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The Jordanian annexation of the West Bank was the occupation and consequent annexation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) by Jordan (formerly Transjordan) in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.[1][2] During the war, Jordan's Arab Legion conquered the Old City of Jerusalem and took control of territory on the western side of the Jordan River, including the cities of Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus.[3] At the end of hostilities, Jordan was in complete control of the West Bank.

Following the December 1948 Jericho Conference, and the 1949 renaming of the country from Transjordan to Jordan, the West Bank was formally annexed on 24 April 1950.

The annexation was widely considered as illegal and void by the international community.[4] A month afterward, the Arab League declared that they viewed the area "annexed by Jordan as a trust in its hands until the Palestine case is fully solved in the interests of its inhabitants."[5] Recognition of Jordan's declaration of annexation was only granted by the United Kingdom, Iraq and Pakistan.[6][7] Jordan transferred its full citizenship rights to the residents of the West Bank, the annexation more than doubled the population of Jordan.[3] The naturalized Palestinians enjoyed equal opportunities in all sectors of the state without discrimination, and they were given half of the seats of the Jordanian Parliament.[8]

After Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, the Palestinians there remained Jordanian citizens until Jordan decided to renounce claims and severe administrative ties with the territory in 1989.


Prior to 1948

Prior to hostilities in 1948, all of the country known as Palestine (including the West Bank) had been under the British-controlled Mandate Government of Palestine, since 1917. Prior to that time, the country had been under Ottoman Turk occupation since 1517. The British, as custodians of the land, implemented the land tenure laws in Palestine, which it had inherited from the Ottoman Turks (as defined in the Ottoman Land Code of 1858), applying these laws unto, both, Arab and Jewish legal tenants or otherwise.[9] Toward the expiration of the British Mandate, Arabs aspired for independence and self-determination, as did the Jews of the country.[10]

1948 Arab–Israeli War

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, on behalf of the Jewish leadership, "declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel".[11] The Jordanian Arab Legion, under the leadership of Sir John Bagot Glubb, known as Glubb Pasha, was ordered to enter Palestine, secure the UN designated Arab area,[12] and then enter the Jerusalem corpus separatum as defined by the UN Partition Plan.

On 22 September 1948, the All-Palestine Government was established in Gaza captured by Egypt. On 30 September, the First Palestine Congress, which saw Palestine as part of Syria, denounced the Gaza "government."[13] The December 1948 Jericho Conference, a meeting of prominent Palestinian leaders and King Abdullah I, voted in favor of annexation into what was then Transjordan.[14]

By the end of the war, Jordanian forces had control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. On 3 April 1949, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice agreement. The main points included:

  • Jordanian forces remained in most positions they held in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Old City.
  • Jordan withdrew its forces from its front posts overlooking the Sharon plain. In return, Israel agreed to allow Jordanian forces to take over positions in the West Bank previously held by Iraqi forces.
  • A Special Committee was to be formed to make arrangements for safe movement of traffic between Jerusalem and Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along the Latrun-Jerusalem Highway, free access to the Holy Places, and other matters. The committee was never formed, and access to the Holy Places was denied to Israelis throughout the Jordanian occupation.

The remainder of the area designated as part of an Arab state under the UN Partition Plan was partly occupied by Egypt (Gaza Strip), partly occupied and annexed by Israel (West Negev, West Galilee, Jaffa). The intended international enclave of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The Jordanians immediately expelled all the Jewish residents of East Jerusalem.[15] All but one of the 35 synagogues in the Old City were destroyed over the course of the next 19 years, either razed or used as stables and chicken coops. Many other historic and religiously significant buildings were replaced by modern structures.[16][17] The ancient Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives was desecrated, and the tombstones were used for construction, paving roads and lining latrines; the highway to the Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the site.[18]

Jordanian control


Armistice Demarcation Lines, 1949–1967
  •      Israel, first recognized by the US, 15 May 1948
  •      Allotted for Arab state, occupied by Egypt Feb 1949/Jordan Apr 1949
  •      Allotted for Arab state, occupied by Israel Feb/Apr 1949

In March 1948, the British Cabinet had agreed that the civil and military authorities in Palestine should make no effort to oppose the setting up of a Jewish State or a move into Palestine from Transjordan.[19]

The United States, together with the United Kingdom favored the annexation by Transjordan. The UK preferred to permit King Abdullah to annex the territory at the earliest date, while the United States preferred to wait until after the conclusion of the Palestine Conciliation Commission brokered negotiations.[20]

Jordan formally annexed the West Bank on 24 April 1950, giving all residents automatic Jordanian citizenship. West Bank residents had already received the right to claim Jordanian citizenship in December 1949.

