Modern Jordan

Location: Jordan

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations and the occupying powers chose to redraw the borders of the Middle East. The ensuing decisions, most notably the Sykes–Picot Agreement, gave birth to the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate of Palestine.

More than 76% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as "Transjordan". The Permanent Court of International Justice and an International Court of Arbitration established by the Council of the League of Nations handed down rulings in 1925 which determined that Palestine and Transjordan were newly created successor states of the Ottoman Empire as defined by international law.

The country was under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following the British request, the Transjordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 as he was departing from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Jordan occupied the area of Cisjordan now called the West Bank, which it continued to control in accordance with the 1949 Armistice Agreements and a political union formed in December 1948. The Second Arab-Palestinian Conference held in Jericho on December 1, 1948, proclaimed Abdullah King of Palestine and called for a union of Arab Palestine with the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. The Transjordanian Government agreed to the unification on December 7, 1948, and on December 13 the Transjordanian parliament approved the creation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The step of unification was ratified by a joint Jordanian National Assembly on April 24, 1950. The Assembly was composed of 20 representatives each from the East and West Bank. The Act of Union contained a protective clause which persevered Arab rights in Palestine without prejudice to any final settlement.

Many legal scholars say the declaration of the Arab League and the Act of Union implied that Jordan's claim of sovereignty over the West Bank was provisional, because it had always been subject to the emergence of the Palestinian state. A political union was legally established by the series of proclamations, decrees, and parliamentary acts in December 1948. Abdullah thereupon took the title King of Jordan, and he officially changed the country's name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in April 1949. The 1950 Act of Union confirmed and ratified King Abdullah's actions. Following the annexation of the West Bank, only the UK formally recognized the union. Thomas Kuttner notes that de facto recognition was granted to the regime, most clearly evidenced by the maintaining of consulates in East Jerusalem by several countries, including the United States. Joseph Weiler agreed, and said that other states had engaged in activities, statements, and resolutions that would be inconsistent with non-recognition. Joseph Massad said that the members of the Arab League granted de facto recognition and that the United States had formally recognized the annexation, except for Jerusalem.

The United States extended de jure recognition to the Government of Transjordan and the Government of Israel on the same day, January 31, 1949. President Truman told King Abdullah that the policy of the United States Government as regards a final territorial settlement in Palestine had been stated in the General Assembly on Nov 30, 1948 by the American representative. The US supported Israeli claims to the boundaries set forth in the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29, 1947, but believed that if Israel sought to retain additional territory in Palestine allotted to the Arabs, it should give the Arabs territorial compensation.

Clea Bunch said that "President Truman crafted a balanced policy between Israel and its moderate Hashemite neighbours when he simultaneously extended formal recognition to the newly created state of Israel and the Kingdom of Transjordan. These two nations were inevitably linked in the President's mind as twin emergent states: one serving the needs of the refugee Jew, the other absorbing recently displaced Palestinian Arabs. In addition, Truman was aware of the private agreements that existed between Jewish Agency leaders and King Abdullah I of Jordan. Thus, it made perfect sense to Truman to favour both states with de jure recognition."

In 1978 the U.S. State Department published a memorandum of conversation held on June 5, 1950 between Mr. Stuart W. Rockwell of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs and Abdel Monem Rifai, a Counselor of the Jordan Legation: Mr. Rifai asked when the United States was going to recognize the union of Arab Palestine and Jordan. Mr. Rockwell explained the Department's position, stating that it was not the custom of the United States to issue formal statements of recognition every time a foreign country changed its territorial area. The union of Arab Palestine and Jordan had been brought about as a result of the will of the people and the US accepted the fact that Jordanian sovereignty had been extended to the new area. Mr. Rifai said he had not realized this and that he was very pleased to learn that the US did in fact recognize the union.

Jordan and Iraq united in 1958 to form the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan under the Hashemite crowns in Amman and Baghdad. A coup later that year would end the union with the execution of the Hashemite crown in Baghdad. The United Arab Republic consisting of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen quickly moved to antagonize Jordan's young King Hussein with Soviet support. King Hussein asked for British and American assistance. The RAF and the USAF was sent to patrol Jordanian airspace and British troops were deployed in Amman. The UAR backed off but then turned to Lebanon. The Americans would later be deployed in Beirut to support Lebanon's pro-Western government.

