Transjordan and I$raHell: Examining the Foundations of a Special Relationship

NOVANEWS
This concern that Abdullah had regarding Arab Palestine and Palestinians at the time is another point of convergence of Transjordanian and Zionist interests. For each party the Palestinians represented different things, for Abdullah the Palestinians and their land represented a possible initial power and population base that could be used to fuel future expansion while for the Zionist movement the Palestinians represented their direct competitors to the land and resources present in Mandate Palestine. Through these perspectives a common perception arose in minds of Transjordanian and Yishuv leadership that an organized and established Palestinian state represented a threat to them18. Abdullah’s concern for Palestine was always secondary to plans of capturing Syria. It wasn’t until 1947 that it came to hold a more significant importance in the concerns of the Transjordanian King. Even prior to it occupying a role of prominence the political movements and figures in Palestine that demand total independence gained the mutual animosity from Abdullah and the leadership of the Yishuv. Furthermore, Palestine and Transjordan were already drawn together through economic interests. With both areas being part of the Palestine mandate, free movement across the Jordan River caused Transjordanians to serve as seasonal labor in Palestine and Palestinians to serve as bureaucrats in Transjordan, both regions also shared a common currency, the Palestine pound19.
As a result the economic well being of Transjordan became tied to Arab Palestine. Consequently, the potential loss of Arab Palestine through conquest or independence forecast an almost total collapse of the Transjordanian economy as its workers would be deprived of jobs and its government would be deprived of educated employees. So the increased concern of Abdullah and his opposition of Arab nationalists through the late 1940’s as tensions between the Jewish and Arab communities in the region increased is quite understandable as it threatened the economic welfare of his state. So it was with the hope of gaining control over Arab Palestine that Abdullah worked to undermine cooperation between elements of the Palestinian polity by supporting British action in cracking down on and removing elements such as Mohammed Amin Al-Husayni from the area20. The Zionist movement also supported such action against the yet uncreated Palestinian state and found Abdullah due to interest that he had in the region the perfect partner in ensuring that a Palestinian state would not be created.
The outbreak of violence caused by the Arab rebellion that lasted from 1936 to 1939 and the failure of various attempts at partition such as the Peel Commission as well as “White Paper” caused a shift in the policy of the Zionist movement away from compromise with local Arabs in the Palestine towards cooperation with Arab leaders outside of Palestine as the only possible path towards generating positive results for the Zionist endeavor21. Abdullah became the prime figure of possible cooperation regarding the situation in Palestine for the Zionist movement due to the already existing economic and diplomatic relationship between the two. Furthermore, the leadership of the Yishuv saw the benefit from the occupation of Arab lands in Mandate Palestine by Abdullah’s Legion as it would give them a friendly and reliable neighbor while simultaneously disrupting the focus of Palestinian nationalists by giving them a new force to contend with in the form of Transjordan. Confirmation of this stance can be seen from a meeting between King Abdullah and Golda Meir a few days prior to the declaration of the Israeli state when Meir stated that Israel would prefer that the Arab lands of Palestine be occupied by Abdullah as opposed to them emerging as a sovereign state22. So it was on this semblance of an agreement that Israel and Transjordan marched toward the 1948 Arab-Israel war with each hoping to achieve their respective objectives through mutual assistance and cooperation.
The 1948 Arab-Israel war saw the culmination of almost three decades of cooperation between the Yishuv’s leadership and the Kingdom of Transjordan. Economic cooperation, the convergence of political objectives and mutual fear of a Palestinian state had all worked towards creating one of the most consistent and stable relationships in the Middle East. The war however was not just an arena where old agreements between the Zionist movement and Abdullah but a time period where Transjordan attempted to achieve it objectives to the fullest extent possible. One such incident was the Abdullah’s reaction to the incident of Deir Yassin where the Arab League accepted a message from him stating that he would only move to protect Palestinians if the other Arab states accepted that his forces would occupy Palestine23. Through this initiative Abdullah was able to gain Arab support for his endeavor to occupy Arab Palestine and achieve the agreement that was already reached with Israel prior to the conflict.
Abdullah also had all armed Palestinian groups within the territory of the Arab Legion disbanded or brought under his control. Abdullah’s objective of expansion was not limited to actions that complemented Israeli interests, as there was a point of friction between the two parties. That point of conflict or more appropriately the point where an agreement could not be reached was Jerusalem and the surrounding area which both parties did not discuss as to not hamper cooperation on other aspects of their relationship. However, when the war did take place Abdullah’s interest of both expanding his state and legitimizing it in the Arab world drove him toward Jerusalem. It was this unique circumstance where taking Jerusalem would not go against agreements reached with Israel prior to the war as well as the immense prestige that it would offer the Transjordanian state, which caused it to become the only point in the 1948 war where the Arab Legion directly and deliberately engaged Israeli forces24. Nevertheless, the mutual needs of Israel and Transjordan for each other overshadowed the conflict taking place in Jerusalem between their forces.
