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Jordan - HISTORY
JORDAN'S LOCATION AS a buffer zone between the settled region of the Mediterranean littoral west of the Jordan River and the major part of the desert to the east contributed significantly to the country's experience in ancient and more recent times. Until 1921, however, Jordan had a history as a vaguely defined territory without a separate political identity. Its earlier history, closely associated with the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, therefore comes under the histories of the contending empires of which it often formed a part.
By the time the area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, the inhabitants of three general geographic regions had developed distinct loyalties. The villagers and town dwellers of Palestine, west of the Jordan River, were oriented to the major cities and ports of the coast. In the north of presentday Jordan, scattered villagers and tribesmen associated themselves with Syria while the tribesmen of southern Jordan were oriented toward the Arabian Peninsula. Although most of the populace were Arab Muslims, the integration of peoples with such differing backgrounds and regional characteristics hampered the creation of a cohesive society and state.
In 1921 the Amirate of Transjordan was established under British patronage on the East Bank by the Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) prince Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi, who had been one of the principal figures of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Direct British administration was established in Palestine, where Britain (in the Balfour Declaration of 1917) had pledged to implement the founding of a Jewish homeland.
In 1947 Britain turned the problem of its Palestine Mandate over to the United Nations (UN). The UN passed a resolution that provided for the partition of the mandate into an Arab state, a Jewish state, and an international zone. When on May 14, 1948, the British relinquished control of the area, the establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed. Transjordan's Arab Legion then joined the forces of other Arab states that had launched attacks on the new state. The end of the 1948-49 hostilities--the first of five Arab-Israeli wars--left Transjordan in control of the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem. Abdullah changed the name of the country to Jordan, proclaimed himself king, and in 1950 annexed the West Bank. In the June 1967 War (known to Israelis as the Six-Day War), Israel seized the West Bank, and reunited Jerusalem. In late 1989, the area remained under Israeli occupation.
The dominant characteristic of the Hashimite regime has been its ability to survive under severe political and economic stress. Major factors contributing to the regime's survival have included British and United States economic and military aid and the personal qualities first of King Abdullah and then of his grandson, Hussein ibn Talal ibn Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi. King Hussein has been a skillful politician who has dealt adroitly with foreign and domestic crises by using caution and by seeking consensus. One exception to this style of policy making occurred during the 1970- 71 battle against Palestinian resistance fighters, when the king ordered his mostly beduin-manned army to remove completely the Palestinian guerrillas, even after neighboring Arab states had called for a cease-fire.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, regional events severely tested Jordan's stability. The election of the more hawkish Likud government in Israel and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank lent urgency to Hussein's quest for an Arab-Israeli territorial settlement. Arab ostracism of Egypt following the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel ended Jordan's alliance with the Arab world's most politically influential and militarily powerful state. Jordan's vulnerability increased significantly in February 1979, when Shia radicals overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran. The Iranian revolutionaries threatened to expunge Western influences from the region and to overthrow non-Islamic Arab governments such as that of Jordan. Less than two years later, Iran and Iraq were embroiled in a costly war that caused a further shifting of Arab alliances; Jordan and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf sided with Iraq, while Syria supported Iran. SyrianJordanian relations deteriorated and nearly erupted in military conflict during the 1981 Arab summit conference in Amman, when Syrian president Hafiz al Assad accused Hussein of aiding the antigovernment Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Finally, the downward slide of world oil prices that began in 1981 drained Jordan's economy of the large quantities of Arab petrodollars that had stirred economic development throughout the 1970s.
The turmoil besetting the Arab states in the 1980s presented Jordan with both risks and opportunities. With the traditional Arab powers either devitalized or, in the case of Egypt, isolated, Jordan was able to assume a more prominent role in Arab politics. Moreover, as the influence of Jordan's Arab neighbors waned, Hussein pursued a more flexible regional policy.
The weakness of the Arab states, however, enabled the Begin government in Israel to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy and to accelerate the pace of settlements in the occupied territories. Thus, between 1981 and 1982, the Arab states reacted apathetically to Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, its annexation of the Golan Heights, and its June 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Israeli aggressiveness and Arab passivity combined to raise fears in Jordan that Israel might annex the occupied territories and drive the Palestinians into Jordan. These fears were fueled by frequent references by Israel's hawkish Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon to Jordan as a Palestinian state.
The Jordan Valley provides abundant archaeological evidence of occupation by paleolithic and mesolithic hunters and gatherers. A people of neolithic culture, similar to that found around the Mediterranean littoral, introduced agriculture in the region. By the eighth millennium B.C., this neolithic culture had developed into a sedentary way of life. Settlements at Bayda on the East Bank and Jericho on the West Bank date from this period and may have been history's first "cities." Bronze Age towns produced a high order of civilization and carried on a brisk trade with Egypt, which exercised a dominant influence in the Jordan Valley in the third millennium. This thriving urban culture ended after 2000 B.C., when large numbers of Semitic nomads, identified collectively as the Amorites, entered the region, which became known as Canaan. Over a period of 500 years, the nomads encroached on the settled areas, gradually assimilated their inhabitants, and--by the middle of the second millennium--settled in the Jordan Valley, which became a Semitic language area. At about this time, Abraham (known to the Arabs as Ibrahim) and his household entered the area from the direction of Mesopotamia. The Canaanites and others referred to this nomadic group of western Semites as the habiru, meaning wanderers or outsiders. The name Hebrew probably derived from this term. More abrupt was the incursion of the Hyksos from the north who passed through Canaan on their way to Egypt.
After recovering from the Hyksos invasion, Egypt attempted to regain control of Syria, but its claim to hegemony there was contested by the empire-building Hittites from Anatolia (the central region of modern Turkey). The prolonged conflict between these two great powers during the fifteenth to thirteenth centuries B.C. bypassed the East Bank of the Jordan, allowing for the development of a string of small tribal kingdoms with names familiar from the Old Testament: Edom, Moab, Bashan, Gilead, and Ammon, whose capital was the biblical Rabbath Ammon (modern Amman). Although the economy of the countryside was essentially pastoral, its inhabitants adapted well to agriculture and were skilled in metallurgy. The Edomites worked the substantial deposits of iron and copper found in their country, while the land to the north was famous for its oak wood, livestock, resins, and medicinal balms. The towns profited from the trade routes crisscrossing the region that connected Egypt and the Mediterranean ports with the southern reaches of the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf.
Midway through the thirteenth century B.C., Moses is believed to have led the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and to have governed them during their forty-year sojourn in the Sinai Peninsula. When they were barred by the Edomites from entering Canaan from the south, the Israelites marched north toward Moab. Under Joshua, they crossed west over the Jordan River. The conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes was completed between 1220 and 1190 B.C. The tribes of Gad and Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh were allocated conquered land on the East Bank. At about this time the Philistines, sea peoples who originated from Mycenae and who ravaged the eastern Mediterranean, invaded the coast of Canaan and confronted the Israelites in the interior. It was from the Philistines that Palestine derived its name, preserved intact in the modern Arabic word falastin.
Late in the eleventh century B.C., the Israelite tribes submitted to the rule of the warrior-king Saul. Under his successor David (ca. 1000-965 or 961 B.C.), Israel consolidated its holdings west of the Jordan River, contained the Philistines on the coast, and expanded beyond the old tribal lands on the East Bank. Ancient Israel reached the peak of its political influence under David's son, Solomon (965-928 B.C. or 961-922 B.C.), who extended the borders of his realm from the upper Euphrates in Syria to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south. Solomon, the first biblical figure for whom historical records exist outside the Bible, exploited the mineral wealth of Edom, controlled the desert caravan routes, and built the port at Elat to receive spice shipments from southern Arabia. With Solomon's passing, however, his much reduced realm divided into two rival Jewish kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah (Judea), with its capital at Jerusalem, in the south. The history of the Jordan region over the next two centuries was one of constant conflict between the Jewish kingdoms and the kingdoms on the East Bank.
In 722 B.C. Israel fell to the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser, ruler of a mighty military empire centered on the upper Tigris River. As a result, the Israelites were deported from their country. Judah preserved its political independence as a tributary of Assyria, while the rest of the Jordan region was divided into Assyrian-controlled provinces that served as a buffer to contain the desert tribes--a function that would be assigned to the area by a succession of foreign rulers.
Assyria was conquered in 612 B.C. and its empire was absorbed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in Mesopotamia. Judah was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and carried off most of the Jewish population to Babylon. Within fifty years, however, Babylon was conquered by the Persian Cyrus II. The Jews were allowed to return to their homeland, which, with the rest of the Jordan region, became part of the Achaemenid Empire.
The Achaemenids dominated the whole of the Middle East for two centuries until the rise of Macedonian power under Alexander the Great. With a small but well-trained army, Alexander crossed into Asia in 334 B.C., defeated Persia's forces, and within a few years had built an empire that stretched from the Nile River to the Indus River in contemporary Pakistan. After his death in 323 B.C., Alexander's conquests were divided among his Macedonian generals. The Ptolemaic Dynasty of pharaohs in Egypt and the line of Seleucid kings in Syria were descended from two of these generals.
Between the third century B.C. and the first century A.D., the history of Jordan was decisively affected by three peoples: Jews, Greeks, and Nabataeans. The Jews, many of whom were returning from exile in Babylonia, settled in southern Gilead. Along with Jews from the western side of the Jordan and Jews who had remained in the area, they founded closely settled communities in what later became known in Greek as the Peraea. The Greeks were mainly veterans of Alexander's military campaigns who fought one another for regional hegemony. The Nabataeans were Arabs who had wandered from the desert into Edom in the seventh century B.C. Shrewd merchants, they monopolized the spice trade between Arabia and the Mediterranean. By necessity experts at water conservation, they also proved to be accomplished potters, metalworkers, stone masons, and architects. They adopted the use of Aramaic, the Semitic lingua franca in Syria and Palestine, and belonged entirely to the cultural world of the Mediterranean.
In 301 B.C. the Jordan region came under the control of the Ptolemies. Greek settlers founded new cities and revived old ones as centers of Hellenistic culture. Amman was renamed Philadelphia in honor of the pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphus. Urban centers assumed a distinctly Greek character, easily identified in their architecture, and prospered from their trade links with Egypt.
The East Bank was also a frontier against the rival dynasty of the Seleucids, who in 198 B.C. displaced the Ptolemies throughout Palestine. Hostilities between the Ptolemies and Seleucids enabled the Nabataeans to extend their kingdom northward from their capital at Petra (biblical Sela) and to increase their prosperity based on the caravan trade with Syria and Arabia.
The new Greek rulers from Syria instituted an aggressive policy of Hellenization among their subject peoples. Efforts to suppress Judaism sparked a revolt in 166 B.C. led by Judas (Judah) Maccabaeus, whose kinsmen in the next generation reestablished an independent Jewish kingdom under the rule of the Hasmonean Dynasty. The East Bank remained a battleground in the continuing struggle between the Jews and the Seleucids.
By the first century B.C., Roman legions under Pompey methodically removed the last remnants of the Seleucids from Syria, converting the area into a full Roman province. The new hegemony of Rome caused upheaval and eventual revolt among the Jews while it enabled the Nabataeans to prosper. Rival claimants to the Hasmonean throne appealed to Rome in 64 B.C. for aid in settling the civil war that divided the Jewish kingdom. The next year Pompey, fresh from implanting Roman rule in Syria, seized Jerusalem and installed the contender most favorable to Rome as a client king. On the same campaign, Pompey organized the Decapolis, a league of ten self- governing Greek cities also dependent on Rome that included Amman, Jarash, and Gadara (modern Umm Qays), on the East Bank. Roman policy there was to protect Greek interests against the encroachment of the Jewish kingdom.
When the last member of the Hasmonean Dynasty died in 37 B.C., Rome made Herod king of Judah. With Roman backing, Herod (37-34 B.C.) ruled on both sides of the Jordan River. After his death the Jewish kingdom was divided among his heirs and gradually absorbed into the Roman Empire.
In A.D. 106 Emperor Trajan formally annexed the satellite Nabataean kingdom, organizing its territory within the new Roman province of Arabia that included most of the East Bank of the Jordan River. For a time, Petra served as the provincial capital. The Nabataeans continued to prosper under direct Roman rule, and their culture, now thoroughly Hellenized, flourished in the second and third centuries A.D. Citizens of the province shared a legal system and identity in common with Roman subjects throughout the empire. Roman ruins seen in present-day Jordan attest to the civic vitality of the region, whose cities were linked to commercial centers throughout the empire by the Roman road system and whose security was guaranteed by the Roman army.
After the administrative partition of the Roman Empire in 395, the Jordan region was assigned to the eastern or Byzantine Empire, whose emperors ruled from Constantinople. Christianity, which had become the recognized state religion in the fourth century, was widely accepted in the cities and towns but never developed deep roots in the countryside, where it coexisted with traditional religious practices.
In the sixth century direct control over the Jordan region and much of Syria was transferred to the Ghassanids, Christian Arabs loyal to the Byzantine Empire. The mission of these warrior-nomads was to defend the desert frontier against the Iranian Sassanian Empire to the east as well as against Arab tribes to the south; in practice, they were seldom able to maintain their claim south of Amman. The confrontations between Syrian, or northern, Arabs-- represented by the Ghassanids--and the fresh waves of nomads moving north out of the Arabian Peninsula was not new to the history of the Jordan region and continued to manifest itself into the modern era. Contact with the Christian Ghassanids was an important source of the impulse to monotheism that flowed back into Arabia with the nomads, preparing the ground there for the introduction of Islam.
