Numerous commentators on the recent Arab uprisings have noted that none of the
regimes that collapsed has been a monarchy or emirate. This is not because Arab
states ruled by kings and emirs are more democratic than the others, but because
they do not pretend to be democratic, so their legitimacy is less questioned
than that of the socalled “revolutionaries” turned dictators who are currently
Furthermore, most of the kings/emirs are rich enough to buy
quiet – at least for the time being.
Jordan is not one of the wealthy
kingdoms, but its Hashemite rulers, though absolute, have been much more
congenial than the others. Though King Abdullah II has some concern that the
uprisings might reach his kingdom, for the time being his throne seems safe,
though I wouldn’t bet on his son, or one of his brothers, ever succeeding
The Hashemites are a family that originally came from the Arabian
Peninsula, which was taken over by the Wahhabi Ibn Saud during the second decade
of the 20th century.
Following World War I, two members of the family –
Faisal and Abdullah – were appointed by the British to rule Iraq and
Transjordan, it might be recalled, was part of
the Palestine Mandate granted to Great Britain by the League of Nations in
Though a Palestinian state had never existed, and the history of
the name “Palestine” is somewhat complicated, the indigenous, non-nomadic
population of the area came to be known as Palestinians. The British policy was
to set up the Jewish national home only in areas west of the Jordan River, which
explains why there was no Jewish immigration to Transjordan.
kingdom of Jordan might thus be considered a state established in the former
Mandate whose rulers – supported by indigenous Beduin tribes that never
considered themselves Palestinian – originated in the Arabian Peninsula, but the
majority of whose population has always been Palestinian.
THIS FACT has
not gone unnoticed among Israel’s leaders. In the plan for a solution to the
Arab-Israeli conflict advocated by Yigal Allon from just after the Six Day War
until his death on February 29, 1980, (31 years ago this week), most of the West
Bank was to have been returned to King Hussein, from whom it was conquered by
Israeli forces in June 1967.
Allon, who like most Israeli leaders liked
the Hashemites and regarded them as an asset to national security, argued that
since the majority of the population in Jordan is Palestinian, there was no
reason to establish another Palestinian state.
“Every people deserves its
own state,” he argued, “but why should a single people have two states?” The
problem with this reasoning is that while the Palestinians know full well that a
majority of Jordan’s citizens are Palestinian, they never considered its regime
to be Palestinian, and while many of them are not really satisfied with their
status in Jordan, except for the armed confrontation between the regime and the
PLO in 1970/71 (which ended with the PLO being ousted to Lebanon), the
Palestinians have never really constituted an existential threat to the
Allon spoke of Jordan plus parts of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip turning into Palestine. Other leaders, including Ariel Sharon in 1970,
claimed “Jordan is Palestine,” and the Palestinians should thus establish their
state east of the Jordan River.
While there is no chance that the
Palestinians will ever accept the argument that Jordan (and Jordan alone) is
Palestine, Allon’s concept of a single Palestinian state including Jordan, most
of the West Bank and possibly also the Gaza Strip might yet catch on. The
initiative will, of course, never come from the Hashemites. However, should
there ever be a successful popular uprising against the Hashemites, those
instigating it will certainly be Palestinians, so the idea of an extensive
Palestinian state might then have more appeal.
In terms of a solution to
the conflict, such a development would certainly make the problems involved much
simpler. Though the Hashemite rulers have always been and will remain preferable
in Israeli eyes to any potential Palestinian regime, in the final reckoning it
is not Israel that will determine who will rule Jordan, and a successful
Palestinian upheaval cannot be ruled out.
The writer is a former Knesset