Israel still needed Transjordan as it represented the only Arab state in the region that was willing to provide it with a neutral relationship if not support. Transjordan also needed Israel as Abdullah perceived that possible expansion such as the Greater Syria plan would be easier to achieve with a friendly Israeli state due to the increased hostility from Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and certain elements in Iraq and Lebanon. His attempt at ensuring this friendly relationship lasted can be seen from the conduct of the Arab Legion during the war where it did not attempt to attack or occupy any land allotted to the Jews according to the United Nations partition plan as was agreed upon by Abdullah and the Yishuv prior to the war25. The Arab Legion also did not attempt to cut Israel in half by moving toward the Mediterranean Sea, and when soldiers were questioned regarding their lack of action the response that they “had no orders” became a hallmark of Transjordan’s stance during the 1948 war. Transjordan also used the war and it relationship with Israel as an opportunity to eliminate the military capabilities of the other Arab states. This stance is perhaps best put by Glubb Pasha when he wrote to a British officer stating that “if the Jews are going to have a private war with the Egyptians and the Gaza government, we do not want to get involved. The gyppies and the Gaza government are almost as hostile to us as the Jews!”26, while his statements regarding hostility between his own forces and the Jews is essentially hyperbolic, the actions of Transjordan during the war clearly displays that Transjordan was hostile not only to Egypt but a number of the other Arab states as well. Following the first ceasefire the Legion sat calmly by as Israel picked off each of the Arab states one by one27 causing it to be the only Arab state to end the war without suffering major losses as well as the only state to make substantial territorial gains.
Following the end of the conflict King Abdullah went on to annex the territory he had occupied during the 1948 war and in turn transformed Transjordan into Jordan. King Abdullah would go on to be assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist in 1951 on his way to Friday prayer due to his collaboration with the Zionist movement as well as his own actions at quashing the Palestinian state. It is at this moment of his death that we can see the achievement of perhaps one of more important goals that Abdullah and the Jordanian government were trying to achieve. That goal being the creation of a lasting and legitimate Jordanian state from what was an illegitimate protectorate at it creation in 1921. This fear that Transjordan would fall apart if Abdullah died prematurely was something that consistently haunted the Zionist movement and elements within Transjordan as they were collaborating prior to the 1948 war28. At the end of the conflict however, Abdullah through his collaboration with the Zionist movement not only established the permanence of the Jordanian state but also won it an ally in the form of Israel that would continue to support its existence long after Abdullah had died.
By taking in the entire scope of the interactions between the Zionist movement and Abdullah we can see that their relationship was not merely motivated by the desire for territorial expansion. Both states due to their beginnings as British mandates had become economically intertwined. The aggression of states around them also drove their economic cooperation, as they each became the only viable option toward creating sustainable economic development to one another. The Yishuv leadership and Abdullah also had a number of political goals regarding the legitimacy of their own states that coincided. Both states were seen as artificial creation in the region and by supporting each other they would ensure their own survival. Palestinian nationalism also became a mutual threat to both Transjordan and Israel causing them to collaborate. Aside from the political and economic aspects of convergence between the Zionist movement and Transjordan there was a military aspect that also drew them together. Both forces recognized each other as being potent fighting bodies and thus fostered good relations in order to avoid direct combat with one another as well as the securing of an ally that would be capable of providing aid when the circumstance called for it. It is this convergence of economic, political and military interests as well as the hostility of the surrounding states that drew Abdullah and the Yishuv together and not mere greed as is touted by Arab nationalists. It is this convergence that drove Abdullah the son of the man who began the Arab revolt, to cooperation with the Zionist movement in order to secure the future of his territory in the region as a sovereign and legitimate state.


References
Abu Nowar, Maan. The Jordanian~Israeli War 1948-1951: A History of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Reading: Ithaca Press, 2002.
Bar-Joseph, Uri. The best of enemies: Israel and Transjordan in the war of 1948. London; Totowa, N.J.: Frank Cass, 1987.
Gelber, Yoav. Israeli-Jordanian dialogue, 1948-1953: cooperation, conspiracy, or collusion?. Brighton; Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2004.
Gil-Har, Yitzhak. “Delimitation Boundaries: Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 28(1992): pp. 374-384.
Karsh, Efraim and P.R. Kumaraswamy, editors. Israel the Hashemites and the Palestinians. London, Portland: Frank Cass, 2003.
Katz, Kimberly. Jordanian Jerusalem: Holy Places and the National Spaces. Gainesville, Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Boca Raton Pensacola, Ft. Myers: University Press of Florida, 2005.
Korany, Bahgat and Ali Dessouki, editors. The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Globalization. Cairo, New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2008.
Meir, Golda. “Israel in Search of Lasting Peace.” Foreign Affairs Vol. 51(1973): p. 447-461.
Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. 2nd ed. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.
