Transjordan: Wikis


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إمارة شرق الأردن
ʾImārat Sharq al-ʾUrdun
Emirate of Transjordan
Autonomous division of Palestine
(British League of Nations mandate)



The British Mandate of Palestine, consisting of Palestine (west) and Transjordan (east)
Capital Amman
Government Monarchy
British Representative
 - 1920 — 1923 Captain Alex Kirkbride
 - 1923 — Harry St. John Philby
 - 1921–1946 Abdullah I
Historical era Interwar period
 - Established April 1921
 - Emirate established July 11, 1921
 - Palestine mandate 29 September 1923
 - Elevated to kingdom March 22, 1946
 - Full independence 25 May 1946

The Emirate of Transjordan (Arabic: إمارة شرق الأردن ʾImārat Sharq al-ʾUrdun) was a former Ottoman territory incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine in 1921 as an autonomous political division under as-Sharif Abdullah bin al-Husayn.[1] This move was formalized by the addition of an August 1922 clause to the charter governing the Mandate for Palestine.[2][3] Transjordan was geographically equivalent to 1942–1965 Kingdom of Jordan (slightly different from today's borders), and remained under the nominal auspices of the League of Nations and British administration, until its independence in 1928.[4]


Ottoman rule

Under the Ottoman empire, Transjordan did not correspond to any previous historical, cultural or political division, though most of it belonged to the Vilayet of Syria and a strategically important southern section with an outlet to the Red Sea were incorporated into Transjordan by Abdullah, the provinces of Ma'an and Aqaba from the Vilayet of Hejaz.[5] The inhabitants of northern Jordan had traditionally associated with Syria, those of southern Jordan with the Arabian Peninsula, and those of western Jordan with the administrative districts west of the Jordan River.

However, the creation of the Hejaz railway by the Ottoman Empire had started to reshape the associations within the territory. Historically the territory had formed part of various empires; among these are the Babylonian, Assyrian, Achaemenid, Macedonian (Seleucid), Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine, Sassanid and Ottoman empires. Jordan also incorporates areas of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Hauran, Edom, Nabatean Judea, Moab, Canaan and the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

British mandate

The British administration in Jerusalem only ever covered the area west of the Jordan, while the area east of the Jordan was administered by the British representative in Ma'an, Captain Alex Kirkbride[6] until the arrival in November 1920 of Abdullah. The Mandate for Palestine, while specifying actions in support of Jewish immigration and political status, stated that in the territory to the east of the Jordan River, Britain could 'postpone or withhold' those articles of the Mandate concerning a Jewish National Home.[7]

In August 1922, the British government presented a memorandum to the League of Nations stating that Transjordan would be excluded from all the provisions dealing with Jewish settlement, and this memorandum was approved by the League on 12 August. From that point onwards, Britain administered the part west of the Jordan as Palestine, and the part east of the Jordan as Transjordan.[2] Technically they remained one mandate, but most official documents referred to them as if they were two separate mandates. In May 1923 Transjordan was granted a degree of independence with Abdullah as ruler and Harry St. John Philby as chief representative.[8]

Transjordan remained under British control until the first Anglo-Jordanian treaty was concluded in 1928. Transjordan became nominally independent, although the British still maintained a military presence and control of foreign affairs and retained some financial control over the kingdom. This failed to respond to Jordanian demands for a fully sovereign and independent state, a failure that led to widespread disaffection with the treaty among Jordanians, prompting them to seek a national conference (25 July 1928), the first of its kind, to examine the articles of the treaty and adopt a plan of political action.[4]

The borders and territory of Transjordan were not determined until after the Mandate came into effect. The borders in the east of the country were designed so as to aid the British in building an oil pipeline from their Mandate of Iraq through Transjordan to seaports in the Palestine Mandate.[citation needed]

