An Arab Palestinian homeland? OK, but where? Where can, and should it be located? Is it feasible and realistic? Will it ensure the survival of Israel and Zionism? Is it politically and economically coherent? Is it historically consistent? Will it allow Arab Palestinians to express their sense of national identity, decide their destiny (e.g. to vote), and will it contribute to a better life? In order to make our way through the maze of complexities, competing arguments and myths, we need to understand the history of an idea – Palestinianism – and how and why it became such a contentious issue.
Prior to the defeat of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire in World War I, there is no indication of an Arab, or Palestinian subgroup living in the area; local Arabs considered themselves to be “southern Syrians.” After the war, the League of Nations created nation-states in the area (e.g. Syria, Iraq, etc.) and assigned the area that became known as the “Palestine Mandate” to be administered by Britain as a national homeland for the Jewish people.
In 1921, Britain created “Transjordan,” (east of the Jordan River) and installed a Saudi tribe to rule, which became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. During the 1920s and 1930s, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist riots and pogroms, led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi supporter, and Islamist groups (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood) espoused a virulent form of Palestinian nationalism that remains at its core.
Defining Arab Palestinian nationalism prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948 would have been difficult, since the term “Palestinian” generally referred to Jews; afterwards, citizens of Israel became “Israelis.” When the State of Israel was proclaimed, it was attacked by five Arab countries including Jordan, which conquered the area known as “the West Bank” and eastern Jerusalem; Arabs who lost property, and those who had come to fight in the war, fled to other countries, primarily to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the West Bank, where they were sheltered in UNRWA camps. Originally designated as “Arab refugees,” that was changed to “Palestinian” for political reasons. Jordan was the only Arab country to resettle, rehabilitate and integrate the refugees; those in Syria and Lebanon remain stateless and are denied civil rights.
Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank (1948-1967), however, was controversial. It formally annexed the West Bank in 1950 and gave citizenship to its residents, but its declaration of sovereignty over the area was not accepted by the world (with three exceptions: Britain, Iraq and Pakistan). Arabs in the area lived under Jordanian rule and many moved to Jordan; there were no calls for a Palestinian state. Even the PLO Charter (1964) specifically denied any claims to the West Bank; its focus was destroying the State of Israel. The creation of the PLO by the KGB was the turning point for creating the propaganda mechanism to promote Palestinian nationalism, the development of a Palestinian narrative, and efforts to turn the international community and the Muslim world against Israel.
During the late 1960s, 70s, and early 80s, the KGB financed, trained and supplied weapons to Arab terrorists – the PLO, PFLP, DFLP, etc. – to attack Israeli and Western and pro-Western targets, especially those of the US, and especially hijacking civilian airplanes. Although Jordan considered itself the representative of Arab Palestinians in the West Bank, this changed in 1974 when the Arab League issued its ultimatum that only the PLO was to be recognized.
In November, 1975, the USSR led the UN General Assembly to pass Resolution 3379, condemning Israel as a colonial, imperialist and racist state. This narrative continues to dominate the perspective of the international community. Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the KGB was succeeded by the FSB; it continues to support the PLO leaders who rule the Palestinian Authority, including Mahmoud Abbas, who, like Yasser Arafat, was a KGB agent, according to Hebrew University researchers.
One may reasonably assume that Russian intelligence agencies advised Arafat during the fake “peace process” of the Oslo Accords (1993-95), and subsequent waves of terrorism in Israel led by the PLO, known as the Second Intifada (2000-2005). The Palestinian Authority is simply a front for the PLO. One may also assume that Russia advises Abbas and the PLO leadership in its policy of promoting of violence (“resistance”), hatred and incitement, and, of course, generous support for terrorists and families of terrorists (“martyrs”). The goal of the PLO and its founders is not statehood, but the destruction of Israel. Hoping that more concessions will change this policy is simply delusional.
In this context, it is important to understand the role of what is called “Palestinian nationalism” and the Palestinian narrative.
According to Arab and Muslim leaders, the idea of a “Palestinian state” should be “from the river to the sea.” As they define it, that means all of the territory which now includes the State of Israel. In this view, Arab Palestinians are descendants of the original, indigenous people who inhabited the area; Canaanites, Philistines, Jebusites, Hittites, Emorites, Moabites and others.
According to the Arab Palestinian view, the conflict is not between two national movements, but between one genuine national movement (the Palestinians) and an invasive colonial and imperialistic entity (Israel). In this view, sovereignty of the Jewish people in Israel is not legitimate and Israel has no right to exist; like other colonial invaders and occupiers, the State of Israel must be destroyed. In this view, therefore, the conflict is not over territory, but the absolute, inherent right of Arab Palestinians to regain their ancestral homeland. This explains why all efforts to resolve the conflict based on compromise and the survival of the State of Israel have failed. As long as the State of Israel exists, Arab Palestinianism and the idea of a Palestinian homeland west of the Jordan River will be denied.
This conflict is not only over territory; it is about fundamental narratives, ideology and religion. It cannot be resolved by creating another Palestinian state, or by giving more land to the Palestinian Authority, the PLO and Hamas. It can only be resolved by Muslim religious and political leaders who are willing and able to declare an end to anti-Jewish bigotry, hatred, incitement and terrorism.
In the absence of such courageous leadership, what is the alternative? How can Arab Palestinians who wish to live in a homeland which offers them the opportunity to express their national identity be realized without destroying the State of Israel? Where can they express and celebrate their national self-determination? The answer is, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Jordan has vast amounts of uninhabited and available land; most of the country is not developed and, therefore, unproductive.
Investment in infrastructure in Jordan can make it a thriving oasis. Most of Jordan’s population is “Palestinian;” they exercise full civil rights, including representatives in the parliament. Most Arab Palestinians who live in the West Bank and all Palestinian leaders hold Jordanian passports. The Jordanian Wakf (religious authority) governs Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. Israel provides large amounts of fresh water and has offered to supply natural gas to Jordan. These are examples of the intimate and significant relationship – in addition to a peace treaty and security arrangements – between the people of Israel and Jordan.
Implementing the Jordanian option won’t stop those who seek Israel’s destruction, engage in terrorism, and support terrorist organizations. It will, however, change the focus from a political dead end – creating a PLO/Hamas state – to a humanitarian alternative that will provide a better future. Arab Palestinians and their families need to be given a realistic choice, and the Jordanian option, an Arab Palestinian homeland, provides it.
Arabs who live in Judea and Samaria under the PA or under Israeli rule can continue as they have been doing, and thriving for over 50 years. No one has to move! They can vote in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, or the PA, or the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. That is the best “two-state solution.”
The Jordanian option will help to put the PLO, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations out of business by offering an alternative to their reign of violence. It will liberate Palestinians from PLO dictatorship and allow them to live in prosperity, security and dignity. That is what a true homeland is all about. n
The writer is a PhD historian and journalist living in Jerusalem