asking to become citizens of Israel (the one-state solution), they should be told to turn their aspirations eastward, toward the palace in Amman.

The Palestinian people, the Washington establishment and the vast Israeli Center need to get past the two-state solution. Meanwhile Israel needs an alternative to the consequence of West Bank Arab-Jewish integration — a potential demand for a bi-national state. The current King of Jordan (Abdullah II) must modernize his outlook. The same is true for the Israeli Right. Conquest can never be a substitute for genuine peace; and genuine peace is not really possible without true political moderation. The territory of the original Mandate for Palestine is far to small for a three-state partition (Israel, a West Bank state and Jordan). But Palestinian demands for Israeli citizenship would be a disaster for the Jewish state concept.

Now everything depends on the King of Jordan, Abdullah II. In order for peace to have a chance, the king needs to update his great grandfather’s original inclination and return to the politics of the West Bank, but with a democratic alternative. The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine is once again waiting to be born.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).