Jordan's annexation was widely regarded as illegal and void by the Arab League and others. Elihu Lauterpacht described it as a move that "entirely lacked legal justification."[21] The annexation formed part of Jordan’s "Greater Syria Plan" expansionist policy,[22] and in response, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria joined Egypt in demanding Jordan’s expulsion from the Arab League.[23][24] A motion to expel Jordan from the League was prevented by the dissenting votes of Yemen and Iraq.[25] On 12 June 1950, the Arab League declared the annexation was a temporary, practical measure and that Jordan was holding the territory as a “trustee” pending a future settlement.[26][27] On 27 July 1953, King Hussein of Jordan announced that East Jerusalem was "the alternative capital of the Hashemite Kingdom" and would form an "integral and inseparable part" of Jordan.[28] In an address to parliament in Jerusalem in 1960, Hussein called the city the "second capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan".[29]

Only the United Kingdom formally recognized the annexation of the West Bank, de facto in the case of East Jerusalem.[30] The United States Department of State also recognized this extension of Jordanian sovereignty.[31][32] Pakistan is often claimed to have recognized Jordan's annexation too, but this is dubious.[33][34]

In 1950, the British extended formal recognition to the union between the Hashemite Kingdom and that part of Palestine under Jordanian occupation and control - with the exception of Jerusalem. The British government stated that it regarded the provisions of the Anglo-Jordan Treaty of Alliance of 1948 as applicable to all the territory included in the union.[35] Despite Arab League opposition, the inhabitants of the West Bank became citizens of Jordan.

Tensions continued between Jordan and Israel through the early 1950s, with Palestinian guerrillas and Israeli commandos crossing the Green Line. Abdullah I of Jordan, who had become Emir of Transjordan in 1921 and King in 1923, was assassinated in 1951 during a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem by a Palestinian gunman following rumours that he was discussing a peace treaty with Israel. The trial found that this assassination had been planned by Colonel Abdullah el-Tell, ex-military governor of Jerusalem, and Musa Abdullah Husseini. He was succeeded by his grandson King Hussein of Jordan once he came of age in 1953, after his father Talal's brief reign.

Jordanian control

King Hussein flying over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem when it was under Jordanian control, 1965

Unlike any other Arab country to which they fled after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Palestinian refugees in the West Bank (and on the East Bank) were given Jordanian citizenship on the same basis as existing residents.[36] However, many of the refugees continued to live in camps and relied on UNRWA assistance for sustenance. Palestinian refugees constituted more than a third of the kingdom's population of 1.5 million.

In the Jordanian parliament, the West and East Banks received 30 seats each, having roughly equal populations. The first elections were held on 11 April 1950. Although the West Bank had not yet been annexed, its residents were permitted to vote. The last Jordanian elections in which West Bank residents would vote were those of April 1967, but their parliamentary representatives would continue in office until 1988, when West Bank seats were finally abolished. Palestinians enjoyed equal opportunities in all sectors of the state without discrimination.[8]

Agriculture remained the primary activity of the territory. The West Bank, despite its smaller area, contained half of Jordan's agricultural land. In 1966, 43% of the labor force of 55,000 worked in agriculture, and 2,300 km² were under cultivation. (Numbers that have fallen considerably since.) In 1965, 15,000 workers were employed in industry, producing 7% of the GNP. This number fell after the 1967 war, and would not be surpassed until 1983.[37] The tourism industry also played an important role. 26 branches of 8 Arab banks were present. The Jordanian dinar became legal tender, and remains so there today.[citation needed]

There was a significant flow of population from the West Bank to East Bank, in particular to the capital, Amman.

Access to holy sites

Clauses in the 3 April 1949 Armistice Agreements specified that Israelis would have access to the religious sites in East Jerusalem. However, Jordan refused to implement this clause arguing that Israel's refusal to permit the return of Palestinians to their homes in West Jerusalem voided that clause in the agreement.[38] Tourists entering East Jerusalem had to present baptismal certificates or other proof they were not Jewish.[39][40][41]

The special committee that was to make arrangements for visits to holy places was never formed and Israelis, irrespective of religion, were barred from entering the Old City and other holy sites.[42] The Jewish Quarter and its ancient synagogues were systematically destroyed such as the Hurva Synagogue[43][44] and gravestones from the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used to build latrines for Jordanian army barracks.[45][46]

Six-Day War and end of Jordanian control

By the end of the Six-Day War, the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank with its one million Palestinian population had come under Israeli military occupation. About 300,000 Palestinian refugees fled to Jordan. After 1967, all religious groups were granted administration over their own holy sites, while administration of the Temple Mount – sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims – remained in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf which had held the responsibility for the previous 800 years.


