Jordanian Prince Hassan and the West Bank

The inability for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution has re-energized calls in some circles for a Jordanian-West Bank solution.

jordanian-hassanThe Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, established in 1921 by Western allies after the Great Arab Revolt, has become a regional player and a central actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Having achieved peace with Israel in 1994, and nestled in a strategic location vis-à-vis Israel and its Arab neighbors, Jordan plays a pivotal role in the effort to reach a peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Jordan’s unique role as a key player in the Middle East “Peace Process” to achieve a comprehensive agreement through a two-state solution is advantageous because it has absorbed four waves of Palestinian refugees in 1948, 1967, post-1991 Gulf-War, and from the Syrian Civil War.

Palestinian refugees comprise more than a third of the total Jordanian population; an increasing number of which has been perceived by internal actors as a threat to Jordan’s majority status and sovereignty. The proposed two-state solution is an idyllic scenario from Jordan’s point of view where (in principle) Palestinians will be allowed to return to Palestinian lands, peace and security will be established between Israel and its neighbors, and removing the Palestinian threat of upsetting Jordanian sovereignty.

With the recent daily influx of refugees, Jordan’s government services have been heavily overburdened. Simultaneously, the discussion of a two-state solution which would establish a Palestinian state has been revived in the Jordanian political dialogue.

Yet the inability to achieve the two-state solution has generated certain circles to propose the notion of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan, and absorbing its Palestinian population. On October 9, 2012, this option was recently re-launched during a meeting between Palestinian citizens in Jordan and Prince Hassan bin Talal where he reasserted claims of Jordan’s sovereignty over the West Bank as part of the 1948 Jordanian annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Prince Hassan’s declaration that Palestine is part of greater Jordan can inadvertently impede efforts towards reaching a two-state solution.

Reclaiming the West Bank implies that Jordan is an option for a Palestinian state

Such a scenario which relegates Jordan as a permanent residency for Palestinians could ultimately end Palestinian territorial claims and their status as refugees.

Second, this statement will not only further ignite conflict between Jordanians and Palestinians – an already existing problem – but may weaken negotiation towards a two-state solution particularly if Palestinian refugees are permanently absorbed and “integrated” into Jordanian society. This will most certainly create instability in Jordan where Jordanian-Palestinian tensions are near a boiling point and official (and unofficial) discrimination policies against Palestinians are already institutionalized.

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Palestinians dominate the Jordanian economic sector which provides them with financial power and political influence. With few exceptions, however, Palestinians are predominantly excluded from government positions.

For instance, governors are appointed positions; however, out of the twelve Jordanian governorates, it is conspicuous that not one Palestinian has been appointed to that position. Government jobs are allotted to ethnic Jordanian and Bedouin tribes who are unquestionably loyal to the monarchy. The security apparatus, royal palace, army and bureaucracy are dominated mainly by loyal Bedouin tribes (to the monarchy) as a matter of national interest and security.

Ultimately, Palestinians are relegated to the economic sector or education.  Prominent Palestinian economic power has emerged as a topic of discussion, particularly after the economic crisis, fearing increasing Palestinian financial gains and influence over the Jordanian government and society.

Recent attacks by Bedouin tribal leaders against Queen Rania (who is of Palestinian origin) for her growing influence over the decision-making process added fuel to an already growing anti-Palestinian mentality. The anti-Palestinian sentiments may come down to the basic fact that ethnic Bedouin Jordanian tribes do not want to lose their power, privilege, and position in society to a rising Palestinian population.

Therefore, Prince Hassan’s recent comment that the West Bank is actually Jordanian-occupied territory is unrealistic and is out of touch with the reality on the ground.

Palestinian-Jordanian tensions could erupt at any moment if policies or services towards Palestinian inclusion are not revamped. Furthermore, Hassan’s remarks do not take into consideration the political rights of Palestinian refugees. If the West Bank is considered a part of Jordan, then integration of Palestinian refugees into Jordanian society should be a policy and implemented to provide equal rights to Palestinians. However, the reality on the ground suggests that Palestinians reject Jordan becoming a substitute homeland because this would end their demands for a “right of return” and an independent state.

Luciane F. Fangalua was born in Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga and was raised both in Tonga and the US. She received her BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Utah; MLitt in International Security Studies from the University of St. Andrews; and PhD in Islamic and Middle East Studies from Durham University. Luciane’s PhD thesis is titled Corruption in the Palestinian Authority: Neo-Patrimonialism, The Peace Process And The Absence Of State-Hood. She worked for several years in the Middle East as a researcher, consultant, and analyst on issues including corruption, democratic transition, political and institutional reform, legislative & judicial independence, political Islam, and Middle East politics.

  • Shoshana Bryen

    There is no ethnic, tribal, religious, linguistic or other difference between West Bank Palestinians and Jordanian Palestinians. In fact, West Bank Palestinians WERE Jordanians (not the refugee Palestinians who live on both sides of the Jordan River under Arab rule – while Palestinians who remained inside Israel became Israeli citizens) while Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank from 1949-67 (only Britain & Pakistan recognized the occupation; the UN called it illegal). West Bank Palestinians lost their Jordanian citizenship in 1988 when King Hussein renounced Jordan’s claim – insisting that the problem of Jordan’s illegal occupation and then loss of the territory be fixed by Israel.

    The current belief that there can be a two-state solution (1 Israel and 1 Palestine) while ignoring Jordan and Hamas-stan in Gaza is naive. Implying that Palestinian nationalism would be satisfied with a rump, split state squeezed between a hostile Israel and an even more hostile Jordan condemns the Palestinians to eternal misery. Why would any Palestinian accept that?

    Hassan’s consideration that King Hussein may have made a mistake in
    renouncing the territory is neither particularly good nor particularly bad, but it
    could move the conversation off dead center.

    Jordanian decision-making created part of the Palestinian problem – it refused to accept the UN partition; entered the war against Israel in 1948; illegally occupied the putative Palestinian state and made no move to provide Palestinian independence during the years of occupation; lost the territory to Israel by entering the 67 war on the third day of six as an aggressor in spite of US and Israeli pleas that it stay out; and stripped the Palestinian/Jordanians of their citizenship in Jordan in 1988.

    To pretend Jordan can ignore the mess it made and that Palestinians will happily accept that is beyond naive, it willfully ignores the real history of the region.

    You should have been able to do better.