By the time of his death in A.D. 632, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers had brought most of the tribes and towns of the Arabian Peninsula under the banner of the new monotheistic religion of Islam (literally, submission), which was conceived of as uniting the individual believer, the state, and the society under the omnipotent will of God. Islamic rulers therefore exercised both temporal and religious authority. Adherents of Islam, called Muslims (those who submit to the will of God), collectively formed the House of Islam, or Dar al Islam.
Arab armies carried Islam north and east from Arabia in the wake of their rapid conquest, and also westward across North Africa. In 633, the year after Muhammad's death, they entered the Jordan region, and in 636, under Khalid ibn al Walid, they crushed the Byzantine army at the Battle of Uhud at the Yarmuk River. Jerusalem was occupied in 638, and by 640 all Syria was in Arab Muslim hands. Conversion to Islam was nearly complete among Arabs on the East Bank, although the small Jewish community in Palestine and groups of Greek and Arab Christians were allowed to preserve their religious identities. Arabic soon supplanted Greek and Aramaic as the primary language of the region's inhabitants in both town and countryside.
Muhammad was succeeded as spiritual and temporal leader of all Muslims by his father-in-law, Abu Bakr, who bore the title caliph (successor or deputy) for two years. Under Umar (A.D. 634-44), the caliphate began efforts to organize a government in areas newly conquered by the Muslims. The Quran, Islam's sacred scripture, was compiled during the caliphate of Uthman (644-56), whose reign was brought to an end by an assassin. Uthman was succeeded by Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali, the last of the four socalled orthodox caliphs, who was also assassinated in 661.
A dispute over the caliphal succession led to a permanent schism that split Islam into two major branches--the Sunni and the Shia. The Shias supported the hereditary claim of Ali and his direct descendants, whereas the Sunnis favored the principle of consensual election of the fittest from the ranks of the ashraf (or shurfa--nobles; sing., sharif). Muslims in the Jordan region are predominantly Sunni.
After Ali's murder, Muawiyah--the governor of Syria and leader of a branch of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh of Mecca--proclaimed himself caliph and founded a dynasty--the Umayyad--that made its capital in Damascus. The Umayyad caliphs governed their vast territories in a personal and authoritarian manner. The caliph, assisted by a few ministers, held absolute and final authority but delegated extensive executive powers to provincial governors. Religious judges (qadis) administered Islamic law (sharia) to which all other considerations, including tribal loyalties, were theoretically subordinated.
The Umayyad Dynasty was overthrown in 750 by a rival Sunni faction, the Abbasids, who moved the capital of the caliphate to Baghdad. The Jordan region became even more of a backwater, remote from the center of power. Its economy declined as trade shifted from traditional caravan routes to seaborne commerce, although the pilgrim caravans to Mecca became an important source of income. Depopulation of the towns and the decay of sedentary agricultural communities, already discernible in the late Byzantine period, accelerated in districts where pastoral Arab beduins, constantly moving into the area from the south, pursued their nomadic way of life. Late in the tenth century A.D. the Jordan region was wrested from the Abbasids by the Shia Fatimid caliphs in Egypt. The Fatimids were in turn displaced after 1071 by the Seljuk Turks, who had gained control of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.
The Seljuk threat to the Byzantine Empire and a desire to seize the holy places in Palestine from the Muslims spurred the Christian West to organize the First Crusade, which culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. The crusaders subsequently established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, a feudal state that extended its hold to the East Bank. The crusaders used the term Outre Jourdain (Beyond Jordan) to describe the area across the river from Palestine--an area that was defended by a line of formidable castles like that at Al Karak.
In 1174 Salah ad Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub--better known in the West as Saladin--deposed the last Fatimid caliph, whom he had served as grand vizier, and seized power as sultan of Egypt. A Sunni scholar and experienced soldier of Kurdish origin, Saladin soon directed his energies against the crusader states in Palestine and Syria. At the decisive Battle of Hattin on the west shore of Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), Saladin annihilated the crusaders' army in 1187 and soon afterward retook Jerusalem.
Saladin's successors in the Ayyubid Sultanate quarreled among themselves, and Saladin's conquests broke up into squabbling petty principalities. The Ayyubid Dynasty was overthrown in 1260 by the Mamluks (a caste of slave-soldiers, mostly of Kurdish and Circassian origin), whose warrior-sultans repelled the Mongol incursions and by the late fourteenth century held sway from the Nile to the Euphrates. Their power, weakened by factionalism within their ranks, contracted during the next century in the face of a dynamic new power in the Middle East--the Ottoman Turks.
Mamluk Egypt and its possessions fell to the Ottoman sultan, Selim I, in 1517. The Jordan region, however, stagnated under Ottoman rule. Although the pilgrim caravans to Mecca continued to be an important source of income, the East Bank was largely forgotten by the outside world for more than 300 years until European travelers "rediscovered" it in the nineteenth century.
For administrative purposes Ottoman domains were divided into provinces (vilayets) that were presided over by governors (pashas). The governors ruled with absolute authority, but at the pleasure of the sultan in Constantinople. Palestine was part of the vilayet of Beirut, and Jerusalem was administered as a separate district (sanjak) that reported directly to the sultan. The East Bank comprised parts of the vilayets of Beirut and Damascus. The latter was subdivided into four sanjaks: Hama, Damascus, Hawran, and Al Karak. Hawran included Ajlun and As Salt and Al Karak comprised the area mostly south of Amman. The territory south of the Az Zarqa River down to Wadi al Mawjib was under the control of the pasha of Nabulus, who was under the vilayet of Beirut.
From 1831 until 1839, Ottoman rule was displaced by that of Muhammad Ali--pasha of Egypt and nominally subject to the sultan-- when his troops occupied the region during a revolt against the Sublime Porte, as the Ottoman government came to be known. Britain and Russia compelled Muhammad Ali to withdraw and they restored the Ottoman governors.
The Ottomans enforced sharia in the towns and settled countryside, but in the desert customary tribal law also was recognized. Because of the unitary nature of Islamic law-- encompassing religious, social, civil, and economic life--it was inconceivable that it could be applied to non-Muslims. The Ottoman regime used the millet system, which accorded non-Muslim communities the right to manage their personal affairs according to their own religious laws. The European powers also concluded separate treaties (capitulations) with the Porte whereby their consuls received extraterritorial legal jurisdiction over their citizens and clients in the Ottoman Empire. In addition, France claimed the special right to protect the sultan's Roman Catholic subjects, and Russia to protect the sultan's more numerous Orthodox subjects.
At every level of the Ottoman system, administration was essentially military in character. On the East Bank, however, Ottoman rule was lax and garrisons were small. Ottoman officials were satisfied as long as order was preserved, military levies were provided when called for, and taxes were paid. These goals, however, were not easily achieved. To stabilize the population, in the late 1800s the Ottomans established several small colonies of Circassians--Sunni Muslims who had fled from the Caucasus region of Russia in the 1860s and 1870s. Although the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople was the caliph, Ottoman officials and soldiers were despised by the Arabs, who viewed them as foreign oppressors. Truculent shaykhs regularly disrupted the peace, and the fiercely independent beduins revolted frequently. In 1905 and again in 1910, serious uprisings were suppressed only with considerable difficulty.
In 1900 the Porte, with German assistance, began construction of the Hijaz Railway. By 1908 the railroad linked Damascus with the holy city of Medina. Its purpose was to transport Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and to facilitate military control of the strategic Arabian Peninsula. To protect the railroad, the Porte increased its Ottoman military presence along the route and, as it had done earlier to safeguard caravan traffic, subsidized rival Arab tribal shaykhs in the region.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, two separate movements developed that were to have continuing effects for all of the Middle East--the Arab revival and Zionism. Both movements aimed at uniting their peoples in a national homeland. They were to converge and confront each other in Palestine where, it was initially thought by some, they could each achieve their aspirations in an atmosphere of mutual accommodation. The two movements would, in fact, prove incompatible.
By 1875 a small group of Western-oriented Muslim and Christian Arab intellectuals in Beirut were urging the study of Arab history, literature, and language to revive Arab identity. By means of secretly printed and circulated publications they attempted to expose the harsh nature of Ottoman rule and to arouse an Arab consciousness in order to achieve greater autonomy or even independence. The idea of independence always was expressed in the context of a unified entity--"the Arab nation" as a whole. After only a few years, however, Ottoman security operations had stifled the group's activities.
At about the same time, a Jewish revival was finding expression in Europe that called for the return of the Jews in the Diaspora to their historic homeland. The impulse and development of Zionism were almost exclusively the work of European Jews. In 1897 Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, where the Zionist Organization was founded with the stated aim of creating "for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." As a result of Zionist efforts, the number of Jews in Palestine rose dramatically to about 85,000, or 12 percent of the total population, by the start of World War I.
The increased Jewish presence and the different customs of the new settlers aroused Arab hostility. The rising tension between Jewish settler and Arab peasant did not, however, lead to the establishment of Arab nationalist organizations. In the Ottomancontrolled Arab lands the Arab masses were bound by family, tribal, and Islamic ties; the concepts of nationalism and nation-state were viewed as alien Western categories. Thus, a political imbalance evolved between the highly organized and nationalistic Jewish settlers and the relatively unorganized indigenous Arab population.
A few Western-educated Arab intellectuals and military officers did form small nationalist organizations demanding greater local autonomy. The primary moving force behind this nascent Arab nationalist movement was opposition to the policies of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
In 1908 a group of reform-minded nationalist army officers in Constantinople, known as the Young Turks, forced Sultan Abdul Hamid II to restore the 1876 Ottoman constitution. The next year the Young Turks deposed Hamid in favor of his malleable brother, Mehmed V. Under the constitution, Ottoman provinces were represented by delegates elected to an imperial parliament. The restoration of the constitution and installation of Mehmed V initially generated a wave of good feeling among the empire's non-Turkish subjects and stimulated expectations of greater self-government.
It soon became clear, however, that the Young Turks, led by Enver Pasha, were bent instead on further centralizing the Ottoman administration and intensifying the "Turkification" of the Ottoman domains. Arab opposition to the Turkish nationalist policies asserted itself in two separate arenas: among urban intellectuals and in the countryside. One source of opposition developed among Arab intellectuals in Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus, who formulated the ideas of a new Arab nationalism. The primary moving force behind this nascent Arab nationalist movement was opposition to the policies of Sultan Abdul Hamid. The removal of Sultan Abdul Hamid by the Committee of Union and Progress (the umbrella organization of which the Young Turks was the major element) was widely supported by Arab nationalists. The committee's program of institutional reform and promised autonomy raised Arab nationalist hopes.
After 1908, however, it quickly became clear that the nationalism of Abdul Hamid's successors was Turkish nationalism bent on Turkification of the Ottoman domain rather than on granting local autonomy. In response, Arab urban intellectuals formed clandestine political societies such as the Ottoman Decentralization Party, based in Cairo; Al Ahd (The Covenant Society), formed primarily by army officers in 1914; and Jamiat al Arabiyah al Fatat (The Young Arab Society), known as Al Fatat (The Young Arabs), formed by students in 1911. The Arab nationalism espoused by these groups, however, lacked support among the Arab masses.
A more traditional form of opposition emerged among the remote desert tribes of Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula, which were politically inarticulate but resentful of foreign control. The link between the urban political committees and the desert tribesmen was Hussein ibn Ali Al Hashimi, the grand sharif and amir of Mecca and hereditary custodian of the Muslim holy places. Hussein, head of the Hashimite branch of the Quraysh tribe, claimed descent from the Prophet. Hussein and his sons Abdullah and Faisal (who had been educated as members of the Ottoman elite as well as trained for their roles as Arab chieftains) had spent the years 1893 to 1908 under enforced restraint in Constantinople. In 1908 Abdul Hamid II appointed Hussein amir of Mecca and allowed him and his sons to return to the Hijaz, the western part of present-day Saudi Arabia. Some sources contend that Hussein's nomination was suggested by the Young Turks, who believed that he would be a stabilizing influence there, particularly if he were indebted to them for his position. In his memoirs, however, Abdullah stated that Abdul Hamid II named his father in preference to a candidate proposed by the Young Turks. Hussein reportedly asked for the appointment on the ground that he had an hereditary right to it. From the outset, Abdullah wrote, his father was at odds with the attempts of the Young Turk regime to bring the Hijaz under the centralized and increasingly secularized administration in Constantinople. Once in office, Hussein proved less tractable than either the sultan or the Turkish nationalists had expected.
Abdullah and Faisal established contact with the Arab nationalists in Syria. Faisal delivered to his father the so-called Damascus Protocol in which the nationalists, who appealed to Hussein as "Father of the Arabs" to deliver them from the Turks, set out the demands for Arab independence that were used by Faisal in his subsequent negotiations with the British. In return, the nationalists accepted the Hashimites as spokesmen for the Arab cause.
On the eve of World War I, the anticipated break-up of the enfeebled Ottoman Empire raised hopes among Arab nationalists. The Arab nationalists wanted an independent Arab state covering all the Ottoman Arab domains. The nationalist ideal, however, was not very unified; even among articulate Arabs, competing visions of Arab nationalism--Islamic, pan-Arab, and statist--inhibited coordinated efforts at independence.
