The "Two-State" Solution: Israel and Jordan


In a region that is rife with confusing and misleading platitudes, the "two state" (three-state) solution in regards to Israel and some as yet to emerge horrid little statelet known, I guess, as Palestine, is perhaps the most tantalizing and spurious cliche of all.  Ranking right up there with other such Middle East banalities including "cycle of violence," "disproportionate force," or the ever reliable "occupation" (all of which serve to either infer moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinian terrorists or to simply demonize Israel), the two state mirage, because of its seeming inherent "fairness" and misplaced idealism, has a dreamy, albeit, mindless, appeal for so many who know little or nothing about the region, most particularly, the political class and media.    

But the reality is that there are already two states created from the original "Palestine Mandate" given over to Great Britain to administer in 1920 (by the Allied Supreme Council at the San Remo Conference and approved by the League of Nations in 1922), carved out of the carcass of the then newly defunct Ottoman Empire after WW I.  Their names, by the way, are Israel and Jordan.

Transjordan (now Jordan) was created by the British in 1922 from the original Palestine Mandate and given over to Emir Abdullah ibn Hussein (who became Abdullah I of Jordan), to become an Arab province of Palestine (this, by the way, is your "Palestinian State").  The throne of Iraq was offered to his brother Faisal ibn of Iraq (who became Faisal I of Iraq).  By bestowing the two regions to the sons of Sharif  Hussein ibn Ali of the Hejaz (Religious leader of Mecca), Britain effectively made good on obligations owed  to the Hashemite King (Sharif Hussein) for his assistance against the Turks during WW I. 

The Hashemites, by the way, are a clan that trace their ancestry to Fatimah, the prophet Muhammad's daughter (and, even further back, to Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, hence "Hashemite"), and by agreement, had been the hereditary religious leaders and Emirs of Mecca since the tenth century (until defeated by the Saud family in 1926.  The Hejaz region, previously controlled by the Hashemites, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932).

Transjordan represented 77% of the Palestine Mandate (the land east of the Jordan River), leaving the remaining 23% for a "Jewish National Home."  The land west of the Jordan River (the 23% of the original territory or "Mandate," was known thereafter as Palestine and was administered directly by the British.  Transjordan became fully independent in 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The land of Israel had many rulers prior to the Mandate.  There were, of course, the ancient Israelite Kingdoms that began some 3000 years ago and then a dizzying list of empires that included the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires, then the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) and Sassanians.  The Arab conquest began in 636 AD and power shifted to various caliphates that followed including the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Fatamids.  For a brief time, it was occupied by the Crusaders who were later defeated by the Mameluks.  The Ottoman Empire took control of the Middle East in 1517 and ruled it until the end of WWI in 1918 when the Palestine Mandate began.

In this vein, it is interesting to note that with the exception of Egypt, all of the nations of the Middle East are artificial creations whittled and hewn from the Ottoman Empire after WW I by the then "Great Powers," England and France.  To England went the land that was to become Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  And to France went Syria and Lebanon.  In Palestine, during the period of the Mandate (1922-1948), it was the Jews that were generally known as the "Palestinians."  The Arabs living there were simply the "Arabs."  There was, for example, the Palestinian Brigade of Jewish volunteers who aided the British during WW II (while Palestinian Arabs were in Berlin supporting Adolph Hitler), the Palestinian Symphony Orchestra (all Jewish), and the Palestine Post (a Jewish paper).  And so on.  The idea of the "Palestinians" did not appear until around 1948 when the Arab inhabitants of Palestine wanted to distinguish themselves from the Jews.  This impetus became even stronger after the Six Day War.  But the Palestinians are not a distinct nationality.  They are identical in language, culture, and tribal links as the Arabs in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere, all of which, until relatively recently, had been under Turkish dominion for more than 400 years anyway.  And so the argument over the "Palestinians" and their "right" to a national homeland is something of a myth to begin with.  There has never been a Palestinian nation or a distinct Palestinian people (unless it was the Jews).  The "Palestinians" are rather a convenient hammer to bang Israel with after the surrounding Arab nations failed to destroy it in outright war (see "Flame," Arabian Fables, Gerardo Joffe). 

