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Map of the West Bank today

The West Bank and East Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan (formerly Transjordan) for a period of nearly two decades (1948–1967) starting from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1950, with British approval, and despite Arab League opposition, Jordan extended its jurisdiction over the West Bank. The inhabitants of the West Bank became citizens of Jordan.




1948 Arab-Israeli war

On 14 May 1948 Israel declared the establishment of the State of Israel based on the UN Partition Plan. The Jordanian Arab Legion under the leadership of Sir John Bagot Glubb, known as Glubb Pasha was given orders to enter Palestine, secure the UN designated Arab area, and then enter the Jerusalem corpus separatum as defined by the UN Partition Plan. See 1948 Arab-Israeli War Third phase: May 15, 1948 - June 11, 1948.

"A key feature of the Arabs' plans was the complete marginalization of the Palestinians. … This aptly reflected the political reality: The military defeats of April-May had rendered them insignificant. The Arab League through the first half of 1948 had consistently rejected Husseini's appeals to establish a government-in-exile. … Under strong pressure from Egypt, which feared complete Hashemite control over the Palestinians, the League Political Committee in mid-September authorized the establishment of a Palestinian 'government.'" (Benny Morris, Righteous Victims)

On September 22, 1948, the All-Palestine Government was established in Gaza captured by Egypt, and on September 30, the rival First Palestinian Congress, which promptly denounced the Gaza "government", was convened in Amman.

By the end of the war, Jordan forces had control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. On April 3, 1949, Israel and Jordan signed an Armistice Agreement. The main points included:

Map of 1947 Partition Plan showing West Bank as part of Palestinian Arab state
  • Jordan withdrew its forces from its front posts overlooking the Plain of Sharon. In return, Israel agreed to allow Jordanian forces to take over positions in the West Bank previously held by Iraqi forces.

The remainder of the area that had been designated as Arab under the partition plan was partly occupied by Egypt (the Gaza Strip), partly occupied and annexed by Israel (West Negev, West Galilee, Jaffa). The intended international enclave of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, both eventually annexing their portions.


Rather than attempting to establish an independent Palestinian state for its West Bank subjects, Jordan formally annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank on April 24, 1950, giving all resident Palestinians automatic Jordanian citizenship. (They had already received the right to claim Jordanian citizenship in December 1949.) Only the United Kingdom formally recognized the annexation of the West Bank, de facto in the case of East Jerusalem.[1] Pakistan is often claimed to have recognized Jordan's annexation too, but this is dubious.[2][3]

Border Wars

Tensions continued between Jordan and Israel through the early fifties, with Palestinian guerrillas and Israeli commandos crossing the Green Line despite the Jordanian army's efforts to prevent both occurrences. In retaliation for an attack by Palestinian infiltrators' killing of three Israeli civilians, 50 Palestinians died in an Israeli commando unit operation in the West Bank.

Abdullah I of Jordan, who had become Emir of Transjordan in 1921 and King in 1923, was assassinated in 1951 during a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem by a Palestinian gunman following rumours that he was discussing a peace treaty with Israel. The trial found that this assassination had been planned by Colonel Abdullah Tell, ex-military governor of Jerusalem, and Dr. Musa Abdullah Husseini. He was succeeded by his grandson King Hussein of Jordan once he came of age in 1953, after his father Talal's brief reign.

Six Day War

The Israel Defense Force completely pushed the Jordanian army out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank and East Jerusalem with its one million Palestinian population came under Israeli military occupation. About 300,000 Palestinian refugees fled to Jordan.

See also: Political status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rapprochement and peace

King Hussein of Jordan ruled the West Bank until Jordan was defeated in the 1967 war with Israel

On July 31 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank — with the exception of guardianship over the Muslim Holy Sites of Jerusalem — to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."[4][5]

The 1993 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel "opened the road for Jordan to proceed on its own negotiating track with Israel."[6]

The Washington Declaration[7] was initialed one day after the Oslo Accords were signed. "On July 25, 1994, King Hussein met with Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in the Rose Garden of the White House, where they signed the Washington Declaration, formally ending the 46-year state of war between Jordan and Israel."[6]

Finally, on October 26, 1994, Jordan signed the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace normalizing relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes between them.

Jordanian occupation

Unlike any other Arab country to which they fled after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Palestinian refugees who found themselves in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (and on the East Bank) were given Jordanian citizenship on the same basis as existing residents. However, many of the refugees continued to live in camps and relied on UNRWA assistance for sustenance. Palestinian refugees constituted more than a third of the kingdom's population of 1.5 million.

In the Jordanian parliament, the West and East Banks received 30 seats each, having roughly equal populations. The first elections were held on 11 April 1950. Although the West Bank had not yet been annexed, its residents were permitted to vote. The last Jordanian elections in which West Bank residents would vote were those of April 1967, but their parliamentary representatives would continue in office until 1988, when West Bank seats were finally abolished.

Agriculture remained the primary activity of the territory. The West Bank, despite its smaller area, contained half of Jordan's agricultural land. In 1966, 43% of the labor force of 55,000 worked in agriculture, and 2,300 km² were under cultivation. (Numbers that have fallen considerably since.) In 1965, 15,000 workers were employed in industry, producing 7% of the GNP. This number fell after the 1967 war, and would not be surpassed until 1983.[8] The tourism industry also played an important role. 26 branches of 8 Arab banks were present. The Jordanian dinar became legal tender, and remains so there today.

There was a significant flow of population from the West Bank to East Bank, in particular to the capital, Amman.

Jordan, although mandated by the UN to let Jews and Christians visit their holy sites, refused access to them. They also led a systematic destruction of the Jewish Quarter including many ancient synagogues [9]. Under Jordanian rule of East Jerusalem, all Israelis (irrespective of their religion) were forbidden from entering the Old City and other holy sites.[10]


  1. ^ Announcement in the UK House of Commons of the recognition of the State of Israel and also of the annexation of the West Bank by the State of Jordan. Commons Debates (Hansard) 5th series, Vol 474, pp1137-1141. April 27, 1950. scan (PDF)
  2. ^ S. R. Silverburg, Pakistan and the West Bank: A research note, Middle Eastern Studies, 19:2 (1983) 261-263.
  3. ^ P. R. Kumaraswamy (2000-03) (PDF). Beyond the Veil: Israel-Pakistan Relations. Tel Aviv, Israel: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.  
  4. ^ King Hussein (1988-07-31). "Address to the Nation" (in translated from the original Arabic).  
  5. ^ Shaul Cohen (2007). "West Bank". West Bank. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.  
  6. ^ a b "Jordan - History - The Madrid Peace Process". The Royal Hashemite Court.  
  7. ^ "The Washington Declaration". The Royal Hashemite Court.  
  8. ^ Paul H. Smith (1993-07). Assessing the Viability of a Palestinian State. Defense Intelligence College.  
  9. ^!OpenDocument
  10. ^ Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century (Pilmico 1996), p254.

See also


  • Morris, B. (1999) Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999, Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-42120-3
  • Morris, B. (2003). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7

External links


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