The relationship between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the West Bank, which it ruled from 1948 to 1967, remains in question despite the late King Hussein’s renunciation of all claims to the West Bank in an interesting address to the Jordanian people in 1988. Here are excerpts:
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 people’s 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.
King Hussein’s argument suggests that if conditions were to change over time, and if the PLO were to change its view, the Jordanian role might also change. (There is a separate argument that in any event the King’s decision is void as violating the Jordanian constitution. Article 1 states “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an independent sovereign Arab State. It is indivisible and inalienable and no part of it may be ceded.”
But neither Palestinian nor Jordanian leaders have spoken in public about a possible Jordanian role in the West Bank, and have often denounced any proposal for a link between the two as lending credibility to those Israelis who argue that “Jordan is Palestine.” King Abdullah, the reigning monarch, said this in 2010:
Jordan does not want any part of the West Bank. The only credible solution, is the two state solution. There is no Jordanian solution…. the Palestinians want their own state.”
In this context some October 9 remarks by Prince Hassan of Jordan, brother of the late King Hussein, are worth note. Hassan is quoted in a MEMRI account of Jordanian press reports. The prince said that
“the West Bank is part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which included both banks of the [Jordan] River” and added that Hassan “did not personally oppose the two state solution, but that this solution is irrelevant at the current stage.” He later added that even if the two state solution does not materialize, there are other options. According to Hassan, “both sides, Arab and Israeli, no longer speak of a political solution to the Palestinian problem.” He implied that even the Oslo Accords had met their end, and said that Arab losses from the Accords are estimated at $12 billion. The report added: “The attendees understood that Prince [Hassan] is working to reunite both banks of the [Jordan] River, and commended him for it.”
Prince Hassan later added: “The unity that existed between the west and east banks for 17 years… was arguably one of the best attempts at unity that ever occurred in the Arab [world]… I hope that I do not live to see the day when Jordan, or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, relinquishes the land occupied in 1967 by the IDF, since it would bring us all to witness the humiliating end….
It remains to be seen whether this was a statement the prince now regrets making, and one that will never be repeated, or something more. As he has no position in the Jordanian government, he is ideally situated to put ideas such as these in circulation without suggesting that the Government of Jordan or King Abdullah II agree with anything he is saying. Yet his statement will inevitably lead to discussion on both banks of the Jordan about the future relationships between them–political as well as economic.