Britain, in possession of the Suez Canal and playing a dominant role in India and Egypt, attached great strategic importance to the region. British Middle East policy, however, espoused conflicting objectives; as a result, London became involved in three distinct and contradictory negotiations concerning the fate of the region.
In February 1914, Abdullah visited Cairo, where he held talks with Lord Kitchener, the senior British official in Egypt. Abdullah inquired about the possibility of British support should his father raise a revolt against the Turks. Kitchener's reply was necessarily noncommittal because Britain then considered the Ottoman Empire a friendly power. War broke out in August, however, and by November the Ottoman Empire had aligned with Germany against Britain and its allies. Kitchener was by then British secretary of state for war and, in the changed circumstances, sought Arab support against the Turks. In Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner and Kitchener's successor in Egypt, carried on an extensive correspondence with Hussein.
In a letter to McMahon in July 1915, Hussein specified that the area under his independent "Sharifian Arab Government" should consist of the Arabian Peninsula (except Aden, a British colony), Palestine, Lebanon, Syria (including present-day Jordan), and Iraq. In October McMahon replied on behalf of the British government. McMahon declared British support for postwar Arab independence, subject to certain reservations, and "exclusions of territory not entirely Arab or concerning which Britain was not free to act without detriment to the interests of her ally France." The territories assessed by the British as not purely Arab included "the districts of Mersin and Alexandretta, and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo."
As with the later Balfour Declaration, the exact meaning of the McMahon pledge was unclear, although Arab spokesmen have usually maintained that Palestine was within the area guaranteed independence as an Arab state. In June 1916, Hussein launched the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire and in October proclaimed himself "king of the Arabs," although the Allies recognized him only as king of the Hijaz, a title rejected by most peninsular Arabs. Britain provided supplies and money for the Arab forces led by Abdullah and Faisal. British military advisers also were detailed from Cairo to assist the Arab army that the brothers were organizing. Of these advisers, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was to become the best known.
While Hussein and McMahon corresponded over the fate of the Middle East, the British were conducting secret negotiations with the French and the Russians over the same territory. Following the British military defeat at the Dardanelles in 1915, the Foreign Office sought a new offensive in the Middle East, which it thought could only be carried out by reassuring the French of Britain's intentions in the region. In February 1916, the Sykes-Picot Agreement (officially the "Asia Minor Agreement") was signed, which, contrary to the contents of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, proposed to partition the Middle East into French and British zones of control and interest. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Palestine was to be administered by an international "condominium" of the British, French, and Russians, whereas Transjordan would come under British influence.
The final British pledge, and the one that formally committed Britain to the Zionist cause, was the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. The Balfour Declaration stated that Britain viewed with favor "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People." After the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Palestine had taken on increased strategic importance because of its proximity to the Suez Canal, where the British garrison had reached 300,000 men, and because of the planned British attack from Egypt on Ottoman Syria. As early as March 1917, Lloyd George was determined that Palestine should become British and he thought that its conquest by British troops would abrogate the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The new British strategic thinking viewed the Zionists as a potential ally capable of safeguarding British imperial interests in the region.
The British pledge transformed Zionism from a quixotic dream into a legitimate and achievable undertaking. For these reasons the Balfour Declaration was widely criticized throughout the Arab world, and especially in Palestine, as contrary to the British pledges contained in the Hussein-MacMahon correspondence. The wording of the document itself, although painstakingly devised, was interpreted differently by different people. Ultimately, it was found to contain two incompatible undertakings: establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews and preservation of the rights of existing non-Jewish communities. The incompatibility of these two goals sharpened over the succeeding years and became irreconcilable.
In November 1917, the contents of the Sykes-Picot Agreement were revealed by the Bolshevik government in Russia. Arab consternation at the agreement was palliated by British and French reassurances that their commitments to the Arabs would be honored and by the fact that Allied military operations were progressing favorably. Hussein had driven the Turkish garrison out of Mecca in the opening weeks of the Arab Revolt. Faisal's forces captured Al Aqabah in July 1917, and the British expeditionary force under General Sir (later Field Marshal Viscount) Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem in December. Faisal accepted the military subordination of his army to overall British command, but for him the fighting was essentially a war of liberation in which Britain was actively cooperating with the Arabs. The British command, however, considered the Arab army an adjunct to the Allied offensive in Palestine, intended primarily to draw Turkish attention to the East Bank while Allenby mopped up resistance in Galilee and prepared for a strike at Damascus. In September 1918, the British army decisively defeated the Turks at Megiddo (in contemporary Israel), and an Arab force under Lawrence captured Daraa, thus opening the way for the advance into Syria. Faisal entered Damascus on October 2, and the Ottoman government consented to an armistice on October 31, bringing the war in that theater to a close.
Between January 1919 and January 1920, the Allied Powers met in Paris to negotiate peace treaties with the Central Powers. At the conference, Amir Faisal (representing the Arabs) and Chaim Weizmann (representing the Zionists) set forth their cases. Weizmann and Faisal reached a separate agreement on January 3, 1919, pledging the two parties to cordial cooperation; however, Faisal wrote a proviso on the document in Arabic that his signature depended upon Allied war pledges regarding Arab independence. Since these pledges were not fulfilled to Arab satisfaction after the war, most Arab leaders and spokesmen have not considered the Faisal-Weizmann agreement as binding.
President Woodrow Wilson appointed an American panel, the King- Crane Commission, to investigate the disposition of Ottoman territories and the assigning of mandates. After extensive surveys in Palestine and Syria, the commission reported intense opposition to the Balfour Declaration among the Arab majority in Palestine and advised against permitting unlimited Jewish immigration or the creation of a separate Jewish state. The commission's report in August 1919 was not officially considered by the conference, however, and was not made public until 1922.
Mandate allocations making Britain the mandatory power for Palestine (including the East Bank and all of present-day Jordan) and Iraq, and making France the mandatory power for the area of Syria and Lebanon, were confirmed in April 1920 at a meeting of the Supreme Allied Council at San Remo, Italy. The terms of the Palestine Mandate reaffirmed the Balfour Declaration, called on the mandatory power to "secure establishment of the Jewish national home," and recognized "an appropriate Jewish agency" to advise and cooperate with British authorities toward that end. The Zionist Organization was specifically recognized as that agency. Hussein and his sons opposed the mandate's terms on the ground that Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant adopted at Versailles had endorsed the Wilsonian principle of self-determination of peoples and thereby, they maintained, logically and necessarily supported the cause of the Arab majority in Palestine.
For the British government, pressed with heavy responsibilities and commitments after World War I, the objective of mandate administration was the peaceful development of Palestine by Arabs and Jews under British control. To Hussein, cooperation with the Zionists had meant no more than providing a refuge for Jews within his intended Arab kingdom. To Zionist leaders, the recognition in the mandate was simply a welcome step on the way to attainment of a separate Jewish national state. A conflict of interests between Arabs and Jews and between both sides and the British developed early in Palestine and continued thereafter at a rising tempo throughout the mandate period.
After the armistice, the Allies organized the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration to provide an interim government for Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. In July 1919, the General Syrian Congress convened in Damascus and called for Allied recognition of an independent Syria, including Palestine, with Faisal as its king. When no action was taken on the proposal, the congress in March 1920 unilaterally proclaimed Syria independent and confirmed Faisal as king. Iraqi representatives similarly announced their country's independence as a monarchy under Abdullah. The League of Nations Council rejected both pronouncements, and in April the San Remo Conference decided on enforcing the Allied mandates in the Middle East. French troops occupied Damascus in July, and Faisal was served with a French ultimatum to withdraw from Syria. He went into exile, but the next year was installed by the British as king of Iraq.
At the same time, Abdullah was organizing resistance against the French in Syria, arousing both French ire and British consternation. Assembling a motley force of about 2,000 tribesmen, he moved north from Mecca, halting in Amman in March 1920. In October the British high commissioner for Palestine called a meeting of East Bank shaykhs at As Salt to discuss the future of the region, whose security was threatened by the incursion of Wahhabi sectarians (adherents of a puritanical Muslim sect who stressed the unity of God) from Najd in the Arabian Peninsula. It became clear to the British that Abdullah, who remained in Amman, could be accepted as a ruler by the beduin tribes and in that way be dissuaded from involving himself in Syria.
In March 1921, Winston Churchill, then British colonial secretary, convened a high-level conference in Cairo to consider Middle East policy. As a result of these deliberations, Britain subdivided the Palestine Mandate along the Jordan River-Gulf of Aqaba line. The eastern portion--called Transjordan--was to have a separate Arab administration operating under the general supervision of the commissioner for Palestine, with Abdullah appointed as amir. At a follow-up meeting in Jerusalem with Churchill, High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, and Lawrence, Abdullah agreed to abandon his Syrian project in return for the amirate and a substantial British subsidy.
A British government memorandum in September 1922, approved by the League of Nations Council, specifically excluded Jewish settlement from the Transjordan area of the Palestine Mandate. The whole process was aimed at satisfying wartime pledges made to the Arabs and at carrying out British responsibilities under the mandate.
At its inception in 1921, the Amirate of Transjordan had fewer than 400,000 inhabitants. Of this number, about 20 percent lived in four towns each having populations of from 10,000 to 30,000. The balance were farmers in village communities and pastoral nomadic and seminomadic tribespeople. The amirate's treasury operated on British financial aid established on the basis of an annual subsidy. A native civil service was gradually trained with British assistance, but government was simple, and Abdullah ruled directly with a small executive council, much in the manner of a tribal shaykh. British officials handled the problems of defense, finance, and foreign policy, leaving internal political affairs to Abdullah. To supplement the rudimentary police in 1921, a reserve Arab force was organized by F. G. Peake, a British officer known to the Arabs as Peake Pasha. This Arab force soon was actively engaged in suppressing brigandage and repelling raids by the Wahhabis. In 1923 the police and reserve force were combined into the Arab Legion as a regular army under Peake's command.
In 1923 Britain recognized Transjordan as a national state preparing for independence. Under British sponsorship, Transjordan made measured progress along the path to modernization. Roads, communications, education, and other public services slowly but steadily developed, although not as rapidly as in Palestine, which was under direct British administration. Tribal unrest remained a persistent problem, reaching serious proportions in 1926 in the Wadi Musa-Petra area. In the same year, Britain attached senior judicial advisers to Abdullah's government, and formed the Transjordan Frontier Force. This body was a locally recruited unit of the British Army assigned to guard the frontier and was distinct from the Arab Legion.
Britain and Transjordan took a further step in the direction of self-government in 1928, when they agreed to a new treaty that relaxed British controls while still providing for Britain to oversee financial matters and foreign policy. The two countries agreed to promulgate a constitution--the Organic Law--later the same year, and in 1929 to install the Legislative Council in place of the old executive council. In 1934 a new agreement with Britain allowed Abdullah to set up consular representation in Arab countries, and in 1939 the Legislative Council formally became the amir's cabinet, or council of ministers.
In 1930, with British help, Jordan launched a campaign to stamp out tribal raiding among the beduins. A British officer, John Bagot Glubb (better known as Glubb Pasha), came from Iraq to be second in command of the Arab Legion under Peake. Glubb organized a highly effective beduin desert patrol consisting of mobile detachments based at strategic desert forts and equipped with good communications facilities. When Peake retired in 1939, Glubb succeeded to full command of the Arab Legion.
Abdullah was a faithful ally to Britain during World War II. Units of the Arab Legion served with distinction alongside British forces in 1941 overthrowing the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali regime that had seized power in Iraq and defeating the Vichy French in Syria. Later, elements of the Arab Legion were used in guarding British installations in Egypt.
During the war years, Abdullah--who never surrendered his dream of a Greater Syria under a Hashimite monarchy--took part in the inter-Arab preliminary discussions that resulted in the formation of the League of Arab States (Arab League) in Cairo in March 1945. The original members of the League of Arab States were Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen.
In March 1946, Transjordan and Britain concluded the Treaty of London, under which another major step was taken toward full sovereignty for the Arab state. Transjordan was proclaimed a kingdom, and a new constitution replaced the obsolete 1928 Organic Law. Abdullah's application for membership in the UN was disapproved by a Soviet Union veto, which asserted that the country was not fully independent of British control. A further treaty with Britain was executed in March 1948, under which all restrictions on sovereignty were removed, although limited British base and transit rights in Transjordan continued, as did the British subsidy that paid for the Arab Legion.
By 1947 Palestine was one of the major trouble spots in the British Empire, requiring a presence of 100,000 troops to maintain peace and a huge maintenance budget. On February 18, 1947, Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin informed the House of Commons of the government's decision to present the Palestine problem to the UN. On May 15, 1947, a special session of the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), consisting of eleven members. UNSCOP reported on August 31 that a majority of its members supported a geographically complex system of partition into separate Arab and Jewish states, a special international status for Jerusalem, and an economic union linking the three members. Supported by both the United States and the Soviet Union, this plan was adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 1947. Although they considered the plan defective in terms of their expectations from the mandate agreed to by the League of Nations twenty-five years earlier, the Zionist General Council stated their willingness in principle to accept partition. The Arab League Council, meeting in December 1947, said it would take whatever measures were required to prevent implementation of the resolution. Abdullah was the only Arab ruler willing to consider acceptance of the UN partition plan.
