Navigate to News section

Did Jordanian Leader Float Annexation?

The ‘Jordan as Palestinian state’ trope

Marc Tracy
May 27, 2010
The River Jordan.(Wikipedia)
The River Jordan.(Wikipedia)

Tuesday was Jordan’s independence day—the League of Nations mandate for Transjordan, as Israeli history buffs should know, was lifted on May 25, 1947—and on the occasion, the head of the country’s senate made a few interesting remarks. Specifically, he called for a Jordan “of two united banks, with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan emerging on both banks of the holy river”—that is, a country whose borders encompass not just its current area, east of its eponymous river, but area west of it, too.

But this is actually far more complicated than a simple expansionist statement directed against the Jewish state. In fact, Senator Taher al-Masri probably does not have Israel in mind at all.

Something you will hear from time to time on the Israeli and American right is that Jordan is the Palestinian state. Without getting into the historic or ethnic validity of that statement (to say nothing of its moral angle), for a time, Jordan maintained this line as well, until it strategically disowned it after 1987’s First Intifada. So Al-Masri’s statement is quite loaded: He may be implying that Jordan is the rightful home of the Palestinian people, and that the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could involve Jordan’s annexation of Palestinian-inhabited land in the West Bank. Which, depending on where the line is drawn, could make many on the Israeli right—though probably not the religious right—quite happy.

In fact, it could—again, depending on where the lines are drawn—mesh with a recent statement from Al-Masri’s Israeli analog, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. A Likudnik, Rivlin said that he would prefer a one-state solution with all Palestinian Israelis gaining full citizenship than a two-state solution. It is easy to see how Al-Masri and Rivlin are at direct odds here. It is likewise not particularly difficult to see how their visions could be reconciled.

To be very clear, and so you don’t email me angrily: I am not endorsing Jordanian annexation of the West Bank; personally, I believe there are massive practical and moral problems with it, not least that the West Bank Palestinians would likely find themselves hugely and permanently screwed over by it. However, the fact that a prominent Jordanian politician seemed to float the idea strikes me as strategically and especially politically significant. You may hear more about it, is all.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.