On 31 July 1988, Jordan renounced its claims to the West Bank (with the exception of guardianship over the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem), and recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."[47][48]

The 1993 Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel "opened the road for Jordan to proceed on its own negotiating track with Israel."[49] The Washington Declaration[50] was initialed one day after the Oslo Accords were signed. "On July 25, 1994, King Hussein met with Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in the Rose Garden of the White House, where they signed the Washington Declaration, formally ending the 46-year state of war between Jordan and Israel."[49] Finally, on 26 October 1994, Jordan signed the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, which normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes between them.


See also



  1. Raphael Israeli, Jerusalem divided: the armistice regime, 1947–1967, Volume 23 of Cass series – Israeli history, politics, and society, Psychology Press, 2002, p. 23.
  2. "Under Jordanian occupation since the 1948 Palestine war," Chicago Tribune, 3 June 1954
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cavendish, Richard (4 April 2000). "Jordan Formally Annexes the West Bank". History Today. Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  4. Benvenisti, Eyal (2012). The International Law of Occupation. Oxford University Press. p. 204. 
  5. Blum, Yehuda Z. (29 September 2016). Will "Justice" Bring Peace?: International Law - Selected Articles and Legal Opinions. BRILL. pp. 230–231. ISBN 978-90-04-23395-9. "On April 13, 1950... the Council of the Arab League decided that "annexation of Arab Palestine by any Arab State would be considered a violation of the League Charter, and subject to sanctions." Three weeks after the said proclamation - on May 15, 1950 - the Political Committee of the Arab League, in an extraordinary session in Cairo, decided, without objection (Jordan herself was absent from the meeting), that the Jordanian annexation measure constituted a violation of the Council's resolution of April 13, 1950, and considered the expulsion of Jordan from the League; but it was decided that discussion of punitive measures be postponed to another meeting, set for June 12, 1950. At that meeting of the League Council it had before it Jordanian Memorandum asserting that "annexation of Arab Palestine was irrevocable, although without prejudice to any final settlement of the Palestine question." This formula enabled the Council to adopt a face-saving resolution "to treat the Arab part of Palestine annexed by Jordan as a trust in its hands until the Palestine case is fully solved in the interests of its inhabitants."" 
  6. Benveniśtî, Eyāl (2004). The international law of occupation. Princeton University Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-691-12130-3. // "This purported annexation was, however, widely regarded as illegal and void, by the Arab League and others, and was recognized only by Britain, Iraq, and Pakistan." 
  7. George Washington University. Law School (2005). The George Washington international law review. George Washington University. p. 390. // Retrieved 21 December 2010. "Jordan's illegal occupation and Annexation of the West Bank" 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Nils August Butenschon; Uri Davis; Manuel Sarkis Hassassian (2000). Citizenship and the State in the Middle East: Approaches and Applications. Syracuse University Press. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  9. The Survey of Palestine under the British Mandate: 1920–1948, British Mandate government printing office, Jerusalem 1946, vol. 1, p. 225, of chapter 8, section 1, paragraph 1 (Reprinted in 1991 by the Institute for Palestine Studies), which reads: "The land law in Palestine embraces the system of tenures inherited from the Ottoman regime, enriched by some amendments, mostly of a declaratory character, enacted since the British Occupation on the authority of the Palestine Orders-in-Council."
  10. A Survey of Palestine (Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry), vol. 1, chapter 2, British Mandate Government of Palestine: Jerusalem 1946, p. 24
  11. "Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel: 14 May 1948: Retrieved 8 April 2012". 14 May 1948. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  12. Sir John Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, London 1957, p. 200
  13. Identity and civilization: Essays on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. University Press of America. 1999. // Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  14. "FRUS, US State Department Report". Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  15. Michael J. Totten. "Between the Green Line and the Blue Line". Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  16. "Letter from the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General". 5 March 1968. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. 
