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December 7, 2014 6:05 pm

King Abdullah’s Flawed Ploy

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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King Abdullah II of Jordan. Photo: Chatham House.

During his recent visit to Washington to meet with President Obama, King Abdullah II of Jordan was interviewed on “CBS This Morning.” Displaying his keen sense of the terrible neighborhood in which his kingdom is embedded, he identified the war against ISIS jihadi terrorists as “clearly a fight between good and evil.”

Believing that they threaten “a third world war by other means,” he boldly called upon Arab and Islamic nations “to stand up” and demonstrate their resolute opposition to this “war inside of Islam” by “fighting back.” It was a rousing – perhaps unrivaled – appeal by an Arab leader for a demonstration of wisdom and courage in confronting the virulent Muslim poison within their midst.

But the King, as his survival strategy requires, played both sides of a volatile issue. He pointedly identified two possible resolutions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a one-state or two-state solution. But he erroneously cited “the demographic threat” to Israel, with a Palestinian majority west of the Jordan River eventually outnumbering the Jewish population. Then he posed the dilemma that Israel presumably confronts: the choice between a democratic or “apartheid” (i.e. Jewish) state. “The two state solution,” he concluded, “is the only solution.” It would, however, be a three-state solution, comprising Jordan, Israel and Palestine-on-the-West Bank.

The King chose not to mention that Palestinians have rejected every two-state solution since 1937, when the British Peel Commission proposed the second partition of Palestine. The first came fifteen years earlier, when British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill lopped off three-quarters of Mandatory Palestine as a gift to Abdullah’s great-grandfather for his wartime loyalty to the Allied cause. But unwilling to tolerate a Jewish state of any size in their midst, Arab leaders rejected the Peel proposal, the UN partition plan that followed a decade later, and even the dangerously generous two-state offers, involving huge Israeli land concessions, offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert.

King Abdullah also chose (understandably) to ignore the demographic reality in Jordan, which poses a significant threat to the stability of his own regime. For obvious reasons, his kingdom provides no official census data about its Palestinian inhabitants. Best estimates (including by the U.S. State Department) indicate that they comprise more than half, and perhaps as high as two-thirds, of the Jordanian population.

In sum: the Hashemite king rules over a majority Palestinian population in two-thirds of Palestine. In translation: the Palestinians already have a state named Jordan, located in Palestine, and comprise a majority of its population. That is as it should be: the fulfillment of international assurances to Jews, and British promises to the Hashemites, that date back nearly a century.

Across the Jordan River to the West, the demographic reality decisively favors Israel – even if every West Bank Palestinian were to become a citizen of the Jewish state (which will never happen). Just as Jordanians deny the identity of the Palestinian majority they rule, so Palestinians inflate their own numbers in the former West Bank, more appropriately identified as Judea and Samaria – the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Labor Statistics, waging what it has labeled a “civil intifada” against Israel, insists that 2.6 million Palestinians inhabit this contested territory. But according to Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger, the Palestinian Bureau has inflated the actual number of West Bank Palestinians (1.6 million) by two-thirds, including overseas residents, under-reporting Palestinian emigration, and double-counting Jerusalem Arabs.

Between the Jordan and Mediterranean two-thirds of the population is Jewish. Furthermore, during the past twenty years Palestinian birth rates have stabilized while Jewish births have significantly increased. “There is no demographic machete,” Ettinger concluded, “at the throat of the Jewish state.”

King Abdullah finds himself trapped between Palestinian rocks in hard places: his own Jordanian kingdom and its lost West Bank. As Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian political refugee residing in London has written (Middle East Q., Winter 2012), the King “is merely using [Palestinians] as pawns in his game against Israel by threatening to make [it] responsible for Jordanians of Palestinian descent in the name of the ‘right of return.'”

King Abdullah’s verbal gymnastics should not be permitted to conceal the truths of ancient Jewish claims to their promised land. Nor should they hide the reality of the return to the Land of Israel launched by Zionist settlers in the 19th century, long before the Kingdom of Jordan was imagined by his Hashemite ancestors. King Abdullah’s ruse may sell in the Arab shuk to Israel-bashing tourists, but any knowledgeable shopper would instantly detect its fraudulence.

Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.

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  • David Sher

    Yoram Ettinger has been making claims about the lower population numbers for quite a while. Unfortunately his view is disputed by a number of other academic studies. It seems to me that Israel needs to know the answer to this question with metaphysical certitude before taking any action. Secondarily, it seems to me that ruling over a million plus Palestinians who hate Israel is not a long term answer either. Annexation without a follow up plan is folly.

    • Ben

      It’s not Yoram Ettinger’s view but of many demographers. He is indeed contested by a few others but not any studies. They just rely on the official PA data and decided it was true.

  • Score Bear

    These Panglossian views bout demography ignore Gaza. Add Palestinians in Gaza (with their higher birthrate) to the mix and a jewish majority in greater israel becomes very dubious.


      What does Gaza have to do with the demographic discussion?