But let us continue our narrative.

In 1947, the United Nations (successor to the League of Nations) developed the UN Partition Plan, effectively dividing the remaining 23% of the original Palestine Mandate between an Arab and Jewish State.  The plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs.  On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence and the British Mandate was ended.  Within days, five surrounding Arab nations (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt) attacked the newly formed Jewish State, with the intention of destroying it at its inception (the 1948 Arab-Israeli War).  They did not succeed.

In the 1949 Armistice that ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel retained its part of the land from the 1947 UN Partition Plan and about half the land planned for the Palestinian Arab State; also won was a portion of the land surrounding Jerusalem originally intended for international supervision.  The other half of the land planned for the Arab State included what is today known as the "West Bank" (and, to the Jews, as Judea and Samaria) and Gaza, which were taken over by Jordan and Egypt respectively.  In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem including the old city. 

In the period between 1948 and 1967, with the West Bank and Gaza "occupied" by Jordan and Egypt, no one, by the way, ever fussed or squealed about the "occupation" (by Jordan or Egypt) of "Palestine" or the "right" of the "Palestinian" people to their own state and homeland.  The UN, Europe, the Arab/Moslem world and the media did not wring their hands, gnash their teeth, bellow in anguish, or condemn the "occupiers" over the "plight"of the poor Palestinians.  Nor even did the Palestinians themselves complain very much over their lack of a national home.  No there was no grousing at all.  That would begin only after the Six Day War in June 1967 when Israel's neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, attacked the Jewish State with the intention of annihilating it, and lost.  

After the defeat of the Arab forces, Israel took control of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula (subsequently returned to Egypt after the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty).  Then began, in 1967, the official "occupation" as it is now lovingly referred to around the world.  But nary a peep before was heard.    

In 1988, Jordan relinquished claims to the territory now controlled by Israel, but maintained an advisory role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. 

The Oslo Accords in 1993, brought Yasser Arafat and the PLO into the West Bank and Gaza as the newly created Palestinian Authority.  The intention was for a final settlement to be worked out over five years, none of which came to pass.  Since then have come a raft of efforts to jump start the "peace process" (another one of those trite Middle East cliches), to somehow hash out a final peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians over two parcels of land that are simply too small to allow for the notorious "two state solution" of which we hear so much of.  This "peace process" (that we also hear so much of), as it turns out, is heavy on "process" but skimpy on "peace," which is what you would expect when one of the parties is intent on annihilating the other.  Not just intent, mind you, but lives, eats, breathes, sleeps, dreams, talks, and prays it daily. 

In any event, there followed the Palestinian-Israeli interim agreement (1995), the Wye Summit (1997), the Camp David Summit (2000), the Sharm-el-Sheikh Summit (2000), the Taba Conference (2001), the Bush Road Map (2003), the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 (the "Disengagement"), the election of Hamas in 2006, the violent overthrow of the PA (Fatah) in Gaza in June 2006 by Hamas, the cross border raid and kidnapping of IDF corporal Gilad Shalit (19 years old) by Hamas, the "Second Lebanon War" (with Hezbollah and, to a lesser extent, Hamas) in the summer of 2006, Annapolis in November 2007, and, most recently, the Israel incursion into Gaza (December-January 2008-2009) to halt the rocket attacks by Hamas.

(Before that, we should mention for completeness's sake, the following such efforts: the Peel Commission (1937), the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946), the UN partition resolution (1947), the Bernadotte plan (1948), the Lausanne conference (1948-1949), the UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), the Rogers Plan (1970), the Jarring Mission (1971), the Camp David Accords (1978), the Madrid Conference (1991).  Then came Oslo.  See "The Peace Planners Strike Again," by Hillel Halkin, Commentary, June 2008.)