Statehood and termination of the Mandate

The Hashemite Emir Abdullah, elder son of Britain's wartime Arab ally Sharif Hussein of Mecca, was placed on the throne of Transjordan. The applicable parts of the Palestine mandate were recited in a decision of September 16, 1922, which provided for the separate administration of Transjordan. The government of the territory was, subject to the mandate, formed by the Emir Abdullah, brother of King Feisal of Iraq, who had been at Amman since February 1921. Britain recognized Transjordan as an independent government on May 15, 1923, and gradually relinquished control, limiting its oversight to financial, military and foreign policy matters. This had an impact on the goals of Revisionist Zionism, which sought a state on both banks of the Jordan. The movement claimed that it effectively severed Transjordan from Palestine, and so reduced the area on which a future Jewish state in the region could be established.[9]

According to the U.S. State Department Digest of International Law the status of the mandate was not altered by the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Emirate concluded on February 20, 1928.[10] which recognized the existence of an independent government in Transjordan and defined and limited its powers. The ratifications were exchanged on October 31, 1929."[11][12]

In 1937 the US Consul General at Jerusalem reported to the State Department that the Mufti refused the principle of partition and declined to consider it. The Consul said the Emir Abdullah urged acceptance on the ground that realities must be faced, but wanted modification of the proposed boundaries and Arab administrations in the the neutral enclave. The Consul also noted that Nashashibi side-stepped the principle, but was willing to negotiate for favorable modifications.[13]

The Yalta Conference mentioned that mandates should be placed under United Nations trusteeship. The Jewish Agency knew the United Nations Charter would say something on those subjects. The Agency wrote a memo to the San Francisco Conference requesting a safeguarding clause that said no trusteeship agreement could alter the Jewish right to nationhood secured by the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate. The conference implicitly rejected that suggestion by stipulating in article 80 of the Charter that a trusteeship agreement could in fact alter a mandate.[14]. The negotiating history of Article 80 of the UN Charter recorded in the Foreign Relations of the United States, indicates that it was developed as a "status quo" agreement with respect to the Palestine mandate. It was included at the insistence of the Arab League, who were afraid the 1939 White Paper policy would be relaxed.[15]

When Great Britain announced plans for Transjordanian independence, the final Assembly of the League of Nations and the General Assembly both adopted resolutions which indicated support for the proposal. However, the Jewish Agency and many legal scholars raised objections. Duncan Hall said that each mandate was in the nature of a treaty, and that being treaties, the mandates could not be amended unilaterally.[16] John Marlowe noted that despite Transjordan's theoretical independence as conferred by the 1946 Treaty, the Arab Legion continued to be used, under nominal Transjordanian but actual British command, for police duties and for frontier control in Palestine.[17] The Jewish Agency spokesmen said that Transjordan was an integral part of Palestine, and that according to Article 80 of the UN Charter, the Jewish people had a secured interest in its territory.[18]

In March 1946, under the Treaty of London, Transjordan became a kingdom and on May 25, 1946, the parliament of Transjordan proclaimed the emir king, and formally changed the name of the country from the Emirate of Transjordan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.

The Anglo-American treaty, also known as the Palestine Mandate Convention, permitted the US to delay any unilateral British action to terminate the mandate. The earlier proclamation of the independence of Syria and Lebanon had said "the independence and sovereignty of Syria and Lebanon will not affect the juridical situation as it results from the Mandate Act. Indeed, this situation could be changed only with the agreement of the Council of the League of Nations, with the consent of the Government of the United States, a signatory of the Franco-American Convention of April 4, 1924".[19]

The U.S. adopted the policy that formal termination of the mandate with respect to Transjordan would follow the earlier precedent established by the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon. That meant termination would generally be recognized upon the admission of Transjordan into the United Nations as a fully independent country.[20] Members of the U.S. Congress introduced resolutions demanding that the U.S. Representative to the United Nations be instructed to seek postponement of any international determination of the status of Transjordan until the future status of Palestine as a whole was determined. The U.S. State Department also received a long detailed legal argument from Rabbis Wise and Silver objecting to the independence of Transjordan.[21] At the 1947 Pentagon Conference, the U.S. advised Great Britain it was withholding recognition of Transjordan pending a decision on the Palestine question by the United Nations.[22]

During the General Assembly deliberations on Palestine, there were suggestions that it would be desirable to incorporate part of Transjordans' territory into the proposed Jewish state. A few days before the November 29, 1947 decision on partition, U.S. Secretary of State Marshall noted frequent references had been made by the Ad Hoc Committee regarding the desirability of the Jewish State having both the Negev and an "outlet to the Red Sea and the Port of Aqaba." He wrote Ambassador Austin saying that Aqaba was not in Palestine, and mentioned the problem of maintaining lines of communication to a port located there.[23]

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a plan for the future government of Palestine which called for termination of the Mandate not later than 1 August 1948.

