Palestine – an Arab West Bank is a lost cause

June 12, 2011 by David Singer
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The 44th Anniversary of the Six Day War occurred this week on 5 June 1967.

It is therefore opportune to recall some of the significant events that led to Jordan’s loss of the West Bank in that War ending 19 years of uninterrupted occupation – and to understand why all of the West Bank – or its equivalent area – will never again return to Arab control. 
I am indebted to the Six Day War Comprehensive Timeline for much of the material that follows. This website should be required reading for all who wish to understand why international pressure to  return all of the West Bank to the Arabs must fail.

Jordan’s path down the road to its disastrous loss of the West Bank began on 30 May 1967 – 6 days before the start of the Six Day War.  This was the fatal day that Jordan signed  a five year mutual defence treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian General.

Jordan’s King Hussein had been caught up in the Arab euphoria and vitriol emanating from Egypt’s President Nasser who had declared on 28 May 1967:

“We will not accept any…coexistence with Israel.…Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel….The war with Israel is in effect since 1948”.

Such was the mood of Jordan’s population that Jordan’s Army Commander-in-Chief General Sharif Zaid Ben Shaker warned in a press conference that :

“If Jordan does not join the war a civil war will erupt in Jordan”.

The West Bank had been unified with Transjordan in 1950 and the country renamed Jordan after  unanimous ratification by a Parliament comprised equally of representatives from the West Bank and Transjordan.  No demand was made in the next 17 years for the creation of a separate Palestinian Arab State – even though all the Jews living there had been driven out by six invading Arab armies in 1948.

On 31 May 1967 President Aref of Iraq declared:

“The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out  the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map”

Al Akhbar – Cairo’s daily newspaper correctly summed up Jordan’s involvement on the same day:


“Under the terms of the military agreement signed with Jordan, Jordanian artillery, coordinated with the forces of Egypt and Syria, is in a position to cut Israel in two at Qalqilya, where Israeli     territory between the Jordan armistice line and the Mediterranean Sea is only 12 kilometres wide”.

What was true in 1967 remains as valid in 2011.  Israel’s vulnerable waistline of only 12 kilometers would return again with all of the West Bank under Arab control.

On 5 June Israel made its pre-emptive strike against Egypt. That same morning, Israel sent a message to Jordan’s leader King Hussein via the US State Department, the UN and the British Foreign Office, saying that, despite the outbreak of war, it would not attack the West Bank if Jordan maintained quiet on that front.

Jordan ignored Israel’s appeal to avoid conflict  and  launched immediate multiple attacks on Israel

  • civilian suburbs of Tel-Aviv were shelled by artillery;
  • Israel’s largest military airfield, Ramat David, was shelled;
  • Jordanian warplanes attacked the central Israeli towns of Netanya and Kfar Sava;
  • thousands of mortar shells rained down on West Jerusalem hitting civilian locations indiscriminately, including the Hadassah Hospital and the Mount Zion Church;
  • Israel’s parliament building (the Knesset) and the Prime Minister’s office, each in Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem, were targeted;
  • 20 Israelis died in these attacks; 1000 were wounded. 900 buildings in West Jerusalem were damaged.

All this happened before Israel reacted militarily against Jordan, or moved at all into the West Bank.

The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 242 on 22 November 1967 recognizing  that secure and recognized boundaries needed to be drawn between Israel and its neighbours to  ensure the Arabs would not be tempted to again try and cut Israel in two in the future as the first step in any attempt to wipe Israel off the map.

Egypt and Jordan eventually came to realise the folly of their action. Both entered into peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Syria refused to join them. But the current upheaval in Egypt, Jordan and Syria now put the continued operation of these two treaties at real risk.

Jordan withdrew all its claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1988. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created in 1993 as a result of the Oslo Accords – stepping into the void left by Jordan.

The PA has since then sought  to undo the 1950 reunification and substitute the creation of a Palestinian Arab State in all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza for the first time in recorded history

The PA is now threatening to approach the United Nations in September to achieve this outcome. The UN’S  abject surrender to an Egyptian diktat was the catalyst that led to the Six Day War.

UN Secretary General U Thant had of his own volition agreed to Nasser’s demand that  the United Nations Emergency Force be withdrawn on 18 May 1967 – just seven hours after Egyptian ambassador Kony had informed U Thant:

“Egypt has decided to terminate the presence of the United Nations Emergency Force from the territory of the United Arab Republic and Gaza Strip. Therefore I request that the necessary     steps be taken for the withdrawal of the Force as soon as possible.”

Britain made its position very clear when its Foreign Secretary George Brown stated:

“UNEF was established with the full concurrence of the United Nations…any decision to withdraw the force should be taken in the United Nations after full consultation with all the countries involved – it should not be taken as the result of some unilateral decision.”

It is unthinkable and immoral that Jordan’s heinous conduct should be rewarded by the United Nations now ignoring  Security Council Resolution 242 and returning Israel to the vulnerable 1967 armistice lines.

That the UN might seek to do so in clear contravention of its own resolution and international law – specifically the Montevideo Convention 1933 – would certainly not surprise. Treachery knows no bounds when it comes to double standards by the UN in dealing with Israel.

Jordan paid a high price for joining in an alliance with Egypt and Syria – the loss of  the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Those pre-June 1967 halcyon days are  not going to return in 2011 – either for Jordan or the PA.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


11 Responses to “Palestine – an Arab West Bank is a lost cause”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    I am not at all happy with my last comment.
    So called historic similarities are the worst types of fallacies.
    Yet, in the case of arabs and Jews, specifically in the palestinian configuration, I strongly believe that both US and,mainly Israel should call the palestinian state bluff pretty much very soon !
    In addition both US and mainly Israel should engage in reconstructing ( actually CONSTRUCTING )the future palestinian state. As such settlers would also take active, physical part in it…..
    Let’s see if they will pick up arms against TRUE friends.
    One very important proviso that should be respected,yet muted , Hamas as such, as an ideology MUST be opposed.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    to David Singer

    One may debate and run away with the quantum pressure notion of prevaling ethics, but, in an attempt to look at it counter intuitively, I am sure that ethical values are a qualitative cathegory.
    Although I hate analogies, let’s take one Karl Marx as a determinant sole factor and the persuasive dynamics of the quality of his arguments.
    Analogies aside, a certain pattern of political strategies will enable a positive shift in the palestinian approach to Israel and Jews in general.
    To term me,or generally such notions, as idealistic is perfectly acceptable for without ideas and ideals nothing can be achieved in the field of behavioural modifications.
    Last analogy : only less than 70 years ago the idea that Berlin will host a Zionist congregation, Jewish State embassy and,to top it all, an increase- the greatest – in the number of Jews moving in and opening new geschefts on Kunfursterdam was simply………

  3. david singer says:

    To Otto Waldmann

    I agree with your sentiments. However a drastic ethical shift in the attitude of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states generally (even now including Jordan and Egypt) is impossible to contemplate. One tiny Jewish state existing among 21 or 22 Arab states is simply not in the Arab psyche.

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    To David Singer

    I knew that,in fundamentals, you will agree with me,as I,indeed,underlined the same principles by, at least, not alluding to any notion that settlers would not be entitled to their…position.
    We seem to differ only in our modest predictions about the detailed configurations of the settlement profiles, both “geometric” and geopolitical.
    My indulgence in propositions contains the caveat of humbleness that the settlers themselves are the BEST at appreciating their prospects and, so far,there have been no indications that these incredibly wonderful people,whom I would have dearly joined ( and I do NOT want to hear the encouraging sounds of ” why don’t you just go, Otto !!” implying a clear coda: “… and leave us alone !”)are very determined to make their space a real Israel as so Providentially meant to be !
    We may discuss, simply because we have the passion, need and time, how their newly created status will be managed, considering the imminent formation of a palestinian state.Mind you, I accept the notion of a palestinian state forced by circumstances, fluid as they are by definition.
    Yet, I come back to the original idea that only a drastic ethical shift in the attitude of palestinians toward their Jewish neighbours,both outside the formal or otherwise, borderlines, will ensure a genuine peace, security, safe and durable existence of the settlements as such and the region in general.

  5. david singer says:

    To Otto Waldmann

    Security Council Resolution 242 prescribes that the 1949 armistice line will not be the future boundary between Israel and its neighbour (then at that time expected to be Jordan) .

    Jordan’s renunciation of any claim to the West Bank in 1988 and the rise of a new Arab claimant -the Palestinian Authority in 1993 – does not in any way impact on Resolution 242.

    The UN will be the laughing stock of the world if it in any way attempts to act contrary to Resolution 242.That could indeed signal its final fall from grace and lead it into the grave inhabited by its predecessor – the League of Nations.

    Jews have the legal entitlement to settle in the West Bank under article 6 of the Mandate and article 80 of the UN Charter to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in that area – UN General Assembly resolutions to the contrary notwithstanding. Refusal of the UN to accept these fundamental and binding principles of international law have led to its sorry decline as the upholder of international law it claims to be.

    To compound this breach of article 80 of its own Charter and to then ignore the binding effect of Resolution 242 will spell disaster for the future of the UN .It will be exposed as an organization pursuing the vested interests of its members – rather than a world body designed to ensure its members at all times are bound by and observe international law to ensure and preserve world peace.