But back to the two state (three state) solution.  With such overwhelming international support at all levels, from the US and Europe, the UN, Russia, the Arab and Moslem world, and so many other interested parties (NGOs of every stripe, Arab, Moslem, and Jewish organizations, the media, think tanks, ex-presidents, universities, public intellectuals, and so on), with such committed international effort and much hand wringing by decent people and leaders everywhere, why has the two state solution never come to pass?

Because it can't and it shouldn't.

To begin with the most obvious reason.  The Palestinians are not interested in peace with the Israelis.  They are interested in killing them.  If you doubt this, just listen to what they say and write and take them at their word: in their media, at public rallies, in political campaigns, in their founding charters and other seminal documents, in writings and books, on TV and radio, in their mosques, schools, universities, day care centers, and summer camps.  As I said: they eat, sleep, breathe, dream, talk, and pray it daily. 

Israelis, on the other hand, don't want to kill Palestinians.  In fact, Israel's population is 20% Palestinian Moslem Arab.  One fifth of Israel.  And they are the freest Arabs in the Middle East.  They would also never dream of wanting to be taken over by the PA.  No, no, no, not on their lives.  They have access to some of the best health care, education, and economic opportunities in the world.  Their standard of living is much higher than that of Arabs in surrounding nations and certainly their Palestinian brethren under the dominion of the PA.  And again, they have greater political freedom than any Arab in the Middle East: the freedom to run for office and serve in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), which many do, form political parties, establish newspapers, TV and radio programs, and pursue other avenues of political and cultural expression.  So, no, the Israelis do not hate the Palestinians in their midst, indeed, they have given them the same rights and opportunities of Israeli Jews.  Would it not be unreasonable to ask what the fate of Jews would be living in the Palestinian territories unprotected by the IDF?  To ask it is to know the answer: they would be dead.

But what are the feelings of Israelis towards the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza?  I would have to imagine that for even the most utopian-labor-left Israeli, dreamily imagining making every possible concession for the elusive and improbable goal of "peace," enough is probably enough.  Not after the failure of Oslo, Camp David (2000), the suicide bombing campaign of the second intifada (overwhelmingly supported by the Palestinians and their leaders until Sharon crushed it and they realized it was not going to work - but not for any moral reasons), the "Road Map," the "disengagement" or evacuation from Gaza in 2005, rendering Gaza Jew free ("Judenrein" to borrow a Nazi era term), and the endless barrage of mortars and rockets since, not after the election of Hamas by the Palestinians in 2006 (a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction), not after the hopeless, corrupt, and violent rule of Fatah and the PA.  I would have to imagine that after all that, other than for a small number of hopeless "peace now" Israeli activists, there are probably precious few Israelis who believe that a peace settlement with the Palestinians is possible.  That doesn't mean necessarily that they hate them or want Palestinians dead.  Only that after all they have been through in pursuing "peace," Israelis, rightfully so, have given up on the prospect.  And they should. 

Obviously, Israel possesses the military technical wherewithal to eliminate the Palestinians on any given day.  But they do not because it is not moral to do so.  I would venture to say that had the Palestinians been a restive minority residing elsewhere, behaving as they have towards Israel, say in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Algeria, the Sudan, China, or Russia, or some other such authoritarian regime, we would have heard very little about the poor Palestinians who would have been quashed mercilessly and with very little fanfare, in a fashion not unlike, for example, the Kurds or Shiites of Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), the Tibetans of China, the Muslim brotherhood in Hama, Syria (1982), or the Palestinians themselves in Jordan during "Black September" (1970).  Other examples abound: the Chechnyans in Russia, the black Moslems of Darfur, Sudan, or the Bangladeshis during the Pakistan civil war in 1970.  Or the Sudanese Christians.  Or the millions who have died in Nigeria and the Congo in their respective civil wars.  And so on.  So many slaughtered, so many ruthlessly suppressed.  And the world uttered nary a peep.  No, the world only weeps for the Palestinians despite the far greater suffering and grievances of others. 