Nevo, Joseph and Ilan Pappe, editors. Jordan In The Middle East: The Making of a Pivotal State 1948-1988. Ilford, Essex, England; Portland, Or.: Frank Cass, 1994.
Rogan, Eugene, and Avi Shlaim, editors. The War for Palestine. 2nd ed. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Shlaim, Avi. Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
Shlaim, Avi. The politics of partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine, 1921-1951. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Shwadran, Benjamin. Jordan A State of Tension. New York: Council for Middle Eastern Affairs Press, 1959.
Simon, Reeva. “The Hashemite ‘Conspiracy’: Hashemite Unity Attempts, 1921-1958.” International Journal of Middle East Studies Vol. 5(1974): pp. 314-327.
Susser, Asher. Jordan: Case Study of a Pivotal State. Washington DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000.
Wilson, Mary. King Abdullah, Britain and the making of Jordan. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Arabic References
الصباغ, عبد اللطيف. بريطانيا و مشكلاث الحدود بين السعودية و شرق الاردن. القاهرة: مكتبة مدبولي, 1999.
محافظة, محمد. امارة شرق الاردن: نشأتها و تطورها في ربع قرن 1921-1946. عمان: دار الفرقان, 1990.


1.) Efraim Krash, “Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 3.
2.) Donna Robinson Divine, ‘The Imperial Ties that Bind: Transjordan and the Yishuv” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 18. 
3.) Efraim Krash, “Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 7.
4.) Ali Dessouki and Karen Abul Kheir, “Foreign Policy as a Strategic National Asset: The Case of Jordan” in The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Globalization. Bahgat Korany and Ali Dessouki. (Cairo, New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2008), p.253.
5.) Asher Susser, Jordan: Case Study of a Pivotal State (Washington DC: The Washington Institute of Near East Policy, 2000), p. 5.
6.) Abd Al-Latif Al-Sabagh, Britain and the Border Issues between Saudi Arabia and Transjordan (Cairo: Maktabat Madbouli, 1999), p.49.
7.) Donna Robinson Divine, ‘The Imperial Ties that Bind: Transjordan and the Yishuv” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 25-26.
8.) William Haddad and Mary Hardy, “Jordan’s Alliance with Israel and its Effect on Jordanian-Arab relations” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle Efraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 34.
9.) Mary Wilson, King Abdullah, Britain and the making of Jordan (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 57.
10.) Avi Shlaim, The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, The Zionists, And Palestine 1921-1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 40.
11.) Donna Robinson Divine, ‘The Imperial Ties that Bind: Transjordan and the Yishuv” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 19-20.
12.) William Haddad and Mary Hardy, “Jordan’s Alliance with Israel and its Effect on Jordanian-Arab relations” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle Efraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 35.
13.) William Haddad and Mary Hardy, “Jordan’s Alliance with Israel and its Effect on Jordanian-Arab relations” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle Efraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 35.
14.) Benjamin Shwadran, Jordan A State of Tension (New York: Council For Middle Eastern Affairs Press, 1959), p. 131-132.
15.) Reeva Simon, “The Hashemite “Conspiracy”: Hashemite Unity Attempts, 1921-1958”, International Journal of Middle East Studies (June 1974): p. 316.
16.) Donna Robinson Divine, ‘The Imperial Ties that Bind: Transjordan and the Yishuv” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful TriangleEfraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 20.
17.) Benjamin Shwadran, Jordan A State of Tension (New York: Council For Middle Eastern Affairs Press, 1959), p. 238-239.
18.) William Haddad and Mary Hardy, “Jordan’s Alliance with Israel and its Effect on Jordanian-Arab relations” in Israel, the Hashemites and the Palestinians: The Fateful Triangle. Efraim Karsh and P.R. Kumaraswany. (London, Portalnd: Frank Cass, 2003), p. 33.
19.) Mary Wilson, King Abdullah, Britain and the making of Jordan (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 103.
20.) Kimberly Katz, Jordanian Jerusalem: Holy Places and National Spaces(Gainesville, Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Boca Raton Pensacola, Ft. Myers: University Press of Florida, 2005), p. 31.
21.) Avi Shlaim, The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, The Zionists, And Palestine 1921-1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 53.
22.) Eugene Rogan, “Jordan and 1948: The persistence of an official history” inThe War for Palestine. Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p.109.
23.) Mary Wilson, King Abdullah, Britain and the making of Jordan (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 168-169.
24.) Yoav Gelber, Israeli-Jordanian Dialogue, 1948-1953: Cooperation, Conspiracy, or Collusion? (Brighton, Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2004), p.14.
25.) Uri Bar-Joseph, The Best of Enemies: Israel and Transjordan in the War of 1948(London; Totowa, N.J.: Frank Kass, 1987), p. 23.
26.) Avi Shlaim, “Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948” in The War for Palestine. Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p.99.
27.) Avi Shlaim, “Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948” in The War for Palestine. Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p.99.

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