  6. Otto Waldmann says:

    Considering the known policies of the palestinian side and their implicit sentiments toward any Jewish presence in a future palestinian state ,juxtaposed to the terms of possible agreements, and that large number of settlements would be allowed, the likelihod of palestinian attempts of the kind described by David Singer are very much on the cards. One can be sure that the respective settlers are fully aware of those prospects.Yet they are resolved to stay put. Appart from the fact that, in itself, this is the most heroic conetmporary Jewish stance, the political and respective strategic implications can be easily worked out. It is a presumptive given that, should anything occur against the settlers, reaction/retribution from Israel will be swift. The settlers are not at all projected to be left at the mercy of a future palestinian sovereign power ! This is my implied rational, that the geopolitical conflict will not be resolved by a mere recognition of a palestinian statal entity.I also insist that the settlers will not be deterred from their resolve to remain on their land. All other residual rationals are inferred…………….

  7. david singer says:

    To Otto Waldmann

    You state:
    “I hold that the MOST important issue is the acceptance by the non Jewish party(ies) to the negotiations that Jews may be allowed to live among palestinians.”

    This will not occur. Abbas,Erekat and Haniyeh have all made this abundantly clear. A Palestinian State will be Judenrein and that is non-negotiable. These high priests of apartheid make such outrageous statements and the world silently nods in agreement. There is no Durban 3 to show the world’s absolute rejection of such a policy.

    Even if there were miraculously some change of heart – would the rights and security of Jews living in a Palestinian State be protected? Would terrorist groups refrain from kidnapping Jews living in the Palestinian State and demanding the release of hundreds of terrorists held in Israeli jails? Could Jews be assured that the Itamar massacre would not be replicated?

    Your wish is a pipe dream that will have to await till the coming of the Messiah.

  8. Otto Waldmann says:

    With the exception of Golan ( just for the sake of the argument ), national borders of the conventional kind do NOT represent a military defence.The kind of war contemplated this days ignores such considerations.
    It is , however, relevant from other angles what Israel should conceede in terms of land to a possible palestinian territorial entity. I hold that the MOST important issue is the acceptance by the non Jewish party(ies) to the negotiations that Jews may be allowed to live among palestinians.
    Considering that some 20% of Israel’s population is made of palestinians, the existing percentage of Jewish settlements on the West bank is minute in cmparisson. The litmus test of peace is the real accomplishment of having the anti Israel camp no lnger being …”anti”, of IT coming to the realisation that, as the Jews in the same region have arrived at already, that accepting each other, a RECIPROCAL “each other” is the only true foundation of peace.
    Therefore those incredibly devout Jewish peaceniks who harbur so much passion for the palestinian rights have now the opportunity to find in their souls a conversing space for the Jewish territorial entity, casually called by some “neshama”.
    If only yous guys would know how many Jews have retorted to me that “we” should not be in the West bank at all, that it is, indeed, the complete fault of the settlers the continuation of the conflict.
    The ME conflict is much less an issue of GEOpolitics and much more one of the human ( or lack of ) one.
    Incidentally, Yirushalaim is meia huz Israel’s !!!!

  9. Enoch says:

    well spoken David!

  10. david singer says:

    To Maurice May

    Your rush to reply obviously caused you to overlook or completely miss this paragraph in my analysis:

    “Egypt and Jordan eventually came to realise the folly of their action. Both entered into peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Syria refused to join them. But the current upheaval in Egypt, Jordan and Syria now put the continued operation of these two treaties at real risk.”

    Certainly Egypt’s opening of the Rafah crossing into Gaza does not bode well for the future of its peace treaty with Israel. As I pointed out in my article there is evidence that the threat of civil war in Jordan helped drive Hussein into the alliance with Egypt and Syria in 1967. Can anyone confidently predict that the threat of civil upheaval could not happen again in Jordan in 2011 to force the abrogation of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty? These are worrying and uncertain times requiring extreme caution by Israel.

    If you have any other aspects of my analysis you disagree with and are prepared to detail then I am more than happy to try and answer.

    However vague statements such as accusing me of “spinning a tale based on flimsy foundations” and “poorest analysis imaginable” are a total waste of space and cannot be replied to – and I guess you know this very well.

    Get specific with your criticisms and I will happily reply.

  11. maurice may says:

    Mr. Singer is is not talking about today . He is spinning a tale based on flimsy foundations. He is neglecting subsequent history e.g. the change in Israel’s relationship with Egypt & Jordan.

    In all it the poorest analysis imaginable.

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