By Lee Bender and Jerome R. Verlin
Jun 27, 2019, 7:44 AM
The Trump Administration is unveiling its Mideast Peace Plan in Bahrain at the “Peace to Prosperity” conference. It is an ambitious $50 billion economic program for the Palestinian Arabs, including grants, loans and private capital. However, the Palestinian government has boycotted the event and is discouraging others not to attend, contending it does not address political settlement over borders, security and refugees. This economic-first is indeed a new approach since the Palestinian Arabs have rejected every prior political offer for a state living side-by-side next to Israel. Yet, there has been a political solution that has existed since 1922 which should be seriously reconsidered.
Jordan Isn’t “Palestine,” It’s Arab Palestine
Let’s start with accurately stating what some Jews have long been arguing about amongst ourselves: whether the two states of the proposed “ two-state solution” already exist as Israel and Jordan. Both sides often incorrectly state the proposition as “Jordan Is Palestine.” That simplistic formulation hurts us all because Arabs don’t have a monopoly on the term “Palestine.” Romans coined Palestina in 135 CE to disassociate what had been Jewish, Roman-destroyed Jewish Judaea, from Jews. The League of Nations used “Palestine” after WWI to refer to one small segment – comprising today’s Israel and Jordan – of the dissolved Ottoman empire. So we can and should debate not whether “Jordan Is Palestine,” but whether “Jordan is Arab Palestine.”
Despite the Delegitimizers, We Jews Have a Valid Land of Israel Homeland Right
That distinction is not semantic but real. It makes the case that part of Palestine historically belongs to the Jews. What’s at issue is what part? Let’s address this not by focusing on why Palestine east of the Jordan belongs to the Arabs, but on why what’s west of the Jordan belongs to us.
The Jewish homeland of Israel wasn’t “created” and “founded,” as though artificially and out of the blue, in 1948. Homeland Jewish history– biblical and post-biblical– happened. As British historian James Parkes rightly put it in Whose Land? (p. 266), the tenacious, continuous post-biblical presence of the Yishuv, the homeland Jewish community, all through the post-biblical centuries, in spite of every discouragement, wrote our time’s Zionists’ “real title deeds.” The Arabs rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan for a Jewish and Arab state. (Res. 181). In 1948 when Israel re-declared its sovereign independence, it was instantly invaded by the neighboring Arab states, and that invasion was thrown back by a homeland army of homeland Jews.
That 1948-49 war ended not in peace but in ceasefire. The 1949 Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement drew a line with a green pen representing the front line between the Israeli and Jordanian armies- which the agreement expressly defined as a military ceasefire line only and not a political border. That 1949 ceasefire line left the invader Jordan in possession of the historic part of Jerusalem and the Judea-Samaria hill country, and Israel nine-miles-wide in the heavily populated lowland middle. Abba Eban called it an “Auschwitz line.” In renewed 1967 fighting between the same sides, in a defensive war Israel ousted Jordan from historic Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria, taking control of all western Palestine.
It has become fashionable, not just among Israel’s enemies but even by the Reform and Conservative movements of American Jewry, to sanctify those old 1967-war-obliterated 1949 ceasefire lines as “the 1967 borders.” However, as expressly declared military ceasefire lines only, they ceased to exist with renewed fighting between the same sides. Nor were they recognized as among the Holy Land’s holy places by post-’67 war UNSC resolution 242.
But that supposedly sacrosanct “1967 border” isn’t the only poisoned pejorative invoked to hew down the Jewish homeland claim to the 1949 ceasefire line. We’re accused of “judaizing” Jerusalem, and occupying “Palestinian East Jerusalem.” Really. Palestinian Arabs have never ruled Jerusalem, “East” or elsewhere, for one day in history. Jerusalem has been the capital in the past 3,000 years of three homeland sovereign states – Judah, Judaea and Israel – all of them Jewish. Every ruler since the Romans have been a foreign empire invader, and mostly non-Arab at that. Jews lived in Jerusalem continuously throughout that time, except during foreign conqueror expulsions, from which we relentlessly returned, and during those 1,800 years nobody called Jews in Jerusalem “settlers.” Jerusalem has had a renewed Jewish majority, not since 1967 but from pre-political-Zionist 1800’s Ottoman rule.