It would also be reasonable to wonder aloud what the fate of the Jews would have been had fortunes been reversed, and the Palestinians had the sophisticated military prowess and the Israelis backward and weak.  Is there anyone who doubts this scenario?  Again, to ask it is to know the answer: there would have been the annihilation of the Jews and a second Holocaust, coming right after the heels of the first.  And here, too, the world would probably have uttered nary a peep.  But, I digress.  For these are after all the poor oppressed Palestinians who cannot be expected to act rationally or give a good account of themselves or be held to any universal moral standard. 

(But to summarize briefly, there are so many such examples of far great brutality in the recent past, of so many oppressed minorities far more deserving of national expression in one form or another, and yet the world remains fixated on the Palestinians and alleged Israeli "atrocities."  It is safe to say that the Palestinians have found the greatest adversary possible in Israel, for their obvious malfeasance would never have been tolerated elsewhere.)

Other points: A future Palestine would consist of two detached appendages in the West Bank and Gaza, totaling 6,250 kilometers or about the size of Delaware (see Halkin again).  It would not have an army to defend itself, it would be dusty, dirty, and backward, and utterly dependent on its powerful neighbor in Israel, a first world, developed nation with an overwhelming military and a sophisticated and advanced economy.  What sort of state would it be, stewing in grievance and envy, full of rage and a sense of betrayal, and self pity.  Tiny, poor, and weak with little chance for improving its prospects, it would be a frustrated and unhappy little polity indeed.

Furthermore, what evidence do we have that the Palestinians are capable of governing themselves?  How, in other words, have they fared thus far?  Well, here too, the story is not good.  Basically, their leadership can be divided into two types: secular fascist terrorists (Fatah, under Yasser Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas) or religious fascist terrorists (Hamas).  Both are corrupt, violent, incompetent, and cannot be trusted to govern.  We have seen little else of a positive nature from the Palestinians.  It is not to say that they are incapable.  But thus far, the evidence has not been favorable.  They have been given unprecedented international support (they have recieved in aid per capita more than post war Europe did from the Marshall Plan) with a world stage on which to strut and demand.  They have obviously come up short.  And with so much already working against them and so dismal a record, why, really, should the world do back flips to give them a state.  In truth, if ever there were a people undeserving of nationhood, it is them.

Further, does it make sense for the US, which took it upon itself to have eliminated two terrorist sponsoring states in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to preside over the creation of a third?  Hardly.  The Palestinians, after all, through Yasser Arafat and his PLO, are the originators of the modern Islamic terrorist movement, the creators of the suicide bomber, a whole new and ingenious expression of evil, recruiting young children, boys and girls, men and women, into their bizarre and destructive crusade, which, of course, has spread like a plague around the world.  They invented it. The truth is, we should have nothing to do with the creation of a Palestinian terror state.  Nor should Israel be deceived into doing so.

And what of the so called "right of return," or the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to Israel to claim lands and homes that were lost during the Arab Israeli War of 1948.  It is of course a non-starter.  It is another example of the belief by Palestinians and Arabs that there should never be expected to suffer consequences for bad choices and misbehavior.  Israel did not start that war, the Arabs did.  Israel did not force the Palestinians to leave, the Arabs did.  Wars have consequences.  This was one of them.  There have been countless refugees created by wars during the 20th century.  Millions of Greeks were forced to move from Turkey in 1920-1921.  Millions of Germans were evicted from Poland and Czechoslovakia after WWII.  Tens of millions of Hindu and Moslem refugees were created during the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1948.  There were the French in Algeria, the Armenians, Kurds, Cypriots, and others.  And then there were the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab and Moslem nations thrown out after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.  More, by the way, than the Palestinian refugees (roughly 650,000); the Jewish refugees were forced to leave behind far greater assets as well in communities where they had lived in some cases for more than 2000 years.  All other refugees (and there were many others) were resettled.  Only the Palestinian refugees remain locked in refugee camps in surrounding Arab nations (other than Jordan), and, amazingly, in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.  Left there in camps, without citizenship, alienated, impoverished,  simmering in their self pity and rage, rather than be allowed to integrate in their new countries, for no other purpose than to cynically serve as a political football to be used to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. 