Amid the increasing conflict, the UN Implementation Commission was unable to function. Britain thereupon announced its intention to relinquish the mandate and withdrew from Palestine on May 14, 1948. On the same day, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed in Jerusalem. Palestinian Arabs refused to set up a state in the Arab zone.
In quick succession, Arab forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia advanced into Israel. Except for the British-trained Arab Legion, they were composed of inexperienced and poorly led troops. Abdullah, the sole surviving leader of the Arab Revolt of World War I, accepted the empty title of commander in chief of Arab forces extended to him by the Arab League. His motive for ordering the Arab Legion into action was expressly to secure the portion of Palestine allocated to the Arabs by the 1947 UN resolution. The Arab Legion, concentrated on the East Bank opposite Jericho, crossed the Jordan on May 15 and quickly captured positions in East Jerusalem and its environs. The Legion also created a salient at Latrun northwest of Jerusalem to pinch the Israeli supply line into the city. Abdullah had been particularly insistent that his troops must take and hold the Old City of Jerusalem, which contained both Jerusalem's principal Muslim holy places and the traditional Jewish Quarter. Other Arab Legion units occupied Hebron to the south and fanned out through Samaria to the north (Samaria equates to the northern part of the West Bank). By the end of 1948, the areas held by the Arab Legion and the Gaza Strip, held by the Egyptians, were the only parts of the former Mandate of Palestine remaining in Arab hands.
Early in the conflict, on May 29, 1948, the UN Security Council established the Truce Commission headed by a UN mediator, Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, who was assassinated in Jerusalem on September 17, 1948. He was succeeded by Ralph Bunche, an American, as acting mediator. The commission, which later evolved into the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization-Palestine (UNTSOP), attempted to devise new settlement plans and arranged truces. Armistice talks were initiated with Egypt in January 1949, and an armistice agreement was established with Egypt on February 24, with Lebanon on March 23, with Transjordan on April 3, and with Syria on July 20. Iraq did not enter into an armistice agreement but withdrew its forces after turning over its positions to Transjordanian units.
The population of Transjordan before the war was about 340,000. As a result of the war, about 500,000 Palestinian Arabs took refuge in Transjordan or in the West Bank. Most of these people had to be accommodated in refugee camps, which were administered under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, set up in 1949. In addition there were about 500,000 indigenous residents of the West Bank.
In December 1948, Abdullah took the title of King of Jordan and in April 1949 he directed that the official name of the country-- East Bank and West Bank--be changed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a name found in the 1946 constitution but not until then in common use. In April 1950, elections were held in both the East Bank and the West Bank. Abdullah considered the results favorable, and he formally annexed the West Bank to Jordan, an important step that was recognized by only two governments: Britain and Pakistan. Within the Arab League, the annexation was not generally approved, and traditionalists and modernists alike condemned the move as a furtherance of Hashimite dynastic ambitions.
Abdullah continued to search for a long-term, peaceful solution with Israel, although for religious and security reasons he did not favor the immediate internationalization of Jerusalem. He found support for this position only from Hashimite kinsmen in Iraq. Nationalist propaganda, especially in Egypt and Syria, denounced him as a reactionary monarch and a tool of British imperialism.
The Arab League debates following the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank were inconclusive, and Abdullah continued to set his own course. The residual special relationship with Britain continued, helping to keep the East Bank relatively free from disturbance. Although not yet a member of the UN, Jordan supported the UN action in Korea and entered into an economic developmental aid agreement with the United States in March 1951, under President Harry S Truman's Point Four program.
On July 20, 1951, Abdullah was assassinated as he entered the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers. His grandson, fifteen-year-old Prince Hussein, was at his side. Before the assassin was killed by the king's guard, he also fired at Hussein. The assassin was a Palestinian reportedly hired by relatives of Hajj Amin al Husayni, a former mufti of Jerusalem and a bitter enemy of Abdullah, who had spent World War II in Germany as a proNazi Arab spokesman. Although many radical Palestinians blamed Abdullah for the reverses of 1948, there was no organized political disruption after his murder. The main political question confronting the country's leaders was the succession to the throne.
Abdullah's second son, Prince Naif, acted temporarily as regent, and some support existed for his accession to the throne. Naif's older brother, Prince Talal, was in Switzerland receiving treatment for a mental illness diagnosed as schizophrenia. It was widely believed that Abdullah would have favored Talal so that the succession might then pass more easily to Talal's son, Hussein. Accordingly, the government invited Talal to return and assume the duties of king. During his short reign, Talal promulgated a new Constitution in January 1952. Talal showed an inclination to improve relations with other Arab states, and Jordan joined the Arab League's Collective Security Pact, which Abdullah had rejected. Talal was popular among the people of the East Bank, who were not aware of his periodic seizures of mental illness. But the king's condition steadily worsened, and in August the prime minister recommended to a secret session of the Jordanian legislature that Talal be asked to abdicate in favor of Hussein. Talal acceded to the abdication order with dignity and retired to a villa near Istanbul, where he lived quietly until his death in 1972.
Hussein, who was a student at Harrow in Britain, returned immediately to Jordan. Under the Constitution he could not be crowned because he was under eighteen years of age, and a regency council was formed to act on his behalf. Before he came to the throne, he attended the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. When he was eighteen years old by the Muslim calendar, he returned to Jordan and in May 1953 formally took the constitutional oath as king.
The chief influences that guided the young Hussein were the example and teachings of his grandfather and his own education in conservative English schools. Although Jordan was a constitutional monarchy, as king Hussein had extensive legal powers. For example, the Constitution allowed him to dismiss the National Assembly and to appoint the prime minister and other ministers. In addition, he enjoyed the traditional support of the East Bank beduin tribes. Considered the backbone of the Hashimite monarchy, the Arab Legion was composed of intensely loyal beduins, whose equipment and salaries were paid for by Britain.
The majority of Jordan's population, however, did not consist of beduins. Between one-half and two-thirds of Hussein's subjects were Palestinians, whereas the government elite was mostly from the East Bank. This elite was more conservative and traditional in its political attitudes than the Palestinians, whose spokespersons often reflected a radical brand of Arab nationalism. In Cairo the successful coup d'état carried out by the Egyptian Free Officers movement (headed by Gamal Abdul Nasser) had overthrown the monarchy in July 1952 and established a republic. Palestinians, who generally blamed Britain, the United States, and the Hashimites for their misfortunes, regarded Nasser as a champion of Arab nationalism.
As border incidents with Israel escalated into a succession of reprisals and counterreprisals between Palestinian infiltrators and Israeli security forces, Hussein's problems grew. The Arab Legion tried to secure the armistice line and prevent infiltration, but its numbers were inadequate to provide complete and continuous coverage of the border. In response to the terrorist attacks, Israel adopted the technique of massive retaliation that often went deep into Jordanian territory.
In 1953 and early 1954, Israel tentatively accepted a United States plan (the Eric Johnston Plan) for distribution of the water taken from the Jordan River. Although the plan was recognized as technically sound from an engineering standpoint, ultimately it was rejected by Jordan and the other Arab states concerned because it involved cooperation with--and the implied recognition of--Israel. Given the stress of inter-Arab political relationships, it was impracticable for Jordan to initiate a settlement with Israel, even though there were strong incentives to do so.
Britain agreed to a new financial aid arrangement with Jordan in 1954 in which London evinced an interest in coordinating military and economic aid to Amman, with Jordanian participation, in the context of an overall Middle Eastern defense system. In February 1955, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan joined Britain in signing the Baghdad Pact, which ultimately became the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). A high-ranking British military delegation visited Amman to discuss conditions under which Jordan might also become a participant. The purpose of the visit was generally known, and Arab nationalist propaganda, especially from Palestinians and Radio Cairo, raised a storm of protest denouncing the pact and the monarchy as "tools of Western imperialism" and a "sellout to the Jews." In December Hussein asked Hazza al Majali to form a government. Majali came from a distinguished family of tribal shaykhs and was known to be pro-Western. Shortly after forming his cabinet, he stated unequivocally that he intended to take Jordan into the Baghdad Pact. Three days of demonstrations and rioting in Amman began after the announcement, and the Arab Legion was called in to restore order. The Majali government resigned after only a week in power, and it became clear that Jordan would not become a signatory of the Baghdad Pact.
In March 1956, Hussein, responding to the public reaction against joining the British-sponsored Baghdad Pact, attempted to show his independence from Britain by dismissing Glubb as commander of the Arab Legion. Glubb's dismissal precipitated a diplomatic crisis that threatened to isolate Hussein from his principal benefactor, Britain. Relations were strained for many years although the British subsidy was not withdrawn.
Hussein designated Ali Abu Nuwar, an officer known for his nationalist sympathies, as Glubb's successor in the Arab Legion. The name of the force was officially changed to the Jordan Arab Army, and British officers were phased out of the service.
Border incidents with Israel were a continuing source of anxiety in 1956. In October an Israeli task force, supported by aircraft and artillery, attacked the West Bank village of Qalqilyah, killing forty-eight persons in reprisal for a guerrilla attack in Israel. Palestinians clamored for war, and in this crisis atmosphere Jordanian politics ventured into anti-Western nationalism.
In the parliamentary elections of October 21, 1956, the National Socialist Party received a plurality of votes, and Hussein designated its leader, Sulayman Nabulsi, as prime minister. Several National Front Party (Communist Party of Jordan) members and members of the Baath Party (Arab Socialist Resurrection Party) also gained seats in the National Assembly, although independents and the older, conservative parties were represented about equally with the leftists and nationalists. Nabulsi was an ardent admirer of Nasser and shaped the policies of his government accordingly. Nonetheless, when Israel attacked Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula on October 29 and after British and French forces landed at Port Said on November 5, Nabulsi suddenly proved indecisive. Hussein proposed that Jordan attack Israel at once but Nasser discouraged him from wasting Jordan's forces in a war that by then was already lost. British participation in the attack on Egypt made it politically imperative that Jordan end its special relationship with Britain.
Under the Arab Solidarity Agreement that resulted from the Arab summit meeting in Cairo in January 1957, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria undertook to pay Jordan the equivalent of US$35.8 million annually for ten years, with Saudi Arabia paying an amount equivalent to that paid by Egypt and Syria together. The money would effectively free Jordan from the British subsidy. Saudi Arabia, however, made only one quarterly payment; Egypt and Syria made no payments. The Anglo-Jordanian Agreement of March 1957 abrogated the basic Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948, terminated the British subsidy, and initiated the turnover of British installations and the withdrawal of all British troops still in Jordan.
In early 1957, Jordan's internal political scene shaped up as a power struggle between the monarchy and the Nasserist Nabulsi government. Hussein and the conservatives suspected that Nabulsi was maneuvering to abolish the monarchy. Nabulsi began negotiations to open diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and obtain Soviet arms aid. As political tension increased, in April Hussein, exercising his constitutional prerogative, demanded the resignation of the Nabulsi government.
The situation was further confused when, commander of the Jordan Arab Army (then still popularly known in English as the Arab Legion), Ali Abu Nuwar made a statement to Said al Mufti, who was then attempting to form a caretaker government. Said al Mufti misinterpreted the statement to be an ultimatum that any new cabinet be approved by the army. A sequence of dramatic events followed that became known as the "Az Zarqa affair." The public in Amman, sensing the explosive political atmosphere, became restive. Rumors that the king was dead spread at the main army base at Az Zarqa. Taking Abu Nuwar with him, to demonstrate that he, the king, was very much alive and that he was in control, not Abu Nuwar, Hussein set off for Az Zarqa. En route he met several truckloads of troops, who were overjoyed at seeing the king alive but who demanded the execution of Abu Nuwar. At Abu Nuwar's request, Hussein allowed him to retreat to the safety of the royal palace. Continuing to Az Zarqa, Hussein spent several hours amid wildly enthusiastic troops anxious to demonstrate their loyalty to him and to the throne; he returned to Amman after reassuring and quieting the troops. On the next day, Abu Nuwar fled the country. During the balance of April, several cabinet crises occurred, as the remnants of the Nabulsi faction fought a rearguard action against Hussein. Ibrahim Hashim, a Hussein loyalist, eventually succeeded in forming a government and outlawed all political party activity.
Hussein had won a remarkable political victory. What had mattered most was the loyalty of the combat units of the army, and that loyalty clearly belonged to the king. But Jordan was beleaguered--Nasserites were arrayed against the king, the British subsidy was gone, the Arab Solidarity Agreement had evaporated, and the rift was wider than ever between the East Bank and the West Bank. To counteract these disabilities, Hussein unequivocally placed his country in the Western camp and sought a new source of aid--the United States.
The United States replaced Britain as Jordan's principal source of foreign aid, but it did so without a bilateral treaty or other formal alliance mechanisms. In April 1957, the White House officially noted that President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles regarded "the independence and integrity of Jordan as vital." Although Hussein did not specifically request aid under the Eisenhower Doctrine--by which the United States pledged military and economic aid to any country asking for help in resisting communist influence--he did state publicly that Jordan's security was threatened by communism. Within twenty-four hours of Hussein's request for economic assistance, Jordan received an emergency financial aid grant of US$10 million from the United States--the first of a long series of United States grants. Washington expanded existing development aid programs and initiated military aid.