And yet we’re accused of resurrecting the names “Judea” and “Samaria,” which the media calls “the biblical names for the West Bank.” But those Hebrew-origin names remained in use all through the post-biblical centuries, documented in maps and travelers’ journals, and by the U.N. itself in 1947: “The boundary of the hill country of Samaria and Judea starts on the Jordan River ….” Also we’re told insistently by the media that the Jewish connection to historic Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria dates from “their capture by Israel in 1967,” off by circa 3,000 years.
Cries of “Judaizing East Jerusalem”, “settling in the West Bank”, “captured by Israel in 1967,” etc. notwithstanding, we Jews have an established historic Jewish homeland rights to the land of Israel, “Palestine” west of the Jordan, not confined to just that part of it within the ceasefire lines of a 1948-49 war succeeded and replaced by those of a 1967 war.
What’s Worse, a Terror State in Jordan or In Judea-Samaria, or in Both?
The Arabs have turned down this state living side-by-side with Israel six times since 1937 in the truncated western section of the Mandate– including their rejection of the UN 1947 Partition Plan. They refuse to acknowledge Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People, and are as determined as ever to effectuate their goal of destroying Israel and replacing it with another Arab state. In fact, they have never accepted “two states for two peoples,” the U.S. and Israeli definition of “two states.” Peace with the Palestinian Arabs, who are reportedly being shunned by Sunni Arab and Gulf states that are growing closer to Israel due to the Iranian threat and are frustrated with the corrupt Palestinian Authority and its rejectionism, are as elusive as ever.
Potential solutions put forward by the Israeli Right range from offering the Arabs a path to citizenship, to incentivizing them with monetary payments to emigrate voluntarily. The Left prefers the “two-state solution.” The Arabs have rejected it all.
Many Jews object to recognizing Jordan as Arab Palestine because it entails replacing the present, relatively pro-Western Hashemite monarchy with a potentially mega-Gaza terrorist place. And the worst case would be both “the West Bank” and Jordan as comprising that place. But that eventuality may be potentially more likely if the currently popular “two-state solution” with an Arab state in Judea-Samaria is implemented instead.
But there is an option that has been in existence since 1922 for the land of the original Palestine Mandate. The “Jordan Option” represents a different, less expensive and simpler path: It requires nothing. Jordan is the functioning Arab state of the old Palestine Mandate. It is not the fault of the Jews that Palestinian Arabs aren’t in charge of what they believe to be their majority land and population in Jordan.
Step 1 would require the voluntary or forced abdication by King Abdullah– the non-indigenous Hashemite Kingdom installed there by Britain. Next, the “Jordan Opposition Coalition” would form the interim government. Given the fact that 75% of Jordanian citizens are of Palestinian descent, i.e., their grandparents were/are Palestinian, this makes perfect sense.
The only secure borders for Israel are the natural borders of the sea and the river, with the Judea-Samaria hill country within them. And these borders, including historic Jerusalem, correspond to those of the historic Jewish homeland of Israel. There is no room in that narrow space for both a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab sovereign states. There is an Arab state, on 78% of the original Palestine Mandate, with a majority population of Palestinian Arabs. It’s three times Israel’s size, and could absorb UNRWA’s millions of wards, which a new landlocked rump Arab state defined by the ceasefire lines of a 1948-49 war could not.
The Jordanian option is an overdue solution: A moderate, peaceful, economically thriving, Palestinian Arab home in Jordan would allow both Israelis and Palestinians to see a true and lasting peace. And nothing would prevent the new state from calling itself Palestine. Will the Palestinian Authority and Hamas get onboard? Not until their goal is a state rather than the destruction of Israel.
Lee Bender is the co-author of the book, “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z,” author of dozens of published articles, co-founder of the website www.factsonisrael.com and co-president of the Zionist Organization of America-Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
Jerome R. Verlin, a former vice president of ZOA’s Greater Philadelphia Chapter, is the author of the book, “Israel 3,000 Years: The Jewish People’s 3,000 Year Presence in Palestine,” co-author of “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z” and co-founder of www.factsonisrael.com.
The above was co-authored by Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin.