May 16, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10615

Jordanian Journalist Voices Unusual Position: West Bank Is Part Of Jordan; Palestinian Authority Is Artificial Entity That Must Cease To Exist; We Should Seriously Discuss Reuniting The Two Banks Of The Jordan River

May 16, 2023
Jordan, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 10615

In a recent article in the daily Al-Ghad, Jordanian media figure Malik Al-'Athanmeh voices an unusual opinion, calling to seriously consider the option of reuniting Jordan and the West Bank. He criticizes the Arab states for refusing to recognize Jordan's annexation of the West Bank in 1950 and for recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.[1] Al-'Athamneh, a Jordanian who resides in Belgium and writes a regular column in Jordan's Al-Ghad, notes that the West Bank was part of the kingdom of Jordan from 1950 until1967, and that the Arab League initially opposed Jordan's annexation of this territory. However, it ultimately accepted this fact, and the UN later recognized it as well. He laments the fact that the "obsessive pan-Arabism" and "false delusions of heroism" of Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser, president of Egypt at the time, swept Jordan and Syria into the 1967 war, in which all three countries lost territory to Israel and Jordan lost the West Bank.

According to Al-'Athamneh, the Arab League's recognition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which was affirmed at the 1974 Arab League summit in Rabat, was a significant and "despicable" act that undermined the historical and geographical reality, namely that the West Bank is part of Jordan. Calling the PA an "artificial" entity that should cease to exist, he contends that the Jordanians should start talks with a "real and active" Palestinian partner about the option of reuniting the two banks of the Jordan river, which would benefit both sides. 

It should be mentioned that Al-'Athanmeh disregards the decision taken by the Jordan's King Hussein on July 31, 1988, in which he severed the connection between Jordan and the West Bank, i.e., renounced any claim to Jordanian sovereignty over this territory and severed all legal and administrative ties with it, except for Jordan's custodianship over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. With this move King Hussein relinquished his dream of forming a federation between Jordan and the West Bank, and affirmed Jordan's support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Jordan and the West Bank (Image:

The following are excerpts from Al-'Athamneh's article:[2]

"In practice, the West Bank of the Jordan river used to constitute one half of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and all the debates about how to describe what happened at the Jericho Congress,[3] whether it was 'annexation' or 'unification,' will not change the geographical and historical [facts that prevailed] after April 24, 1950 [Jordan's official annexation of the West Bank]. On that [day], two years after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the West Bank and its inhabitants became part of Jordan. In December 1949 the inhabitants of the West Bank had already been granted the right to apply for Jordanian citizenship.

"The Arab League opposed the unification of the two banks, and some Arab countries even demanded to expel Jordan from the [league for this]. In 1955, after Jordan joined the UN, the latter recognized the unification of the two banks, or the annexation of the West Bank. But the Arab League had already announced, on June 12, 1950, that the annexation was [merely] a practical and temporary measure and that Jordan would hold [the territory] in trust until [some other] arrangement could be made regarding it – a naïve statement that sought to rescue the self-respect of those who had opposed the reality [of Jordan's annexation of the West Bank].

"The [Syrian and Jordanian] regimes, who followed the lead of [Gamal] 'Abd Al-Nasser's Egypt [and espoused his] obsessive and sweeping pan-Arabism and false delusions of heroism, were also the ones who were later led by the same Nasser into the reckless military escapade of June 1967, after [Nasser] took a unilateral decision to close off the Tiran Straits. This led to the outbreak of the June [1967] war, in which the delusions of force were shattered following a tripartite military defeat and a decisive Israeli victory – and whoever denies this is deluding himself. [In the war] Israel took land from three [Arab] countries: Sinai from Egypt, the Golan from Syria and the West Bank from Jordan.  

"All the journals and documents from the June [1967] war show that Jordan was the last to join the decision of the united Arab leadership, headed by Nasser's Egypt [to fight Israel]. The defeat is known in the [Arab] literature as the naksa, and its outcome, from Jordan's point of view, was the loss of half the kingdom's territory, namely the West Bank –  and [our] country is [even] named after the river that flows between the two banks. That is how Jordan became the referent of the legally-effective international resolutions, especially [UN] resolutions 242 and 338, which state that Israel must withdraw from occupied territories, or from the occupied territories. [In other words,] according to the international resolutions [that have been issued] so far, the West Bank was and remains occupied Jordanian territory.

"[Over the years], these historical and geographical facts, backed by UN resolutions and more than that, were despicably undermined. The first step [in this process] was the naïve Arab willingness, during the period of the spread of false pan-Arabism,  to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

"The scenario of [re]uniting the two banks must begin with a clear understanding of what this annexation means. King 'Abdullah was right when he asked in 2018: 'Confederation with whom?'[4] I believe that this question denies, once and for all, the possibility of the [continued] existence of the lie [known as] the 'Palestinian National Authority,' instead of giving it oxygen to prolong its artificial existence. 

"The important thing now is that there be a real and active Palestinian partner for talks about any scenario of [re]uniting the banks. This can only be done through real dialogue, not by trading accusations of betrayal on the two sides of the Jordan. [The goal is] to realize the Jordanian and Palestinian interests equally, not to promote a new Israeli scenario full of traps and minefields, the most loathsome of which is [the desire to] expel the [Palestinian] population from the West Bank to the East Bank. This must be fought by every means and with serious, balanced and objective ideas, not with extremist fanaticism."    


[1] It should be noted that a longer version of this article, suggesting that Jordan should regain its sovereignty over the West Bank, was published on October 26, 2021 on the website of the Arabic-language American website The significance of the present article lies in the fact that it was published in a Jordanian paper.

[2]  Al-Ghad (Jordan), April 20, 2023.

[3]  This Jericho Congress was held on December 1, 1948 by Arab and Palestinian representatives to discuss the future  of the territory west of the river that remained under Jordan's sovereignty after the July 18, 1948 ceasefire, territory that would later come to be known as the West Bank. The congress decided that this territory would be annexed to Jordan (a principle that later came to be known as the Unity of the Banks – the west and east banks of the Jordan river).

[4]  Jordan's King 'Abdullah II said this in a meeting with Jordanian politicians on September 12, 2018. He was responding to comments made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who told Israeli left-wing activists from the Peace Now movement that he would agree to the peace plan proposed by the Trump administration, based on a confederation with Jordan, if Israel was part of the confederation as well. Abbas' remarks sparked an uproar in Jordan, and government spokesperson Jumana Ghunaimat expressed opposition to the idea, stressing Jordan's support for the two-state solution. Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 3, 13, 2018.


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