Palestine – Jordan Land Grants: Not Israeli Land Swaps
President Obama has been widely praised since his speech to the State Department on 19 May when he stated: “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.“
No more fulsome praise was given for this policy than that proffered by British Prime Minister David Cameron at a joint press conference with President Obama on 25 May when he described the President’s speech:
“ … as bold and visionary because I think it did an absolutely vital thing, which was to talk about ’67 borders with land swaps… Palestinians need to know that we understand their need for dignity and for a Palestinian state, using the ’67 borders as land swaps as the start point. That is I think what is so key to the speech that’s been made. So neither side now has I believe the excuse to stand aside from talks.”
If Mr Cameron believes that then he must believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Mr Cameron is obviously unaware that there are no “ ’67 borders” - only “ ‘67 lines” – being the armistice lines drawn in 1950 at the conclusion of hostilities between Transjordan and Israel and Egypt and Israel following the Arab invasion of Palestine in 1948.
At least President Obama has digested this crucial difference. Mr Cameron needs to do so – and quickly – if he is not to be seen as parroting Arab propaganda.
The West Bank and East Jerusalem were occupied by Transjordan and unified in 1950. The country was renamed Jordan following the unanimous decision of a Parliament comprising 50% members from Transjordan and 50% members from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
No demand for a separate Palestinian State was heard from 1948 until the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. Even then Article 24 of the PLO Charter proclaimed:
“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area.”
Peace along the established 1950 armistice line existed with relative calm until June 1967 – when the armistice line was breached by Jordan which joined Egypt in the Six Day War against Israel – despite being warned by Israel to remain neutral. Jordan lost control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel as a consequence of that.bad decision.
Suddenly wresting 100% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Israeli control and establishing a sovereign Palestinian Arab state there – when none had ever existed in recorded history – became the strategic goal of the Arab League – and has remained so since..
Now in 2011 – apparently to satisfy the Palestinians “need for dignity “ – Israel is being asked by America and Britain to consider transferring sovereignty of Israeli land to a sovereign Palestine to compensate that State for the loss of any areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem that Israel seeks to retain.
This is a request that is doomed to failure in the light Israel‘s escalating security and national interests – particularly in the face of the dramatic developments that have taken place in Egypt and Jordan in recent months and the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
Israel’s offers to cede sovereignty in more than 90% of the West Bank in 2001 and 2008 will now be seen in retrospect to have been extremely generous in 2011. These two generous offers will not return.
To believe Israel should now offer additional Israeli territory to bring the border between it and a sovereign Palestine closer to the heartland of Israel is irrational and absurd.
For Obama and Cameron to espouse such a policy seems the height of folly and farce.
If Arab dignity is the key – then there is another policy that should be explored - the grant of sovereign Jordanian land to the Palestinian Authority equivalent to the area of the West Bank land retained by Israel.
The area of Jordanian land required to satisfy such Palestinian dignity is extremely small. The entire area of the West Bank is only 5640 km2. Assuming Israel’s security needs necessitated it to acquire sovereignty in 20% of the West Bank – Jordan would be required to make a land grant of about 1130 km2 to a sovereign Palestine. Given Jordan‘s area is 92300 km2 – compared to Israel’s 22070 sq km2 – Jordan’s security and national interests would hardly be affected.
The reasons for Jordan – rather the Israel – being asked to handover sovereign territory to help create a sovereign Palestine are many including:
1. Jordan and Israel are the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine and currently exercise sovereignty in 95% of the Territory of the Mandate – Jordan in 78% and Israel in 17%
2. The remaining 5% of the Territory of the Mandate still unallocated between Jordan and Israel comprises the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
3. Had Jordan not entered the Six Day War and lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel – the ensuing problems and ongoing conflict there would not have occurred. Jordan initiated the problem. It now should be required to be part of the solution.
4. Jordan’s decision in 1988 to forego all claims to sovereignty in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in favour of the Palestine Liberation Organization effectively split the unity of the East and West Banks of the Jordan River that had existed since 1950. Jordan has since become a staunch and outspoken supporter for the creation of a sovereign Palestine. If it can help achieve this by the grant of a small piece of Jordanian real estate without affecting its security and national interests- then America and Great Britain should be requesting Jordan to do so in order to try and end the conflict..
One wonders how the myriad of advisers in the US State Department and British Foreign Office can come up with so daft a proposal as Israeli land swaps and completely ignore so easy and practical a solution as Jordanian land grants.
Israel has learned by bitter experience since its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 – that the further away its neighbor’s borders are located from Israel’s civilian population the more safe and secure Israel will be.
It seems as though Obama and Cameron are still to understand and embrace this simple proposition.