  • A small but important correction for Jerold Auerbach:

    The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan did not officially leave the League of Nations Palestine Mandate before March 1946. Then, it was finally cut from the body of the Mandate territory by specific terms of a UK treaty which was then blessed by the last Assembly of the League of Nations (April 1946).

    The 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1920 Sevres Treaty and the 1922 League of Nations Palestine Mandate never said that all of Palestine would be the “national home for the Jewish People.” Rather, all of those important instruments stipulated for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish People” in Palestine.

    At no time during WW1 would the British have ever contemplated giving Western Palestine to the Hashemites. As Christians, the British would then certainly never have promised Muslims the Holy Land. Nor would France and Imperial Russia ever have permitted the UK to then promise the Holy Land to the Hashemites.

    But, by the same token, the British never promised to give all of Palestine (both sides of the Jordan River) to the Jewish People. When the Balfour Declaration was drafted (and also approved by a variety of players including President Wilson), it was well understood in London that Eastern Palestine had already been promised to the Hashemites in 1915. Thus, it was hardly fortuitous that the 1921 Cairo Conference blessed the creation of a Hashemite Emirate east of the Jordan River. And, precisely for this very reason, the text of the 1922 League of Nations Palestine Mandate was carefully drafted in such a way that the provisions with respect to Jewish settlement on the land, etc., applied only west of the Jordan River, i.e. to all of Western Palestine.

    These historical matters were intensively debated during the interwar period, when it became evident that there was no proof that the British had ever promised the Holy Land to the Hashemites. Based on a careful examination of Arabic and English-language sources, the final word on this matter came in 1975 from the late Professor Elie Kedourie, In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon-Husayn Correspondence and its Interpretations, 1914-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1976.) Nobody should ever try addressing the topic of who promised whom what and when, without having read Kedourie’s penetrating analysis. But, it is all too sadly the case that many do dare to opine on these matters without reading Kedourie.

  • Mickey Segal

    Is it against the law for Jews to own land in Jordan? To be citizens? If so, the warnings of the danger of Israel becoming an apartheid state seem odd.

    And if Jordan is arguing that it has no apartheid because it has no Jews, it appears that Jordan is suggesting to Israel that it could solve the problems detailed by the king by expelling all Arabs. This approach doesn’t seem so moderate.

    It would be good to get the details of what is forbidden to Jews in Jordan.

    • Sam Akers

      What warped logic you demonstrate. What is certainly not allowed in Jordan is the confiscation of private property and the erection of settlement after settlement on usurped land. If we ever want to have a chance at peace in the region, attitudes like yours need to be re-examined. Of course you are probably an idiot so there is little chance of that happening.

  • May I suggest an extremely well-written and well-researched, engaging book “The Israeli Solution” by Caroline Glick; she lays out a plan to extend Israeli law over the full extent of the historical land of Israel, including, of course, Judea and Samaria. Her statistics argue that the Jews would not become a minority; she addresses the difficulties as well as the advantages. Among the major advantages for Israel: police control over the area, thus fewer jihadist or terror attacks, control of the borders, i.e. no jihadists slipping into Israel via some backdoor, etc., advantages for the Palestinians are many: permanent residency, option to become an Israeli citizens; whether or not that option is exercised, the Palestinians would benefit greatly from Israel’s flourishing economy, i.e. they could find good jobs; they would benefit from Israel’s excellent health care and educational systems, FREE for citizens; Israel would have to bear the financial burden of these social services; but one might expect that the Palestinians would realize the benefits accruing to them in their personal lives as residents or citizens in Israel. Never forget that unemployed or underemployed, poor, hungry, angry people without/or very poor education and healthcare are easy prey for demagogues. If their conditions improve materially, they may not want to jeopardize those advantages by attacking Israelis.

    • Buddy

      I disagree with Ms. Glick’s “solution”. It sounds wonderful and might even work were it not for the generations-old hatred for Israel by most, if not all, of the surrounding nations. This hatred has been around since the conflicts between Isaac and Ishmael, and between Jacob and Esau. The “solution” being espoused by Israel’s neighbors is also a “one state” solution, with Israel totally destroyed. No measure of diplomacy and dangling of carrots before the Arabs will eradicate this eternal hatred. In summary, the solution for this area will not be a diplomatic one, but rather a military one, and I predict that Israel will be the winner of that conflict.

  • Sam Akers

    This article is boring and moronic. Basically the bottom line is you hate king Abdullah and you prefer the Jordan is Palestine option. Great. The fact this “solution” has not been imposed yet is because it is irrelevant and impractical. You must be a very frustrated analyst, I hope this isn’t your day job.

  • Saba

    King Abdullah II of Jordan is fearful of loosing his kingdom. He knows that Jordan is Palestine because this is what his late father proclaimed before he died. The way to bring about peace is for him to take in all Palestinians inside Judea and Samaria and grant them citizenship.A transfer of population from the disputed areas to Jordan will solve the problem of nationhood and bring tranquility.