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt in May 1967, and following an Israeli air attack on Egypt in June 1967, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq continued the Six Day War against Israel. During the war, Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the territory now occupied by Israel but its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem. The severance of administrative ties with the West Bank halted the Jordanian government's paying of civil servants and public sector employees' salaries in the West Bank.

The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the activity and numbers of Arab Palestinian paramilitary elements (fedayeen) within the state of Jordan. These distinct, armed militias were becoming a "state within a state", threatening Jordan's rule of law. King Hussein's armed forces targeted the fedayeen, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to back the fedayeen fighters, but subsequently retreated. King Hussein urgently asked the United States and Great Britain to intervene against Syria. Consequently, Israel performed mock air strikes on the Syrian column at the Americans' request. Soon after, Syrian President Nureddin al-Atassi, ordered a hasty retreat from Jordanian soil. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. However, sporadic violence continued until Jordanian forces, led by Habis Al-Majali, with the help of Iraqi forces, won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them, and ultimately the PLO's Yasser Arafat, from Jordan.

In 1973, allied Arab League forces attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line. Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to attack Israeli units on Syrian territory but did not engage Israeli forces from Jordanian territory.
At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan was now in a more secure position to agree, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the "sole legitimate representative of the [Arab] Palestinian people", thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

The Amman Agreement of February 11, 1985, declared that the PLO and Jordan would pursue a proposed confederation between the state of Jordan and a Palestinian state. In 1988, King Hussein dissolved the Jordanian parliament and renounced Jordanian claims to the West Bank. The PLO assumed responsibility as the Provisional Government of Palestine and an independent state was declared.

Although Jordan did not directly participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, King Hussein was accused of supporting Saddam Hussein when he attempted to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait. As a result of the alleged support, the United States and Arab countries cut off monetary aid to Jordan, and 700,000 Jordanians who had been working in Arab countries were forced to return to Jordan. In addition, millions of Iraqi refugees fled to Jordan placing a strain on the country's social services.

In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Arab Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on 25 July 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on 26 October 1994. King Hussein was later honored when his picture appeared on an Israeli postage stamp in recognition of the good relations he established with his neighbor. Since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, the United States not only contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in an annual foreign aid stipend to Jordan, but also has allowed it to establish a free trade zone in which to manufacture goods that will enter the US without paying the usual import taxes as long as a percentage of the material used in them is purchased in Israel.

King Hussein died in 1999. His son, King Abdullah II succeeded him.
Following the outbreak of fighting between Israel and Palestinians in the Second Intifada in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors. Particularly good relations have been maintained between the Jordanian royal family and Israel, with the Jordanian government frequently dispersing rallies and jailing demonstrators protesting against Israeli actions. The government also censors anti-Israeli views from the Jordanian news media.

The last major strain in Jordan's relations with Israel occurred in September, 1997, when two Israeli agents entered Jordan using Canadian passports and poisoned Khaled Meshal, a senior leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. Under threat of cutting off diplomatic relations, King Hussein forced Israel to provide an antidote to the poison and to release dozens of Jordanians and Palestinians from its prisons, including the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Sheikh Yassin was later assassinated by Israel in a targeted bombing in early 2004 in the Gaza Strip.
On 9 November 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous terrorist bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq", a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.

Recently, Jordan has revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians in an attempt to thwart any attempt by Israel of permanently re-settling West Bank Palestinians in Jordan. West Bank Palestinians with family in Jordan or with previous Jordanian citizenship would be issued yellow cards which guaranteed them all the rights of Jordanian citizenship. Palestinians working for the Palestinian Authority or the PLO were among those who have had their Jordanian passports taken from them, in addition to anyone who did not serve in the Jordanian army. Palestinians living in Jordan with family in the West Bank would also be issued yellow cards. All other Palestinians wishing such Jordanian papers would be issued a green card which would facilitate travel into Jordan and give them temporary Jordanian passports in order to make travel easier. In addition, no Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are given any such privileges because Jordanian authority never extended into the Gaza Strip.