The US Minister in Saudi Arabia told Secretary Marshall that the Saudi's and Abdullah had warned the other members of the Arab League in March of 1948 that the partition was a civil matter and that the Arab states shouldn't take any action that the Security Council might interpret as aggression.[24]

The works of the Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Mary Wilson, Eugene Rogan, and other historians outline a modus vivendi agreement between Abdullah and the Yishuv. Those works are taught in most Israeli university courses on the history, political science, and sociology of the region.[25] Archival materials reveal that the parties had negotiated the non-belligerent partition of Palestine between themselves, and that initially they had agreed to abide by the terms of the UN resolution. John Baggot Glubb, the commander of the Arab Legion, wrote that British Foreign Secretary Bevin had given the green light for the Arab Legion to occupy the territory allocated to the Arab state. The Prime Minister of Transjordan explained that Abdullah had received hundreds of petitions from Palestinian notables requesting protection upon the withdrawal of the British forces. Eugene Rogan says that those petitions, from nearly every town and village in Palestine, are preserved in "The Hashemite Documents: The Papers of Abdullah bin al-Husayn, volume V: Palestine 1948 (Amman 1995)".[26]

After the mandate was terminated, the armed forces of Transjordan entered Palestine. The Security Council adopted a US-backed resolution that inquired about the number and disposition of Transjordan's armed forces in Palestine. The Foreign Minister of Transjordan replied that neither the UN nor US recognized Transjordan, although they both had been given the opportunity for more than two years. Yet the US had recognized the Jewish state immediately, although its qualifications were lacking.[27]

Abdullah explained Transjordan's armed forces entry into Palestine to the Security Council saying "we were compelled to enter Palestine to protect unarmed Arabs against massacres similar to those of Deir Yasin."[28]

After capturing the 'West Bank' area of Cisjordan during the 1948–49 war with Israel, Abdullah took the title King of Jordan, and he officially changed the country's name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in April 1949. The following year he annexed the West Bank.

The United States extended de jure recognition to the Government of Transjordan and the Government of Israel on the same day, January 31, 1949.[29]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."[30]

In 1978 the U.S. State Department published a memorandum of conversation between Mr. Stuart W. Rockwell of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs and Abdel Monem Rifai, a Counselor of the Jordan Legation on June 5, 1950. 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.[31]