So what then?  If a Palestinian state is not possible than what to do about the nearly four million Palestinians living in the territories?  The answer is the two state (not three state) solution.  Yes, a real two state solution with two legitimate states living side by side, peace treaties already signed between them, and some record of congenial behavior between them, Israel and Jordan.

Jordan is an Arab nation, a constitutional monarchy with some representative government, and a population of more than six million, more than half of which are Palestinian.  It already shares borders with Israel as well as control of the Dead Sea and part of the coastline of the Bay of Aqaba with Israel.  Jordan contains 90,000 square kilometers, compared with Israel's 22,000 square kilometers and the Palestinian territory's 6,250, nearly 80% of the original Palestine Mandate.  The West Bank is ethnically, linguistically, and culturally nearly identical with western Jordan.  Jordan is the only Arab nation that gave the Palestinian refugees citizenship, allowing them out of their camps and slums, unlike the other Arab nations bordering Israel and the Palestinian territories themselves.  Jordan annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem in 1950, to which no one complained, losing it finally to Israel after the Six Day War.  Many Palestinians from the West Bank are related to Palestinians living in Jordan and visit one another freely.  They have always felt comfortable in Jordan, more so certainly than in any other Arab nation.  

 It makes far more sense for all concerned, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and the world, for the Palestinians living in the territories to confederate with Jordan.  Israel will have to withdraw from the West Bank to its security barrier, and keeping Jerusalem.  It should also maintain a military presence in part of the Jordan Valley, if that is possible.  The West Bank and Gaza will have a Jordanian military presence based on agreement with Israel and international oversight and guarantees.  And the administration of the West Bank and Gaza should revert to Jordan. 

Jordan is a respected, "moderate," Arab state, of significant size and economy.  Palestinians would enjoy far greater pride and more opportunities as citizens of Jordan than as citizens of some fenced in, tiny statelet, frustrated, dependent on its hated enemy, and with limited horizons.  Jordan would have a presence on the Mediterranean Sea, an advantage to both Jordan and Palestinians.  (There would have to be some agreed corridor connecting the West Bank and Gaza through Israel).  There are reasons for both Jordanians and Palestinians to pursue such an arrangement.

Other options:

First: Palestinians confederate with Israel.  The West Bank and Gaza could be protectorates of Israel, autonomous other than for foreign policy and military matters, but in all other ways self governing.  Israelis could have access to its sacred sites in the West Bank and Palestinians could visit and work in Israel.  Israel would still have to control borders, for both territories would have to be demilitarized.  They could hold their own separate elections.  At one point, this might have been the most workable solution, but more or less went by the wayside after Rabin and Peres foolishly rehabilitated uber terrorist Yasser Arafat with Oslo.  An entire generation of Palestinians have been radicalized, taught to hate and kill Jews, and will now have to wander in the desert for forty years to shed their poisoned attitudes.  At this point, it will not happen.

Second: For the West Bank to confederate with Jordan and Gaza to associate itself with Egypt.  It is possible.  And would avoid the necessity of a corridor through Israel between the two territories.  There are advantages to both polities.  Obviously, the radicalized Palestinians would have to change their ways.  Hamas would have to go.  So, for that matter, should Fatah and the "moderate" Abbas and his PA.  So  much of any plan depends on Palestinians rehabilitating themselves and changing behavior before anyone would want to associate with them.

In the end, it is probably the Jordanian "two state" solution that is best.








  • James

    March 9, 2009

    I have to tell you, Dr., that I always take time in my schedule to read your articles. I especially enjoyed this one. I wish to God some people in high places could see it the way you describe. Excellent historical perspective and proposals. Do keep writing.

  • Alvin Samuels

    March 9, 2009

    It is time to declare Israel to be a Jewish State. If Jews have no claim to Israel then Western morality is a fiction. Eric Hoffer was right "as Israel goes so goes the West".

    Allow Arabs to live wherever they choose after swearing loyalty to Israel. Otherwise pay them to leave.

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