In seeking a viable, long-term arrangement for political stability in the face of the hostile, Nasser-style revolutionary nationalism then prevalent in the Middle East, Jordan turned to neighboring Iraq. Iraq, far larger and more populous than Jordan, was also far wealthier because of its oil and other resources. Iraq had usually supported Jordan in Arab councils, although without deep involvement, since the 1948 war. Its conservative government had taken Iraq into the Baghdad Pact in 1955 to ensure continued Western support against the Soviet Union or, more particularly, against radical Arab movements.
On February 1, 1958, Egypt and Syria announced the integration of their two countries to form the United Arab Republic (UAR). This development was greeted with great enthusiasm by the new nationalist advocates of Arab unity, but it made the position of conservative or moderate regimes more perilous. The initial phase of Jordanian-Iraqi negotiation was quickly concluded, and on February 14, 1958, Hussein and his cousin, King Faisal II, issued a proclamation joining the Hashimite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan in a federation called the Arab Union. Faisal was to be head of state and Hussein deputy head of state.
The Arab Union, however, was short-lived. The Hashimite monarchy in Iraq was overthrown on July 14, 1958, in a swift, predawn coup executed by officers of the Nineteenth Brigade under the leadership of Brigadier Abd al Karim Qasim and Colonel Abd as Salaam Arif. The coup was triggered when King Hussein, fearing that an anti-Western revolt in Lebanon might spread to Jordan, requested Iraqi assistance. Instead of moving toward Jordan, Colonel Arif led a battalion into Baghdad and immediately proclaimed a new republic and the end of the old regime. An Iraqi motorized brigade under the command of Brigadier Qasim seized control of Baghdad. King Faisal and other members of the Iraqi royal family were murdered. Hussein, enraged and overcome by shock and grief, threatened to send the Jordanian army into Iraq to avenge Faisal's murder and restore the Arab Union. His civilian ministers, however, advised against taking this course. In Iraq the army and police supported the coup, and Qasim became president-dictator, taking Iraq out of the Arab Union and the Baghdad Pact.
Jordan was isolated as never before. Hussein appealed both to the United States and to Britain for help. The United States instituted an airlift of petroleum, and Britain flew troops into Amman to stabilize the regime. Ironically, these aircraft overflew Israel, because clearances for alternate routes over Arab countries could not be obtained in time. These events in Iraq and Jordan coincided with the landing of United States troops in Lebanon to bolster the regime there.
For some weeks, the political atmosphere in Jordan was explosive, but the government kept order through limited martial law. The army continued its unquestioning loyalty to the king, and the Israeli frontier remained quiet.
The ensuing two-year period of relative tranquility was broken in August 1960 when the pro-Western prime minister, Hazza al Majali who had been reappointed in May 1959, was killed by the explosion of a time bomb concealed in his desk. Analysts speculated that the conspirators expected the killing to generate a public uprising. It had precisely the opposite effect; beduin troops who moved into Amman maintained order, and Hussein appointed a new conservative prime minister, Bahjat at Talhuni. The plot was traced to Syria and further identified with Cairo. Four suspects were caught, convicted, and hanged, and the army made a show of force. In June 1961, Talhuni was replaced by Wasfi at Tal to improve relations with Egypt, after Cairo implicated Amman for influencing Damascus's decision to secede from the United Arab Republic.
By early 1964, Arab governments and Palestinian spokesmen had become alarmed by an Israeli project to draw water from Lake Tiberias to irrigate the Negev Desert. Nasser invited the Arab heads of state to attend a summit conference in Cairo in January 1964 at which the principal issue was the Jordan water question. Despite Syria's militant rhetoric, the conference rejected the idea of provoking a war because--it was argued--the Arab states lacked a unified military command. Instead, three alternative courses of action were approved: the diversion of the tributary sources of the Jordan River north of Lake Tiberias in Lebanon and Syria; the establishment of the United Arab Command under an Egyptian commander; and the recognition of the new Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by a former Jerusalem lawyer, Ahmad Shuqayri (also cited as Shukairi), as the representative of Palestinian resistance against Israel. The Cairo Conference of January 1964 ended in an euphoric atmosphere of goodwill and brotherhood.
Talhuni became prime minister for the second time in July 1964, pledging his government to implement the spirit of the Cairo Conference "according to the king's instructions." Jordan cultivated friendship with Egypt. In May 1965, Jordan joined nine other Arab states in breaking relations with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) because of its recognition of Israel. Jordan and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in August defining for the first time the boundary between the two countries. Under this agreement, Jordan gave up some territory in the southeast but was able to gain an extension of about eighteen kilometers down the gulf from the crowded port of Al Aqabah.
Almost from the start, trouble developed between the PLO and Hussein's government. Shuqayri, famous for his often hysterical political rhetoric, had organized the PLO in Jerusalem in 1964 with the objective of liberating Palestine in cooperation with all Arab states but without interfering in their internal affairs or claiming sovereignty in the West Bank. Conflict arose because the PLO attempted to assume quasi-governmental functions, such as taxing Palestinians and distributing arms to villagers in the West Bank and among the refugees, acts that infringed on Jordanian sovereignty. The guerrilla organization, Al Fatah, was formed in Damascus with Syrian assistance in December 1957, under the leadership of Yasir Arafat.
Jordanian policy since 1949 had been to avoid border incidents and terrorism that would generate Israeli reprisals. Al Fatah and the PLO, however, carried out raids and sabotage against Israel without clearance from either the United Arab Command or Jordan. These attacks, although planned in Syria, most often were launched into Israel by infiltration through Lebanon or Jordan. Israeli reprisals against selected West Bank targets became harsher and more frequent from May 1965 onward. Meanwhile, Syrian propaganda against Hussein became increasingly strident. In July 1966, when Hussein severed official endorsement and support for the PLO, both that organization and the Syrian government turned against him. In reprisal for the terrorist attacks by the fedayeen (Palestinian guerrillas), in November Israel assaulted the West Bank village of As Samu. Israel was censured by the UN, but public rioting against the Jordanian government broke out among the inhabitants of the West Bank. The levels of rioting exceeded any previous experience. As in the past, Hussein used the army to restore public order. Political pressure against Hussein mounted, however, along with armed clashes on the Syria-Jordan border.
Tension also mounted on the Syria-Israel border, where a land and air engagement took place on April 7, 1967. Syria and Jordan severely criticized Egypt for failing to send support. In mid-May Egypt commenced an extensive military build-up in Sinai in response to Syrian allegations that Syria was in imminent danger of invasion by Israel. Nasser declared a state of emergency on May 16 and two days later demanded removal of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from Sinai, where it had served as a peacekeeping force since 1957. The UN secretary general acceded to Nasser's demand.
On May 23-24, Nasser announced the closure to Israeli shipping of the Strait of Tiran at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, a measure that Israel immediately declared to be an act of war. Hussein quickly decided that this time it would be impossible for Jordan to stay out of the impending conflict. He hurriedly proceeded to Cairo and on May 30 signed a military alliance with Egypt. Hussein's move represented a response to political pressures at home and the fulfillment of basic pan-Arab commitments. The alliance put the Jordanian army under the field command of an Egyptian general officer.
On June 5, Israel launched a preemptive attack against Egyptian forces deployed in Sinai. The Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, attempted in vain to contact Hussein through UN channels to keep him out of the war. The Egyptian field marshal in overall command of Arab forces ordered Jordanian artillery to open fire on Israeli positions, and Jordan's small air force conducted a bombing raid in the Tel Aviv area. Within hours, however, Israeli warplanes had effectively eliminated the Arab air forces on the ground. After only two days of combat, Jordan's main armored unit had been defeated. Hard fighting continued, as Hussein was determined to hold as much ground as possible in the event that a cease-fire was arranged. By the time he agreed to a truce on June 7, Israeli forces had seized the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem.
Of all the Arab belligerents, Jordan, which could least afford it, lost most in the war. Government figures listed over 6,000 troops killed or missing. During the short war, about 224,000 refugees--many of whom had first been refugees from the 1948-49 war--fled from the West Bank to the East Bank. One-third to onehalf of the country's best agricultural land and its main tourist attractions were lost to Israel. On June 27, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) formally annexed the Old City of Jerusalem, an act that the United States and many other nations refused to recognize.
In the wake of the June 1967 War, Hussein's government faced the critical problems of repairing a shattered economy, providing for the welfare of the refugees, obtaining external aid, readjusting foreign policy, and rebuilding the armed forces. Internally, however, the major problem was the continuing confrontation with the several Palestinian guerrilla organizations.
The Arab League heads of state met in Khartoum at the end of August 1967. The conference reached four major decisions generally considered to represent the views of Arab moderates: resumption of oil production, which some oil-producing states had suspended during the war; continued nonrecognition of and nonnegotiation with Israel, individually and collectively; continued closure of the Suez Canal and the elimination of all foreign military bases in Arab territory; and provision of financial subsidies aid to Egypt and Jordan by Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Kuwait. The total annual subsidy promised for the indefinite future amounted to the equivalent of US$378 million, of which Jordan was to receive about US$112 million. Donor states at first regularly paid their shares in quarterly installments, but Libya and Kuwait withdrew their support to Jordan during the 1970-71 war between the Jordanian government and the fedayeen.
In addition to the Khartoum subsidies, Jordan also received grants from Qatar, and the shaykhdom of Abu Dhabi, and a special grant of US$42 million from Saudi Arabia for arms purchases. Aid also came from Britain and West Germany, with whom Jordan had resumed relations. Although direct United States aid had been terminated, substantial long-term government loans were extended to Jordan for emergency relief, development, and military assistance. In February 1968, the United States resumed arms shipments to Jordan. Jordan narrowly averted financial disaster.
After months of diplomatic wrangling, on November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 as a guideline for a Middle East settlement. The principal provisions of the resolution proclaimed the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war; withdrawal of Israeli forces from areas occupied in the June 1967 War; termination of all states of belligerency; acknowledgment of the sovereignty of all states in the area--including Israel--within secure and recognized boundaries; freedom of navigation on all international waterways in the area; and a just settlement of the refugee problem. Jordan, Egypt, and Israel all accepted this resolution in principle but each country interpreted it differently.
King Hussein has been the most consistent advocate of UN Resolution 242. He viewed it as the most viable means by which the Palestinian problem could be resolved while also preserving an important Jordanian role in the West Bank.
The intractability of the Palestinian problem has been due in large part to the widely differing perspectives that evolved after the June 1967 War. For the Israelis, in the midst of the nationalist euphoria that followed the war, talk of exchanging newly captured territories for peace had little public appeal. The government of Levi Eshkol followed a two-track policy with respect to the territories that would continue under future Labor Party governments: on the one hand, it stated a willingness to negotiate, while on the other, it laid plans to create Jewish settlements in the disputed territories. Thus, immediately following the war, Eshkol stated that he was willing to negotiate "everything" for a full peace, which would include free passage through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Tiran and a solution to the refugee problem in the context of regional cooperation. This was followed in November 1967 with his acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 242. At the same time, Eshkol's government announced plans for the resettlement of the Old City of Jerusalem, of the Etzion Bloc (kibbutzim on the Bethlehem-Hebron road wiped out by Palestinians in the 1948-49 War), and for kibbutzim in the northern sector of the Golan Heights. Plans also were unveiled for new neighborhoods around Jerusalem, near the old buildings of Hebrew University and near the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus.
The 1967 defeat radicalized the Palestinians, who had looked to the Arab countries to defeat first the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine before 1948), and after 1948 the State of Israel, so that they could regain their homeland. The PLO had no role in the June 1967 War. After the succession of Arab failures in conventional warfare against Israel, however, the Palestinians decided to adopt guerrilla warfare tactics as the most effective method of attacking and defeating Israel. In February 1969, Arafat (who remained the leader of Al Fatah) became head of the PLO. By early 1970, at least seven guerrilla organizations were identified in Jordan. One of the most important organizations was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) led by George Habash. Although the PLO sought to integrate these various groups and announced from time to time that this process had occurred, they were never effectively united.
At first by conviction and then by political necessity, Hussein sought accommodation with the fedayeen and provided training sites and assistance. In Jordan's internal politics, however, the main issue between 1967 and 1971 was the struggle between the government and the guerrilla organizations for political control of the country. Based in the refugee camps, the fedayeen virtually developed a state within a state, easily obtaining funds and arms from both the Arab states and Eastern Europe and openly flouting Jordanian law.
As the guerrilla effort mounted, Israel retaliated quickly and with increasing effectiveness. In March 1968, an Israeli brigade attacked the Jordanian village of Al Karamah, said to be the guerrilla capital. Although the brigade inflicted damage, it was driven back and in the process suffered substantial losses. The incident boosted Palestinian morale and gave the PLO instant prestige within the Arab community. In reprisal, Israel launched heavy attacks on Irbid in June 1968 and on As Salt in August. It soon became obvious to the PLO that the generally open terrain of the West Bank did not provide the kind of cover needed for classic guerrilla operations. Moreover, the Palestinian population residing in the territories had not formed any significant armed resistance against the Israeli occupation. By late 1968, the main fedayeen activities in Jordan seemed to shift from fighting Israel to attempts to overthrow Hussein.