Jordan was admitted as a member state of the United Nations on December 14, 1955.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Bernard Wasserstein, 2004, pp. 105-106.: "In a telegram to the Foreign Office summarizing the conclusions of the [San Remo] conference, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, stated: 'The boundaries will not be defined in Peace Treaty but are to be determined at a later date by principal Allied Powers.' When Samuel set up the civil mandatory government in mid-1920 he was explicitly instructed by Curzon that his jurisdiction did not include Transjordan. Following the French occupation in Damascus in July 1920, the French, acting in accordance with their wartime agreements with Britain refrained from extending their rule south into Transjordan. That autumn Emir Faisal's brother, Abdullah, led a band of armed men north from the Hedjaz into Transjordan and threatened to attack Syria and vindicate the Hashemites' right to overlordship there. Samuel seized the opportunity to press the case for British control. He succeeded. In March 1921 the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, visited the Middle East and endorsed an arrangement whereby Transjordan would be added to the Palestine mandate, with Abdullah as the emir under the authority of the High Commissioner, and with the condition that the Jewish National Home provisions of the Palestine mandate would not apply there. Palestine, therefore, was not partitioned in 1921-1922. Transjordan was not excised but, on the contrary, added to the mandatory area. Zionism was barred from seeking to expand there - but the Balfour Declaration had never previously applied to the area east of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because the myth of Palestine's 'first partition' has become part of the concept of 'Greater Israel' and of the ideology of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement.
  2. ^ a b 12 August 1922 Britain is given the Mandate of the League of Nations to Administer Palestine.
  3. ^ Ilan Pappe (2004). A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0521556325. 
  4. ^ a b Avi Shlaim, Lion of Jordan (2007) p 17.
  5. ^ Avi Shlaim (2007) p 16.
  6. ^ Avi Shlaim (2007) p 11
  7. ^ 10th August 1922:- Order of Palestine created by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, (Balfour Declaration). Where article 86 of the Palestine Order In Council 1922 Shall Not Apply To Such Parts Of The Territory Comprised In Palestine To The East Of The Jordan And The Dead Sea As Shall Be Defined By Order Of The High Commissioner. Subject To The Provisions Of Article 25 Of The Mandate, The High Commissioner May Make Such Provision For The Administration Of Any Territories So Defined As Aforesaid As With The Approval Of The Secretary Of State May be prescribed. The Palestine Order of Council 1922 duly received Royal assent and Given at Our Court at Saint James's this Fourteenth day of August, 1922, in the Thirteenth Year of Our Reign.
  8. ^ Avi Shlaim (2007) p 14.
  9. ^ Wasserstein, 2004; The Making of Transjordan
  10. ^ League of Nations, Official Journal, 1928, p. 1574
  11. ^ 1919 Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. XIII, Paris Peace Conference (1947), p. 100. For a summary of the Agreement of February 20, 1928, between the United Kingdom and the Emir of Transjordan, see Bentwich, "The Mandate for Transjordan", X Brit. Yb. Int'l L. (1929) 212.
  12. ^ Marjorie M. Whiteman, Digest of International Law, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963) 631
  13. ^ Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1937. The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa Volume II, Page 894 [1]
  14. ^ See Jacob Robinson, Palestine and the United Nations: Prelude to a Solution, Greenwood Press, 1971 Reprint (1947), page 2-3
  15. ^ See the discussion on pages 859-860 under the heading "Palestine" in Foreign relations of the United States: diplomatic papers, 1945. General: the United Nations Volume I [2]
  16. ^ See Mandates, Dependencies and Trusteeship, by H. Duncan Hall, Carnegie Endowment, 1948, 91-112'
  17. ^ See John Marlowe, "The Seat of Pilate; an Account of the Palestine Mandate (London: Cresset Press, 1959) page 222
  18. ^ See National Archive, Tel Aviv University, Palestine Post, "The Mandate is Indivisble", April 9, 1946 Edition, page 3 [3]
  19. ^ See Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1941. The British Commonwealth; the Near East and Africa Volume III (1941), pages 809-810; and Statement of General de Gaulle of November 29, 1941, concerning the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, Marjorie M. Whiteman, Digest of International Law, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963) 680-681
  20. ^ See Foreign relations of the United States, 1946. The Near East and Africa Volume VII (1946), page 798 [4]
  21. ^ See Foreign relations of the United States, 1946. General, the United Nations Volume I, (1946), 411 [5]
  22. ^ Foreign relations of the United States, 1947. The Near East and Africa, Volume V, Page 603 [6]
  23. ^ See Foreign relations of the United States, 1947. The Near East and Africa Volume V, page 1255 [7]
  24. ^ See Foreign relations of the United States, 1948. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa Volume V, Part 2, Page 719 [8]
  25. ^ See for example "Doubting the Yishuv-Hashemite Agreement" starting on page 7 of "Refabricating 1948", by Benny Morris, Journal of Palestine Studies [9]
  26. ^ See Chapter 5, Jordan and 1948, in "The war for Palestine: rewriting the history of 1948", By Eugene L. Rogan, and Avi Shlaim, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0521699347i
  29. ^ Foreign relations of the United States, 1949. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa Volume VI, Page 713
  30. ^ Clea Lutz Bunch, "Balancing Acts: Jordan and the United States during the Johnson Administration," Canadian Journal of History 41.3 (2006)
  31. ^ Foreign relations of the United States, 1950. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Volume V (1950), Page 921
  32. ^ See Member States of the United Nations [12]


  • Wasserstein, Bernard (2004). Israel and Palestine: Why They Fight and Can They Stop?. Profile Books. ISBN 1861975341

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