  • Sonia Willats

    It seems to me that “King Abdullah’s ruse” is the same myth circulated ad nauseum by Western liberal media and bought into “in the Arab shuk” by Western governments; that the UN, UNHCR, various NGO’s, all buy and propogate and sell this myth they know not to be true of Israel’s invading land already allocated to her, and historically, indisputably the Jewish state (destroyed by Roman colonialism!) Thus the Western governments, one by one, are voting for a third Palastinian state to force Israel’s submission. Will the UN try to enforce this? Ezekiel 38 etc?

    Is this myth any less poisonous, or dangerous, than the Nazi racial supremacy absurdity?

  • Pi

    It should also be noted that while these semi-accurate words were being uttered by its monarch, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was readying a motion to be put before the UN Security Council, the 15-member body in which it temporarily holds a seat – the lone Arab state so situated. This motion, presented by Jordan on behalf of the Arab League, seeks to set an arbitrary but enforceable date by which Israel must withdraw from all territories beyond the so-called 1967 borders – or from whatever lands may be decided between the parties prior to the deadline. If it wasn’t for the fact that the motion is being submitted under the imprimatur of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, the word ‘peace’ probably wouldn’t even enter into it. This is not the way to settle this conflict.

  • Jacques Bertrand

    The Arabs will NEVER come to a reasonable and peaceful reconciliation with Israel. Their fundamental anti-Jewish cultural mindset makes Israeli military might a sine qua non for Israeli survival .

    The only solution is for the Israelis to KEEP the west bank and let the Arabs know that any other land they lose in wars against Israel will also be forfeit.

    The Arabs can not be considered as real partners in any negotiation whatsoever. Overwhelming military force and pre-emptive military action against threats is Israel’s only chance to survive. So… what about Iran and its coming N-BOMB ? Israel , the clock is ticking and the incompetent fool Obama is NOT your friend. Que faire maintenant ?

  • David Blacher

    I have held this position for many years – the two state solution is Israel on the one hand and Palestinian Jordon on the other. Sadly, the Hashemites and the Palestinians are not the best of friends, much political allies.

    What Abdullah must do is to develop a viable rapprochement with the so called Palestinian refugees within Jordon, integrate them into mainstream Jordanian society, and then, both with and for them negotiate with Israel for the two state solution which was historically envisioned.

  • Jack Tucker

    Sorry Jerrold. You don’t get it. The fact that there is no Palestinian partner for making a peace does not mean that Israel should continue to settle and populate the West Bank. The logical end of mixing the two peoples will be a one state solution as the king says, and the resulting equal citizenship would be a disaster for Israel and the Jewish people. The statement during the past twenty years Palestinian birth rates have stabilized while Jewish births have significantly increased” is misleading. The birth rate of Palestinians in Israel has fallen considerably. The birthrate of Palestinains in Gaza has not fallen but remains a time bomb. And West Bank Palestinians are growing also at an enormous rate. “Jewish ancient claims” are irrelevant because the “Palestinians,” or really just another branch of the Arabs, are not leaving and will be a greater threat to Israel when they are mixed together with the Jewish population than when they are separate. It would be different if the West Bank were empty, but it is not. Indeed, Israel should offer to cut off Palestinian parts of the pre-’67 Israel because the more Jewish the Jewish state is the better. When the Arabs situation normalizes (and that might take another 50 years or more) the two state solution should still be available. Mixing the populations will be a disaster.

    • Miggo Wagga

      You are mistaken about Palestinian birthrates in the West Bank, which are actually lower now than they are in Israel proper. The last stats I saw said that the West Bank Palestinian birthrate is now down to 2.85 for a population of 1.6 million while the Jewish settlers, who number in the neighborhood of half a million, have a birthrate of 5.1.
      But you hit on something important when you say that Israel should cut off Palestinian parts of the West Bank. Professor Mordecai Kedar has, I think, the proper solution with his idea for a nine-state solution. Give the Palestinians eight states, which would sit much better with traditional Palestinian society which is loyal not to Fattah or Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but to local tribal and clan leaders. Giving them eight states would empower these leaders and disempower the terrorist groups. He refers to them as the ‘Palestinian Emirates’ and they would include the following:
      1) Emirate of Gaza – Basically the entire Gaza Strip although this would be minus the security zone that Egypt is creating on the border.
      2) Emirate of Hebron – Composed of all Arab parts of Hebron and the surrounding villages and towns, encompassing the overwhelming majority of Arab villages in southern Judea.
      3) Emirate of Jericho – A city state of Jericho, but in the interests of security, it wouldn’t share a border with Jordan.
      4) Emirate of Ramallah – The city of Ramallah and all its mainly wealthy suburbs.
      5) Emirate of Qalqilya – A city state of Qalqilya and other Arab towns separated by the security fence.
      6) Emirate of Nablus – Nablus and most of the surrounding Arab towns and villages in central Samaria.
      7) Emirate of Tulkarm – Tulkarm as a city state plus the refugee camp adjacent to it.
      8) Emirate of Jenin – This would comprise a collection of Arab villages in the northern part of Samaria including Jenin and Tubas.

      Besides for these areas, all Arabs in the remaining parts of the West Bank would be offered citizenship provided that they swear and oath of loyalty to Israel. Then the rest of the West Bank (70% of its land) would be annexed to Israel.