A major guerrilla-government confrontation occurred in November 1968 when the government sought to disarm the refugee camps, but civil war was averted by a compromise that favored the Palestinians. The threat to Hussein's authority and the heavy Israeli reprisals that followed each guerrilla attack became a matter of grave concern to the King. His loyal beduin army attempted to suppress guerrilla activity, which led to sporadic outbursts of fighting between the fedayeen and the army during the first half of 1970. In June 1970, an Arab mediation committee intervened to halt two weeks of serious fighting between the two sides.
In June Hussein designated Abd al Munim Rifai to head a "reconciliation" cabinet that included more opposition elements than any other government since that of Nabulsi in 1957. Although the composition of the cabinet maintained a traditional balance between the East Bank and the West Bank, it included a majority of guerrilla sympathizers, particularly in the key portfolios of defense, foreign affairs, and interior. But the king's action did not reflect a new domestic policy; rather, it indicated Hussein's hope that a nationalist cabinet would support peace negotiations generated by a proposed UN peace mission to be conducted by Gunnar Jarring. On June 9, 1970, Rifai and Arafat signed an agreement conciliatory to the fedayeen. According to its provisions, the government allowed the commandos freedom of movement within Jordan, agreed to refrain from antiguerrilla action, and expressed its support for the fedayeen in the battle against Israel. In return, the commandos pledged to remove their bases from Amman and other major cities, to withdraw armed personnel from the Jordanian capital, and to show respect for law and order.
Small-scale clashes continued throughout the summer of 1970, however; and by early September, the guerrilla groups controlled several strategic positions in Jordan, including the oil refinery near Az Zarqa. Meanwhile, the fedayeen were also calling for a general strike of the Jordanian population and were organizing a civil disobedience campaign. The situation became explosive when, as part of a guerrilla campaign to undermine the Jarring peace talks to which Egypt, Israel, and Jordan had agreed, the PFLP launched an airplane hijacking campaign.
Within the space of two hours on September 6, PFLP gangs hijacked a TWA jet, a Swissair jet, and made an unsuccessful attempt to seize control of an El Al airplane. About two hours later, another PFLP group hijacked a Pan Am jet and forced the crew to fly to Beirut airport, where the airplane landed almost out of fuel. The next day the airliner was flown to the Cairo airport, where it was blown up only seconds after the 176 passengers and crew had completed their three-minute forced evacuation.
King Hussein viewed the hijackings as a direct threat to his authority in Jordan. In response, on September 16 he reaffirmed martial law and named Brigadier Muhammad Daud to head a cabinet composed of army officers. At the same time, the king appointed Field Marshal Habis al Majali, a fiercely proroyalist beduin, commander in chief of the armed forces and military governor of Jordan. Hussein gave Majali full powers to implement the martial law regulations and to quell the fedayeen. The new government immediately ordered the fedayeen to lay down their arms and to evacuate the cities. On the same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the PLO.
During a bitterly fought ten-day civil war, primarily between the PLA and Jordan Arab Army, Syria sent about 200 tanks to aid the fedayeen. On September 17, however, Iraq began a rapid withdrawal of its 12,000-man force stationed near Az Zarqa. The United States Navy dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean, and Israel undertook "precautionary military deployments" to aid Hussein, if necessary, against the guerrilla forces. Under attack from the Jordanian army and in response to outside pressures, the Syrian forces began to withdraw from Jordan on September 24, having lost more than half their armor in fighting with the Jordanians. The fedayeen found themselves on the defensive throughout Jordan and agreed on September 25 to a cease-fire. At the urging of the Arab heads of state, Hussein and Arafat signed the cease-fire agreement in Cairo on September 27. The agreement called for rapid withdrawal of the guerrilla forces from Jordanian cities and towns to positions "appropriate" for continuing the battle with Israel and for the release of prisoners by both sides. A supreme supervisory committee was to implement the provisions of the agreement. On September 26, Hussein appointed a new cabinet; however, army officers continued to head the key defense and interior ministries.
On October 13, Hussein and Arafat signed a further agreement in Amman, under which the fedayeen were to recognize Jordanian sovereignty and the king's authority, to withdraw their armed forces from towns and villages, and to refrain from carrying arms outside their camps. In return the government agreed to grant amnesty to the fedayeen for incidents that had occurred during the civil war.
The civil war caused great material destruction in Jordan, and the number of fighters killed on all sides was estimated as high as 3,500. In spite of the September and October agreements, fighting continued, particularly in Amman, Irbid, and Jarash, where guerrilla forces had their main bases. Hussein appointed Wasfi at Tal as his new prime minister and minister of defense to head a cabinet of fifteen civilian and two military members. The cabinet also included seven Palestinians. Tal, known to be a staunch opponent of the guerrilla movement, was directed by Hussein to comply with the cease-fire agreements; furthermore, according to Hussein's written directive, the government's policy was to be based on "the restoration of confidence between the Jordanian authorities and the Palestinian resistance movement, cooperation with the Arab states, the strengthening of national unity, striking with an iron hand at all persons spreading destructive rumors, paying special attention to the armed forces and the freeing of the Arab lands occupied by Israel in the war of June 1967." The closing months of 1970 and the first six months of 1971 were marked by a series of broken agreements and by continued battles between the guerrilla forces and the Jordanian army, which continued its drive to oust the fedayeen from the populated areas.
Persistent pressure by the army compelled the fedayeen to withdraw from Amman in April 1971. Feeling its existence threatened, Al Fatah abandoned its earlier posture of noninvolvement in the internal affairs of an Arab state and issued a statement demanding the overthrow of the Jordanian "puppet separatist authority." In a subsequent early May statement, it called for "national rule" in Jordan. Against this background of threats to his authority, Hussein struck at the remaining guerrilla forces in Jordan.
In response to rumors that the PLO was planning to form a government-in-exile, Hussein in early June directed Tal to "deal conclusively and without hesitation with the plotters who want to establish a separate Palestinian state and destroy the unity of the Jordanian and Palestinian people." On July 13, the Jordanian army undertook an offensive against fedayeen bases about fifty kilometers northwest of Amman in the Ajlun area--the fedayeen's last stronghold. Tal announced that the Cairo and Amman agreements, which had regulated relations between the fedayeen and the Jordanian governments, were no longer operative. On July 19, the government announced that the remainder of the bases in northern Jordan had been destroyed and that 2,300 of the 2,500 fedayeen had been arrested. A few days later, many of the captured Palestinians were released either to leave for other Arab countries or to return to a peaceful life in Jordan. Hussein became virtually isolated from the rest of the Arab world, which accused him of harsh treatment of the fedayeen and denounced him as being responsible for the deaths of so many of his fellow Arabs.
In November members of the Black September terrorist group--who took their name from the civil war of September 1970--avenged the deaths of fellow fedayeen by assassinating Prime Minister Tal in Cairo. In December the group again struck out against Hussein in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Jordanian ambassador to Britain. Hussein alleged that Libya's Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi was involved in a plot to overthrow the monarchy.
In March 1973, Jordanian courts convicted seventeen Black September fedayeen charged with plotting to kidnap the prime minister and other cabinet ministers and to hold them hostage in exchange for the release of a few hundred fedayeen captured during the civil war. Hussein subsequently commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment "for humanitarian reasons" and, in response to outside Arab pressures, in September released the prisoners-- including their leader Muhammad Daud Auda (also known as Abu Daud)- -under a general amnesty.
After his victory over the fedayeen, Hussein sought to reestablish his authority in the country and his image in the Arab world through the implementation of dynamic domestic and foreign policies. In September 1971, he announced the formation of the Jordanian National Union to serve as the nation's sole authorized political organization, representing--at least in theory--both banks of the Jordan. The union was not a political party in the traditional sense but, according to the king, would be used "as a melting pot for the Jordanian people." With the exception of communists, Marxists, and "other advocates of foreign ideologies," all citizens were eligible for membership within the union, which would "provide constructive opposition from within its own ranks."
Hussein also introduced a plan for the creation of a federation to be called the United Arab Kingdom. Under the plan, the West Bank and the East Bank would become autonomous provinces within the sovereign Hashimite kingdom. Seats in the National Assembly would continue to be divided equally among representatives of the two regions. The PLO repudiated the United Arab Kingdom and the Jordanian National Union, and neither plan was ever implemented.
Hussein paid a state visit to the United States in February 1973 during which President Richard M. Nixon assured him of his "firm. . . support for Jordan" and promised increased economic and military aid. During interviews Hussein, who earlier had called for United States intervention to bring about a comprehensive Middle East settlement, reaffirmed that he contemplated no partial or separate agreements with Israel that would be prejudicial to Arab unity, but he left the door open for bilateral talks and condemned the PLO for its divisive influence. On his return to Amman, Hussein reemphasized that all of East Jerusalem must be returned but offered to put the holy places there under international supervision.
At the Arab summit in Cairo in September 1973, a reconciliation mediated by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia took place between Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, the "front-line" or confrontation states against Israel. On October 6, less than a month after the meeting, Egyptian and Syrian armies launched simultaneous attacks across the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights that caught the Israelis by surprise. After initially threatening to break through Israel's inner defenses, the Syrians were checked and then thrown back by an Israeli counteroffensive that drove to within thirty kilometers of the strong defense emplacements surrounding Damascus. By October 10, Jordan had mobilized nearly 70,000 men, forcing Israeli troops to deploy in the West Bank. Hussein did not open a third front against Israel but he sent 3,000 Jordanian troops in two armored brigades to the Golan front on October 13, and they saw limited action under Syrian command in fighting near Lake Tiberias. More than 25,000 regular Palestinian troops also were engaged under separate command.
With the Arab armies in retreat, the Soviet Union called a special session of the UN Security Council on October 21 to impose an immediate cease-fire. Although accepted by Israel and Egypt, the cease-fire did not become effective for another three days. On the northern front, Israeli troops retained control of the Golan Heights, and in the southwest they had opened bridgeheads across the Suez Canal and occupied more than 1,500 square kilometers of territory in Egypt. UN Security Council Resolution 338, submitted on October 22, reiterated the Security Council's position on Israeli-occupied territory, first expressed in Resolution 242 in 1967.
At a postmortem on the fourth Arab-Israeli war held in November in Algiers, the Jordanian representative stressed that the ceasefire did not mean peace and called again for Israel to evacuate the occupied territories that combined Arab forces had failed to win back in battle. Over Jordanian protests, the summit conference voted to recognize the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Hussein, who conceded in Amman that he did not claim to speak for the Palestinians, supported their right to selfdetermination --"but," he added, "only after the occupied territories are liberated."
Hussein stated on more than one occasion his willingness to leave the liberation of the West Bank to the PLO, but he pointedly boycotted a meeting with PLO officials in Cairo at which Egypt and Syria were expected to deal with the PLO as the "only legitimate representatives" of the Palestinian people--a position that Hussein admitted he had no alternative but to accept in practice. President Anwar as Sadat of Egypt, however, warned the PLO that its refusal to cooperate with Hussein could lead to an Arab civil war on a broader scale than that of 1970-71. When the Palestinians refused to compromise their claim to total sovereignty in the West Bank, Hussein requested a postponement of the Arab summit scheduled for Rabat in October 1974. The purpose of the summit was to give formal recognition to the PLO's role. In an abrupt turnabout in policy, Egyptian foreign minister Ismail Fahmi responded by declaring that Egypt now opposed the return of the West Bank to Jordan and accepted without reservation the PLO claim to represent the Palestinian people.
The Rabat Summit conference in October 1974 brought together the leaders of twenty Arab states, including Hussein, and representatives of the PLO. PLO leaders threatened a walkout if their demands for unconditional recognition were not met. The PLO required a statement from the conference that any Palestinian territory liberated by Arab forces would be turned over to the "Palestinian people" as represented by their organization. Jordan protested, pointing out that recognition on these terms would give the PLO sovereignty over half of the population in the East Bank and that in fact the annexation of the West Bank had been approved by popular vote.
A compromise solution was adopted that nonetheless favored PLO interests. The conference formally acknowledged the right of the Palestinian people to a separate homeland, but without specifying that its territory was restricted to the West Bank. Most important, the PLO was for the first time officially recognized by all the Arab states as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." The Arab heads of state also called for close cooperation between the front-line states and the PLO but prohibited interference by other Arab states in Palestinian affairs.
The Rabat Summit declaration conferred a mantle of legitimacy on the PLO that was previously absent. It gave official Arab recognition to PLO territorial claims to the West Bank and unambiguously put the fate of the Palestinian people solely in the hands of the PLO. Hussein opposed the declaration, although he eventually signed it under intense Arab pressure and after the Arab oil-producing states promised to provide Jordan with an annual subsidy of $US300 million. Despite his acquiescence to the Rabat declaration and subsequent statements in support of the PLO, Hussein persisted in viewing the declaration as an ambiguous document that was open to differing interpretations. The PLO, along with the rest of the Arab world, viewed Hussein's consent at Rabat as a renunciation of Jordanian claims to the West Bank. Hussein nonetheless continued to have aspirations concerning Jordanian control of the occupied territories. The wide gulf separating the two views was the major source of tension between the PLO and Jordan throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Following the Rabat Summit, the PLO scored an impressive political victory in the international arena. In late November 1974, the UN recognized PLO representation of the Palestinian people, and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat addressed the General Assembly in Arabic, his pistol at his side. In addition, in a joint communiqué issued the same month, President Gerald R. Ford of the United States and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev acknowledged the "legitimate interests" of the Palestinians in accordance with the UN resolutions. Nonetheless, a UN draft resolution in 1976 proposing to reaffirm the right of the Palestinians to self-determination-- and including the right to establish an independent state--was vetoed in the Security Council by the United States, which called instead for a "reasonable and acceptable definition of Palestinian interests."
