Palestine – Obama Must Focus on Jordan and Egypt
By: David Singer
President Obama has already invested much personal time and considerable diplomatic resources in unsuccessfully pursuing former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clintonâ€™s failed attempts to create an additional Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza – some 6% of former Palestine.
In doing so President Obama has completely ignored the fact that another Arab State – today called Jordan – was established in 77% of former Palestine 63 years ago.
President Obama needs to question why another Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza should be created now when it was not established between 1948-1967 during which time Jordan and Egypt respectively occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Not one single Jew then lived in those areas since they had all been driven out and dispossessed by the invading Jordanian and Egyptian armies.
Arab voices and indeed those of the world community through the United Nations remained silent during that 19 years window of lost opportunity. Talk of a separate Arab ethnic or national identity between Arabs living on either side of the Jordan River was never raised or seriously discussed with good reason – there was not and never has been any difference.
To expect that such an additional Arab state can possibly emerge in 2009 when 500000 Jews now live in the West Bank is nothing more than an illusion.
President Obama now needs to focus on the role Jordan and Egypt can play in resolving the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza – the only area of former Palestine where territorial sovereignty still remains unallocated between Jews and Arabs.
Jordan owes an enormous debt of thanks to America for facilitating Jordanâ€™s creation as a sovereign independent Arab nation in 1946 and its subsequent admission to the United Nations.
Americaâ€™s then President – Harry Truman – acquiesced in Great Britainâ€™s action in unilaterally granting Jordan [then called Trans-Jordan] its independence on 22 March 1946 in breach of Article 27 of the Mandate for Palestine which provided:
â€œThe Mandatory [Great Britain] shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power.â€
Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson in a confidential memorandum to President Truman on 15 July 1946 had advised that Zionist leaders desired that the United States take the position that Great Britain had acted:
“illegally and unilaterally in granting independence to Trans-Jordan. They urge that the United States refuse to recognise Trans-Jordan as an independent country and oppose the admission of Trans-Jordan into the United Nations. They insist that Great Britain, in recognizing the independence of Trans-Jordan has violated the terms of the Palestine Mandate received from the League of Nations; that it has violated certain obligations contained in the American-British Convention relating to Palestine of December 1924 and that it failed to observe certain stipulations in the Charter of the United Nations.â€
After examining these claims Mr Acheson advised President Truman :
â€œthat in the absence of precedents, and in view of the possibility of various interpretations being placed on the language used in the Mandate, in the American- British Convention and other pertinent documents, the Zionists can produce plausible arguments in favour of their position.â€
However without producing any justification for the following statement whatsoever Mr Acheson then continued:
â€œThe Department is of the opinion, however, that the position of the British from the legal point of view is the more sound.â€
Since there are always two sides to any legal dispute that can only be eventually resolved by Court process – the State Department was on safe ground in propounding the view it took at that point of time.
However Mr Acheson then continued:
â€œThe Department also feels that in making its decision, the Government of the United States should consider the factual and international political aspects of the problem, not solely those of a legal natureâ€
One of those aspects considered by Mr Acheson and advised to President Truman was that:
â€œGreat Britain has gone so far in setting up and recognizing an independent Kingdom of Trans-Jordan that it is not now possible for it to change its policy in this respect. Great Britain, therefore, apparently has no choice other than to support the application of Trans-Jordan for admission into the United Nations. If the United States should oppose the admission of Trans-Jordan, a rift would take place between Great Britain and the United States in the Middle East with a resultant weakening in the position of the Western powers and a decline of Western influence in that area. Such a development would be extremely unfortunate in the present world situation.â€
Mr Acheson concluded that in view of the above consideration (and others looked at by him)
â€œ and of the over-riding political necessity of maintaining the peace and stability of the Middle East, it is recommended that the delegate of the United States be instructed to vote for the admission of Trans-Jordan to the United Nationsâ€
Peace and stability in the Middle East was shattered just two years later when Trans-Jordanâ€™s British trained armed forces invaded the remaining 23% of Palestine not already under its sovereign control occupying about one quarter – comprising the West Bank and the old city of Jerusalem – for 19 years until lost to Israel in the Six Day War in June 1967.
President Obama needs to appreciate that Jews had – and still have – the right to return and settle in the West Bank after 1967 under the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter. He needs to respect these clearly defined legal rights.
America needs to call up its favour in recognizing Jordanâ€™s birth 63 years ago and insist it now play a direct role in determining the allocation of territorial sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza in direct trilateral negotiations between Jordan, Israel and Egypt.
It is never too late to repay that debt and the time is fast approaching for President Obama to call on Jordan to make this commitment.