Palestine, Back to the Future

There was a time when the lands now known as Israel (including Judea and Samaria and Gaza) and Jordan were called "Palestine."  In fact, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 declared that "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

There followed considerable cooperation between the Jews, represented by Chaim Weizmann, and the Arabs living in Mespotamia, now Iraq and Jordan, represented by Emir Feisal.  As a result, the Feisal-Weizman Agreement was signed in January 1919, in which it was agreed that the Jews would get the lands lying west of the Jordan River watershed to the Mediterranean.

Two months later, Feisal wrote to Felix Frankfuter, the then-leader of the American Zionists, extending a welcome:

We Arabs, especially the educated among us look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organisation to Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate proper. We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.

Unfortunately, that initial agreement and embrace was overtaken by events.  The British and the French had other plans.

Finally, the allied powers -- Britain, France, Italy, and Japan -- passed the San Remo Resolution in evidence of their agreement:

The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, [League of Nations Charter] the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory, to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

This agreement was binding in international law, as these powers had the right to dispose of these lands.

What remained was for the League of Nations to draw up the Palestine Mandate.  Originally, the boundaries of Palestine included what is now Jordan, but a few months prior to the Palestine Mandate being passed by the League of Nations in September 1922, the Jews were told that they must consent to the removal of Jordan from the Jewish homeland if they wished the Mandate to be passed.  And so they did, under duress.  And so was born Article 25 of the Mandate:

In the territories lying between the Jordan [river] and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions[.]

Pursuant to this paragraph, Britain severed all lands lying east of the Jordan River from the Palestine Mandate and gave the lands to the Hashemites.  It was first renamed Transjordan and then just Jordan.

When the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations in 1945, the Charter of the United Nations described "Mandates" as "Trusteeships" and specifically included in Article 80 the following:

... nothing in this Chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties [in order to preserve the rights the Jews had acquired under the League of Nations.]

There followed many resolutions, wars, and peace processes, all designed to erode Jewish rights to the land described in the Palestine Mandate, and all to no avail.  For all intents and purposes, the peace process is dead, and Abu Mazen, otherwise known as Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the PA, has refused to negotiate for the last three years.

This futile effort has resulted in a search for alternate solutions.  Newt Gingrich went public with his newsworthy statement that "[w]e've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community."  Gov Romney did him one better and said, "It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution; they want to eliminate the State of Israel."  Didn't they know that in our PC world, one is not supposed to declare that the emperor has no clothes?  The fiction underlying the failed peace process is more important than the truth.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution which  provided that "peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people."

The Florida Senate just filed a similar resolution with some important changes.  It was proceeded by these recitals, inter alia:

WHEREAS, the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel was a binding resolution under international law,  which was unanimously adopted by the League of Nations in 1922  and subsequently affirmed by both houses of the United States Congress, and

WHEREAS, this resolution affirmed the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the historical region of the Land of Israel, including areas of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem ...

In it, the Members of the Senate affirmed:

[We] support Israel in its legal, historical, moral, and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon the entirety of its own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others, and that peace can be afforded the region only through a whole and united Israel governed under one law for all people.

Of particular interest is the fact that the Senate is affirming that the San Remo Resolution was a binding resolution under international law for the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel.  This flies in the face of all attempts by the international community to deny Israel those rights by asserting their interpretation of the provisions of Fourth Geneva Convention as making the settlements or the "occupation" illegal.  The Fourth Geneva Convention does no such thing.  Nor has anything else, since the Mandate in 1922, derogated such rights.  Furthermore, U.N. Res. 181 , which was the basis of the Partition Plan, was a recommendation only.  Also, SC Res. 242 didn't contradict the original rights of the Jews.

This resolution is expected to pass and also to be incorporated into the Republican Party platform.

If not the two-state solution, then what?

The "Jordan is Palestine" solution has been mooted for decades.  It is now gaining traction due in part to the Arab Spring, which began a year ago.  Jordan now is feeling the tremors.  The majority of Palestinian leaders in Jordan favor Jordan becoming a democratic/secular state.  They have watched in dismay as similar forces in Egypt were overwhelmed by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.  They are determined not to share Egypt's fate.  They are led by Mudar Zahran, the author of "Jordan's King and the Muslim Brotherhood: An Unholy Marriage."

Zahran, in his ground-breaking article, "Jordan is Palestine," published by Middle East Forum in December 2011, argues:

Empowering Palestinian control of Jordan and giving Palestinians all over the world a place they can call home could not only defuse the population and demographic problem for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria but would also solve the much more complicated issue of the "right of return" for Palestinians in other Arab countries. Approximately a million Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Syria and Lebanon, with another 300,000 in Jordan whom the Hashemite government still refuses to accept as citizens. How much better could their future look if there were a welcoming Palestinian Jordan?

The Jordanian option seems the best possible and most viable solution to date. Decades of peace talks and billions of dollars invested by the international community have only brought more pain and suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis-alongside prosperity and wealth for the Hashemites and their cronies.

The rationality and achievability of this solution need no elucidation.  The solution itself needs only for the U.S. to get behind it.  While such an initiative by the U.S. would be a departure from the position it has held since the founding of the State of Israel, it would not be a departure from her original position.  As noted in the proposed Florida Senate resolution mentioned above, such a position was "affirmed by both houses of the United States Congress" in 1922.  These resolutions unanimously endorsed the "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine -- anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

And Zahran's brave stance -- in which he wants the new Jordan, governed by Palestinians, to embrace Israel in true friendship -- is also not new or novel.  It is a return to Emir Feisal's warm embrace of the Jews in 1919.

Thus, we are returning to our future.

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