After the Rabat Summit, Hussein stressed the need for Jordanian political self-sufficiency. He told his subjects, "a new reality exists and Jordan must adjust to it. The West Bank is no longer Jordanian." But having surrendered title to half his kingdom at the behest of the Arab states, Hussein confessed concern that the East Bank might become a "substitute Palestine," swallowed up as the balance of political power there shifted to its Palestinian majority.
The tone of Hussein's approach to the Palestinians in the East Bank changed markedly following the Rabat Summit. He advised that the resident Palestinians--estimated at 900,000 or more--must choose between Jordanian citizenship or Palestinian identity. No attempt would be made to oust those who chose the latter, he said, and they would be permitted to remain in Jordan as "guests." He also insisted that any Palestinian choosing to keep his Jordanian citizenship must be allowed to do so without endangering his rights in the West Bank; he further promised that any Palestinian living in the East Bank who chose to identify his interests with those of the "Palestinian people" could do so without jeopardizing his rights as a Jordanian citizen.
In response to the new political situation following the Rabat Summit, Hussein reorganized Jordan's political and administrative institutions. On November 9, he amended the Constitution to give the king authority to dissolve the House of Representatives and to delay elections as he saw fit. Using this constitutional prerogative, Hussein dissolved the lower house of the National Assembly--the elected House of Representatives--when it had completed its work on November 23. The House of Representatives, half of whose sixty members represented West Bank constituencies, could no longer function without undermining the newly recognized representative status of the PLO. The Constitution was amended to provide for the indefinite postponement of elections for a new House of Representatives so as to avoid elections on the East Bank alone, which if held would have symbolized the final separation of the West Bank from Jordan. In addition to dissolving the House of Representatives, Hussein directed Prime Minister Zaid ar Rifai to form a new government that did not include Palestinians from the West Bank. No move was made, however, to relieve Palestinians in the Jordanian army, where they composed one-third of the officer corps, albeit mostly in noncombatant functions. The government also continued to pay the salaries of 6,000 civil servants and teachers in the West Bank, which amounted to about US$40 million a year.
As a result of Hussein's partial reversal from the commitments made at Rabat, Jordanian-PLO relations deteriorated throughout much of 1975. At the year's end, however, the Palestine National Council, meeting in Damascus, backed an effort to reconcile its differences with Hussein. The broadcast of antiregime propaganda was temporarily suspended and, although PLA units remained stationed in Jordan in military camps, the PLO accepted restrictions on its political and military presence there. At the Arab summit conference held at Cairo in January 1976, Jordan and the PLO once again were embroiled in a dispute over Jordan's role in negotiating an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Jordan declared that it had no responsibility for negotiating such a withdrawal. In response, the PLO resumed its hostile propaganda shortly after the meeting.
In February 1976, Hussein summoned an extraordinary session of the National Assembly--attended by about half of the representatives elected from the West Bank--to enact legislation enabling the king to postpone indefinitely the general elections scheduled for later in the month. The king's spokespersons explained that the action was necessary because of "compelling circumstances" that prevailed in the country. That same month, Hussein abolished the Jordanian National Union.
In July Zaid ar Rifai, who had led the government since 1973, stepped down as prime minister. Hussein replaced him with Mudar Badran, chief of the royal court. The Badran government set up the Bureau of Occupied Homeland Affairs, headed by former members of parliament from West Bank constituencies, ostensibly to coordinate and advise on relations with Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory. The government also conducted discussions on the renewed possibility of some form of federation between the West Bank and the East Bank. The PLO charged that the newly created Bureau of Occupied Homeland Affairs had been formed to channel support to pro-Jordanian candidates in municipal elections to be held in the West Bank in April 1977. Badran denied these allegations and reaffirmed Jordan's commitment to the concept that the Palestinians themselves must decide the future of the West Bank. PLO-backed candidates won an overwhelming victory in the April elections.
The recrudescent tension between Jordan and the PLO was symptomatic of their differing visions of an Arab-Israeli settlement. Jordan accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for any settlement, including the question of Palestinian national rights. Within this framework, Jordan demanded total Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967; a solution to the refugee problem either by repatriation or compensation; the right of Palestinians to self-determination; and mutual guarantees for peace. The PLO consistently rejected both 242 and 338 on the ground that the Palestinian people are only mentioned in the resolutions as refugees and not as a people deserving a national homeland.
On the issue of self-determination, Hussein agreed with the PLO that the Palestinians had the right to establish "a national and political entity," but he refrained from giving his support to a fully independent Palestinian state, which he saw as a direct threat, particularly if headed by the PLO. Moreover, he believed that if he could neutralize the PLO, the West Bank and Gaza Strip populations would accept an arrangement based on his own federation plan.
Despite his desire to be the primary Arab negotiator over the territories, Hussein also realized that his role in any future negotiations required a clear mandate from the Arab states. He could not deviate too far from the Arab consensus concerning the occupied territories for fear of losing badly needed economic aid or instigating military attacks from Iraq and Syria. As a result, Hussein chose to participate in the proposed October 1, 1977, Geneva Conference on the Middle East as a "confrontation state" but not as the representative of the Palestinians.
Despite a long history of hostility, between 1975 and 1977 Jordan's major regional ally was Syria. During 1975 Jordan and Syria agreed to coordinate their defense, foreign policy, economic, information, education, and cultural activities. They established a joint military command to provide a single defensive line against Israel. Syria halted anti-Hussein propaganda and imposed restrictions on Syrian-based Palestinian activities that might be considered prejudicial to Jordan's sovereignty.
The marked improvement in relations between Hussein and Syrian president Hafiz al Assad primarily reflected a shared desire to minimize the role of the PLO in any future Middle East peace negotiations. Despite the commitments made at Rabat, neither Jordan nor Syria wanted the PLO to emerge from Middle East peace talks as leader of a proposed Palestinian national entity in the occupied territories. Their opposition to the PLO, however, stemmed from very different sources. Jordan opposed the PLO because of conflicting territorial objectives; Hussein wanted to reintegrate the West Bank as a part of a pre-1967 Jordan. Assad opposed a PLOled ministate because he feared that such an entity would reduce Syria's regional role and would significantly lessen the chances of Syria regaining the Golan Heights. At the same time, Damascus rejected Hussein's claims to the West Bank and vehemently opposed any Jordanian attempts to reach a separate peace agreement with Israel. This position severely limited the flexibility of Jordanian diplomacy and ultimately divided Jordan and Syria.
In 1975 Lebanon became engulfed in a bloody civil war that had major ramifications for the regional political balance. Like the Black September incident of 1970, the Lebanese Civil War pitted a rapidly expanding Palestinian political infrastructure against a sovereign Arab state. Between September 1970 and 1975, the Palestinians created in Lebanon a "state within a state." They had their own military establishment, an autonomous political structure, and separate collection of taxes. Unlike Jordan in 1970, however, Lebanon had a weak and badly divided political structure. As a result, in the spring of 1975, after a number of skirmishes with Lebanese Christian militias, the Palestinians allied with an array of leftist Lebanese forces and began an offensive. In the spring of 1976, it appeared that the Palestinians and their leftist allies would win the fighting. President Assad, fearing a radical Palestinian force on Syria's southern border, entered the fray on the side of the Christians and tilted the military balance in their favor. Jordan supported the Syrian intervention, fearing that a Palestinian victory would give the PLO a base of operations from which to destabilize the region.
Jordan's relationship with Syria also improved as Jordan became increasingly disenchanted with its relationship with the United States. Since the early 1970s, Jordan had negotiated for the purchase of a US$540 million air defense system from the United States to be financed by Saudi Arabia. When the United States Congress objected to the arms sale, Hussein commented that relations with his one-time sponsor had reached "a sad crossroads." In 1976, with Syrian encouragement, he traveled to Moscow to sound out the Soviet Union on its willingness to provide a similar system. In the face of persuasive American and Saudi lobbying, Hussein eventually opted to purchase the American Improved Hawk air defense system. His trip to Moscow, however, marked a significant improvement in Jordanian-Soviet relations and was a factor in his decision to support the concept of a Middle East peace conference attended by both the Soviet Union and the United States.
During the spring of 1977, the international climate strongly supported some type of superpower-sanctioned settlement to the Arab-Israeli dispute. Newly elected United States president Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Brezhnev advocated a comprehensive ArabIsraeli settlement that would include autonomy for the Palestinians. On October 1, 1977, in preparation for a reconvened Geneva Conference, the United States and the Soviet Union issued a joint statement committing themselves to a comprehensive settlement incorporating all parties concerned and all questions. The proposed summit, however, was preempted by events in Egypt.
Jordan, like the rest of the Arab states, was taken by surprise by President Sadat's decision to travel to Jerusalem in November 1977. Hussein, however, muted his criticism of the Egyptian president's historic trip and called on the Arab states to reserve judgment. The king feared that an outright rejection of the Egyptian initative might provoke an alienated Sadat to seek a separate agreement with Israel. He also saw many positive elements in Sadat's opening statement to the Knesset, such as his rejection of a separate settlement to the Palestinian problem, his emphasis on the need to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, the recognition of Jordan's special relationship with the West Bank, and the proposal to incorporate Jordan, rather than the PLO, into the peace process.
Despite his enthusiasm for Sadat's speech, Hussein was reluctant to join the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. He feared that by joining the negotiations he would isolate Jordan in the Arab world, incur Syria's wrath, and potentially destabilize Palestinians on the East Bank with little possibility for Jordanian gains. Moreover, Hussein did not want to represent Palestinian interests at such negotiations unless he had a clear Arab and Palestinian mandate to do so.
The final version of the Camp David Accords signed by Egyptian president Sadat, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and United States president Carter separated the issues of the future of the West Bank and the return of Sinai. Whereas the sections dealing with the return of Sinai were very explicit, the sections on the West Bank were vague and open to various interpretations. They called for Egypt, Israel, and "the representatives of the Palestinian people to negotiate about the future of the West Bank and Gaza." A five-year period of "transitional autonomy" was called for "to ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority." The agreement also called for peace talks between Israel and its other Arab neighbors, particularly Syria.
The Camp David Accords fell far short of meeting even Jordan's minimal demands. Hussein expressed anger that Jordan was included in the Camp David framework without his prior knowledge or approval. He viewed the division of the accords into two agreements with no linkage between Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and progress on the Palestinian issue as a sign that Sadat was more interested in regaining Sinai than in brokering a viable peace settlement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hussein was further alienated from the Camp David peace process because Israel refused to negotiate over East Jerusalem, insisted on its rights to establish settlements in the occupied territories, and reserved the right to demand sovereignty over those areas at the end of the transition period.
Following the signing of the Camp David Accords, Jordan accepted an Iraqi invitation--accompanied by a US$30 million Iraqi grant--to attend the Baghdad Conference. The summit conference's decision to allot to Jordan the relatively large sum of US$1.25 billion per year helped keep Jordan in the Arab fold. At the Baghdad Conference held in November 1978, the Arab states unequivocally rejected the Camp David Accords and officially ostracized Egypt from the Arab League.
Jordanian-Egyptian relations deteriorated even further after the signing of the Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel in March 1979. The Israeli government's limited view of Palestinian autonomy became apparent shortly after the peace treaty was signed. In April the Begin government approved two new settlements between Ram Allah and Nabulus, established civilian regional councils for the Jewish settlements in the territories, and prepared autonomy plans in which Israel would keep exclusive control over the West Bank's water, communications, roads, public order, and immigration into the territories. The acceleration of settlements, the growth of an increasingly militaristic Jewish settler movement, and Israel's stated desire to retain complete control over resources in the territories precluded the participation in the peace process of either moderate Palestinians, such as the newly formed National Guidance Committee composed of West Bank mayors, or of Hussein. The PLO refused from the beginning to participate in the peace process.
In response, the Jordanian government recalled its ambassador from Cairo on March 28 and on April 1 it severed diplomatic relations with Egypt. Not all ties were broken, however; the Jordanian and Egyptian airlines still flew about ten flights a week between their respective cities and, most important, Egyptian workers in Jordan continued to enjoy the same status as before. The Jordanian media and public officials intensified anti-Israel rhetoric, showing particular hostility toward the United States for supporting the accords. Hussein's greatest fear was that, with Egypt removed from the Arab-Israeli military balance, Israel might be tempted to transform the East Bank into an "alternative homeland" for the Palestinians. Jordanian fears were fueled when, at the end of March 1979, Israeli minister of agriculture Ariel Sharon issued a statement to the effect that the Palestinians ought to take over Jordan and establish a government there.
Hussein, although fully backing the Baghdad accords, sought a very different objective than the more hard-line Arab states such as Syria and Iraq. His goal was not to punish Egypt or overthrow Sadat, but rather to set up an alternative strategy to the Camp David framework supported by an Arab consensus that would provide a more equitable and viable solution to the Middle East conflict. The essence of the Jordanian alternative was to return the Palestinian problem either to the UN Security Council or to the Geneva Conference where all the relevant parties--including the United States, the Soviet Union, and the European Economic Community--could work together in reaching a comprehensive Middle East peace plan.
