The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously...—George Orwell, 1984
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An Odd Peace Agreement
The pictures above show the signatures of two agreements. The older one is from 1993 and shows the signing ceremony of what is usually known as the “Oslo Accord” between Israel and the Palestinians. The second is a year later. It shows the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. Both events took place in the White House, with President Clinton as host and Yitzhak Rabin as Israel’s Prime Minister. I am quite confident that most readers remember the event with Arafat, but forgot the picture with King Hussein. The peace agreement between Israel and Jordan was no news. Despite the minefields that blocked access to the Jordan River, the Israeli and Jordanian administrations lived in peace between them since September 1970, when they had cooperated militarily in an event that is known as Black September. King Hussein (the father of the actual king), expelled then Palestinian forces that were operating from Jordan. Israeli and Jordanian forces kept the Jordan valley as an open corridor, while Palestinians escaped northwards to Lebanon. Since then, a silent love affair has existed between Israel and Jordan. For the sake of keeping Jordan’s position in the Arab world, the hot affair was kept secret. After the Oslo Accord was signed, there was no point in keeping the secret, and both sides rushed to Washington, where a peace agreement was signed. Not surprisingly, Jordan is—like Israel—a Major non-NATO Ally of the USA.
Another oddity of this event, was that Jordan gave up its territorial claims in the West Bank a few years before that, following the First Intifada. Jordan being Jordan, this was an iffy situation. The West Bank had been captured by Jordan in the 1948-49 war with Israel. Following the dramatic event, the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan changed its name to Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The entire area had been part of the British Mandate of Palestine awarded by the League of Nations in 1922. Within this mandate, Jordan was known as the Emirate of Transjordan. After 1948, the Palestinians living in the West Bank didn’t openly oppose to the Jordanian rule. The West Bank was conquered by Israel in the 1967 War. In 1986 the king expelled the PLO from the country, and in 1988—during the Intifada—Jordan severed its administrative and legal ties with the West Bank, stripping West Bank Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship. This unprecedented action wasn’t done due to the altruism of King Hussein.
Since when do countries willingly renounce to territory?
Stripping an entire population of citizenship is not something that happens often. Willingly renouncing territory is probably even rarer. Palestinians could probably go to the International Court of Justice and claim the act was illegitimate. Yet, they were busy with the Intifada and probably saw the Jordanian action as a necessary step towards their independence. Nowadays, understanding King Hussein’s action is becoming difficult because the relevant data is falling through one of those abovementioned Orwellian Memory Holes. Two popular sources on the web were of interest.
As usual, I found that the BBC was more accurate than other sites. Yet, look at the odd caption I took from their website on September 30. It states “Native Jordanians are descended from Bedouin tribes, but most of the population is made up of Palestinian immigrants.” The surprising part is that the website doesn’t cite the numbers. Even stranger was the Wikipedia page which defined for Jordan “Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%”. They simply put together Bedouins and Palestinians. I don’t have official numbers, but the reality is that even after renouncing the densely populated Palestinian West Bank, the Jordanian population has over 70% Palestinians.
From this angle, Jordan is similar to Syria. The latter has over 70% of Sunnis, but is controlled by the Alawite minority; this is one of the aspects of the violent conflict going on there. Jordan is run by the Bedouin minority; the ongoing actions of the country against Palestinians are an attempt to keep things this way; they are parallel to the Israeli behavior towards Palestinians.
Jewish Israel and Bedouin Jordan face what their leaders perceive as a similar threat. Thus they consider each other as natural allies and behave accordingly. King Abdullah II speaks against Israel, but acts differently, sending a new ambassador to Tel Aviv. Few noticed this. As Orwell put it “The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient;” luckily, we know better.