Hussein's attempt to develop a united Arab stand did not succeed. At the Tunis Summit of November 1979, in the face of strong Syrian objections, Hussein was unable to mobilize an Arab consensus behind an alternative to the Camp David Accords. Syrian president Assad's strong objections to Hussein's proposal marked the beginning of rapid deterioration in Syrian-Jordanian relations. Hussein was further rebuffed when Assad revived the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front consisting of Syria, Libya, Algeria, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), and the PLO. The Syrian leader accused Jordan of supporting Syrian elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been involved in a series of attacks against his regime. Although Syria continued to be a major Soviet ally in the Middle East, Jordan joined nearly the entire Arab world in condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Finally, Syria, unlike Jordan, was unwilling to participate in any alternative to the Camp David Accords.
The overthrow of the shah of Iran in February 1979 and the emergence of Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini caused grave concern in Amman. The vehement anti-Western, antimonarchical, Islamic revolutionary fervor sweeping Iran throughout 1979 cast a threatening shadow over Jordan. Not only was Hussein a monarch allied with the West, but he also had been a close ally of the shah for many years.
Hussein followed a two-track policy to counteract the looming Iranian threat. One track was domestic; the other, foreign. Domestically, he made a more concerted effort to appear religiously observant in public and to emphasize Islam in the day-to-day life of Jordan. He also increased financial support for mosques and Islamic charities and encouraged the payment of zakat (the Muslim religious tax) by exempting those who paid it during the month of Ramadan from 25 percent of their income tax. In addition, during the month of Ramadan some of the provincial governors closed down bars and night clubs on some religious holidays and banned films described as obscene.
For most of his reign, Hussein had appeased the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups in Jordan as a way of counterbalancing the more radical and, in his view, more destabilizing groups such as the communists, Baathists, and Nasserists. Although the Muslim Brotherhood came out in support of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the organization in Jordan was not prepared to challenge openly the authority of the Hashimite regime that opposed the Iranian Revolution.
Hussein altered Jordan's Arab alignments in response to the new regional balance of power caused by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and the growing rift with Syria. The focus of Jordan's new regional outlook was improved relations with Iraq. Both countries saw ominous implications in the developments in Iran. Moreover, with Egypt no longer in the Arab fold, Jordan sought an Arab military alliance capable of deterring a more militaristic regime in Israel from meddling in Jordanian affairs. Hussein also needed Iraqi support to stave off the Syrian threat, which had grown significantly during 1980. Finally, Baghdad and Amman feared the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its implications for the regional balance of power.
After a series of high-level meetings in the early 1980s, a wide range of exchanges took place. Iraq greatly increased economic assistance to Jordan and discussed a possible project for supplying Jordan with water from the Euphrates. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in September 1980 further tightened relations. From the beginning of the war, Jordan was the most outspoken of the Arab states supporting Iraq. The Iraqi connection became increasingly important as tensions mounted between Jordan and Syria. Between September 1980 and late 1981, Jordan reportedly received US$400 million in economic aid from Iraq. In October 1981, an IraqiJordanian Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation was set up. Jordan's most demonstrative act of support for the Iraqi war effort occurred in January 1982 when Hussein announced the formation of the Yarmuk Brigade, a Jordanian force of volunteers that pledged to fight for Iraq.
Throughout 1982, as Iran scored significant victories in the Iran-Iraq War, Jordan substantially increased its support to Iraq. Al Aqabah replaced the besieged Iraqi port of Basra as Iraq's major marine transportation point. During 1981 and 1982, the turmoil besetting the Arab states both benefited and threatened Jordan. Egypt, the most populous and militarily strongest Arab country, was ostracized; Syria faced serious domestic unrest and a growing rebellion in Lebanon; Iraq seemed to be losing its war with Iran and was in danger of losing strategically important territory in the south; Syria and Iraq were hostile to each other; and the Persian Gulf states were suffering from the downturn in world oil prices. The weakness of the other Arab states enabled Jordan to play a more important role in Arab politics and allowed Hussein to pursue a more flexible regional diplomacy.
Jordan's improved status in the Arab world resulted in Amman hosting its first Arab summit in November 1981. Hussein reportedly hoped to obtain a breakthrough on the Palestinian question and to mobilize support for the Iraqi war effort. The summit, however, was boycotted by members of the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front led by Syria. In addition, Syria had massed troops on the Jordanian border. Hussein countered by mobilizing a force of equal strength on the Syrian border. Although the situation was eventually diffused through Saudi mediation efforts, the potential for future Syrian-Jordanian conflict remained.
Jordan's relations with the PLO have reflected the conflicting territorial claims of the Palestinians and Jordan. Since the June 1967 War, both the PLO and Jordan have staked claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Although Hussein and the PLO, like the rest of the Arab world, have rejected Israeli suzerainty over the territories, they differed widely on how the occupied territories should be administered and by whom.
Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jordan asserted its role in the lives of West Bank Palestinians in various ways. Jordan distributed financial assistance, oversaw the freedom of movement of people and merchandise across the bridges of the Jordan River, assumed the role of protector of the rights of the population under Israeli occupation, and sought the condemnation of Israel in the international community for alleged acts of injustice against the people of the West Bank. Beginning in 1979, individuals from the West Bank, like other Jordanian citizens, were required to obtain new identity cards to benefit from Jordanian government services and to obtain Jordanian passports. Mutual mistrust, however, had prevented agreement between Jordan and the PLO on any form of longterm political cooperation beyond the joint distribution of funds to the occupied territories.
Jordanians, however, remained adamantly opposed to the fedayeen reestablishing bases in Jordan from which to launch guerrilla operations against Israel. Hussein feared that Israel, maintaining a distinct military advantage over the badly divided Arab states, would launch punishing reprisal raids against Jordan if guerrilla operations were to resume. This appraisal was strongly reinforced by the Israeli air raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981.
During the second half of 1980, talk of the so-called "Jordanian option" revived because of the approaching elections in Israel, President Ronald Reagan's election victory in the United States, and talk of a new European initiative in the Middle East. On the surface, the Jordanian option resembled Hussein's version of a settlement with Israel; it envisioned Jordan acting as the major Arab interlocutor in a peace settlement with Israel. Jordan, however, could not outwardly appear as if it were breaking away from the Arab fold and usurping Palestinian prerogatives, unless it were likely that concessions made by Jordan would be reciprocated by Israel. Given the right-wing Likud government in power in Israel, Hussein surmised that such Israeli territorial concessions would not be forthcoming.
As a result, Jordan's public posture on the Palestinian question was ambiguous. In public statements acknowledging PLO representation of the Palestinian people Hussein frequently emphasized the important role Jordan had played in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Moreover, he rarely identified the PLO as the "sole" legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
Since the creation of Transjordan in 1921, the nation had depended on external economic aid. This dependence rendered it economically vulnerable. For many years the economy was underwritten by Britain. By the early 1950s, after Jordan had officially annexed the West Bank, foreign aid accounted for 60 percent of government revenues. The crucial event for the Jordanian economy, as it was for the Arab world as a whole, was the quadrupling of world oil prices that followed the October 1973 War. Possessing little oil of its own, Jordan nonetheless became inexorably linked to the volatile world oil market. Between 1973 and 1981, direct Arab budget support rose more than sixteen-fold, from US$71.8 million to US$1.179 billion. In the same period, the value of Jordanian exports jumped almost thirteen-fold, from US$57.6 million to US$734.9 million. In addition, Jordan sent to the Persian Gulf states an estimated 350,000 doctors, engineers, teachers, and construction workers who by 1981 had sent back home more than US$1 billion. Even after deducting the outward flow of dinars from the 125,000 foreign workers inside Jordan holding agricultural and unskilled jobs, net worker remittances rose from US$15 million in 1970 to US$900 million in 1981.
The accelerated pace of economic growth fueled by the oil price increases of the 1970s also caused inflation and growing import bills. Most important for Jordan, the economic boom years of the 1970s raised popular expectations of continued economic prosperity. As a result, when world oil prices began spiraling downward in the early 1980s, the government halted many large-scale construction projects, slashed food and other subsidies, and significantly reduced public employment. These actions stirred public dissatisfaction.
Hussein's response to the rise in public discontent was to ease restrictions on the political process. First, in 1981 he increased membership of the National Consultative Council (NCC) from sixty to seventy-five. The NCC had been created in April 1978 to fulfill the legislative functions of the dissolved House of Representatives. The NCC, however, was empowered only to debate and discuss bills and had no authority to make laws. As a result, the enlargement of the NCC's membership did not appease the opposition seeking democratic reforms. In addition, in March 1982 a new weekly publication, Al Ufuq (Horizons), campaigned for greater democratic freedom and for the reestablishment of political parties banned since 1957. Two political parties were formed: the Arab Constitutional Alignment and the Arab National Party. Both parties called for greater public participation in the affairs of state.
The June 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon significantly altered Jordan's geostrategic position. Israel's willingness to remove PLO bases from Lebanon by force, despite widespread international criticism, raised apprehensions that Israel might launch an offensive against Jordan. The Arab states, weakened by internal rivalries, the Iran-Iraq War, and Egypt's isolation, did not respond forcefully to the Israeli actions. Hussein viewed the Lebanon invasion as part of a pattern of more aggressive Israeli policies that included the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, confrontations with Syria, and an ambitious settlement policy in the occupied territories. The government of Menachem Begin, unlike its predecessors, was willing to use force to attain its territorial objectives. This led to concerns that Israel might have designs on Jordan, or that the PLO, after having its major base of operations in Lebanon destroyed, might attempt to reestablish itself in Jordan. Hussein also feared that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank was rapidly reducing the chances of an acceptable settlement there.
To many Middle East experts, the increase in settlements, their strategic location, the militancy of many of the Israeli settlers, the rise of religious nationalism inside the political mainstream in Israel, and the expansionary views of the Likud leadership lent urgency to the need to reach a negotiated settlement. Jordan hoped to convince the Reagan administration to push policy makers in Jerusalem toward an acceptable peace settlement.
On September 1, 1982, President Reagan launched the Reagan Plan. Hussein applauded the new American proposal, seeing in it a clear break from the Camp David framework. In announcing the new plan, Reagan stated that "it was the firm view of the United States that self-government by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza in association with Jordan offers the best chance for a durable and lasting peace," specifying that the United States would not support the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Reagan Plan also stressed UN Resolution 242, stating that the resolution applied to all fronts, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that the final status of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiation.
The war in Lebanon and the publication of the Reagan Plan ushered in a new symbiosis in Jordanian-PLO relations. Hussein needed PLO acceptance of Jordan's participation in the peace process in the framework of the Reagan Plan; PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, considerably weakened by the PLO's devastating defeat in the war in Lebanon, needed Jordanian support to gain access to the political process. In October 1982, Hussein and Arafat began a series of meetings designed to formulate a joint response to the Reagan Plan. These negotiations centered around the formation of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to future peace talks, and-- because neither Israel nor the United States recognized the PLO--on the extent to which the PLO would be directly associated with this delegation. Jordan proposed that the PLO appoint West Bank residents who were not members of the PLO to represent the Palestinians. In November 1982, agreement was reached on the formation of a Higher Jordanian-Palestinian Committee headed by Prime Minister Mudar Badran and Arafat.
Because of conflicting objectives sought by Arafat and Hussein, the joint Palestinian-Jordanian committee never materialized. Whereas Hussein saw the proposed confederation as a means to reestablish Jordanian control over the West Bank, Arafat viewed the negotiations as a means to gain PLO sovereignty over the occupied territories. In addition, Hussein and Arafat required evidence that Washington was willing to pressure Israel to make significant territorial concessions. Meanwhile, Israeli troops still occupied part of southern Lebanon, and the Israeli government had not made any commitments on the settlement issue. Moreover, given Iran's recent victories in its war with Iraq, tensions with Syria, and a depressed world oil market, Hussein could not isolate Jordan by unilaterally participating in the Reagan Plan without some show of Israeli flexibility.
Following Hussein's decision in April 1983 not to join the Reagan Plan, Jordan increasingly criticized Washington's inability to apply pressure on Israel to halt settlements in the West Bank. United States-Jordanian relations were further strained in May 1983 when the Reagan administration lifted a ban on the sale of F-16 aircraft to Israel. The ban had been imposed to pressure Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. The United States opposed a Jordanian draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council in July 1983 asserting the illegality of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, and relations between the two countries were further soured by the signing in November 1983 of a new agreement on strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States.
Syria emerged from the war in Lebanon as a pivotal regional power, able and willing to play a role in the affairs of neighboring Arab states. Whereas Syrian power was on the rise, Jordan's most powerful Arab ally, Iraq, seemed to be losing its costly war with Iran. Hussein tried to counterbalance the Syrian threat by making overtures to President Husni Mubarak of Egypt, but did not yet reestablish diplomatic relations. Hussein hoped that Mubarak, who had replaced Sadat after the latter's assassination in September 1981, would bring Egypt back into the Arab fold after Sinai was returned to Egypt in September 1982.
High-level talks between Egypt and Jordan occurred regularly throughout 1983 and 1984. In addition, Egyptian newspapers, banned in Jordan after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, were allowed into the country in October 1983. Also, Jordan and Egypt signed a trade protocol in December 1983 and discussed the expansion of scientific and agricultural cooperation. Finally, in September 1984, Jordan officially announced the resumption of diplomatic relations with Egypt.
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