  17. Mark A. Tessler. (1994). A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 329. // Retrieved 23 April 2015. "Jordan's illegal occupation and Annexation of the West Bank" 
  18. Shragai, Nadav. "The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control Is Vital". Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  19. CAB/128/12 formerly C.M.(48) 24 conclusions 22 March 1948
  20. Foreign relations of the United States, 1950. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, p. 1096
  21. Gerson, Allan (1978-01-01) (in en). Israel, the West Bank and International Law. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780714630915. 
  22. Naseer Hasan Aruri (1972). Jordan: a study in political development (1921-1965).. Springer. p. 90. ISBN 978-90-247-1217-5. // Retrieved 22 December 2010. "For Abdullah, the annexation of Palestine was the first step in the implementation of his Greater Syria Plan. His expansionist policy placed him at odds with Egypt and Saudi Arabic. Syria and Lebanon, which would be included in the Plan were uneasy. The annexation of Palestine was, therefore, condemned by the Arab League’s Political Committee on May 15, 1950." 
  23. American Jewish Committee; Jewish Publication Society of America (1951). American Jewish year book. American Jewish Committee. pp. 405–06. // Retrieved 21 December 2010. "On April 13, 1950, the council of the League resolved that Jordan's annexation of Arab Palestine was illegal, and at a meeting of the League's political committee on May 15, 1950, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria joined Egypt in demanding Jordan’s expulsion from the Arab League." 
  24. Council for Middle Eastern Affairs (1950). Middle Eastern affairs. Council for Middle Eastern Affairs. p. 206. // Retrieved 21 December 2010. "May 12: Jordan's Foreign Minister walks out of the Political Committee during the discussion of Jordan's annexation of Arab Palestine. May 15: The Political Committee agrees that Jordan's annexation of Arab Palestine was illegal and violated the Arab League resolution of Apr. 12, 1948. A meeting is called for June 12 to decide whether to expel Jordan or take punitive action against her." 
  25. Naseer Hasan Aruri (1972). Jordan: a study in political development (1921-1965).. Springer. p. 90. ISBN 978-90-247-1217-5. // Retrieved 22 December 2010. "The annexation of Palestine was, therefore, condemned by the Arab League's Political Committee on May 15, 1950. A motion to expel Jordan from the League was prevented by the dissenting votes of Yemen and Iraq" 
  26. Sicker, Martin (2001). The Middle East in the twentieth century. Greenwood. p. 187. ISBN 0-275-96893-6. // 
  27. El-Hasan, Hasan Afif (2010). Is the Two-State Solution Already Dead?. Algora. p. 64. ISBN 0-87586-792-8. // 
  28. Martin Gilbert (12 September 1996). Jerusalem in the twentieth century. J. Wiley & Sons. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-471-16308-4. // Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  29. Tamar Mayer; Suleiman Ali Mourad (2008). Jerusalem: idea and reality. Taylor & Francis. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-415-42128-7. // Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  30. Announcement in the UK House of Commons of the recognition of the State of Israel and also of the annexation of the West Bank by the State of Jordan. Commons Debates (Hansard) 5th series, Vol 474, pp. 1137–41. April 27, 1950.
  31. United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States, 1950. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa p. 921
  32. Joseph Massad said that the members of the Arab League granted de facto recognition and that the United States had formally recognized the annexation, except for Jerusalem. See Massad, Joseph A. (2001). Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-231-12323-X. 
  33. Silverburg, S. R. (1983). "Pakistan and the West Bank: A research note". pp. 261–63. Digital object identifier:10.1080/00263208308700547. 
  34. P. R. Kumaraswamy (March 2000). "Beyond the Veil: Israel-Pakistan Relations" (PDF). Tel Aviv, Israel: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University. 
  35. See: Jordan and Israel (Government Decision) HC Deb 27 April 1950 vol 474 cc1137-41
  36. Al Abed, Oroub. "Palestinian refugees in Jordan". Forced Migration Online. Retrieved 6 July 2015. "Palestinians were granted Jordanian Citizenship. Article 3 of the 1954 law states that a Jordanian national is: ‘Any person with previous Palestinian nationality except the Jews before the date of May 15, 1948 residing in the Kingdom during the period from December 20, 1949 and February 16, 1954.’ Thus Palestinians in the East Bank and the West Bank of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were granted Jordanian nationality." 
  37. Paul H. Smith (July 1993). "Assessing the Viability of a Palestinian State". Defense Intelligence College. 
  38. Dumper, Michael (2014). Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0231537352. 
  39. Friedland, Roger; Hecht, Richard (2000). To Rule Jerusalem. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-520-22092-7. 
  40. Thomas A Idinopulos, Jerusalem, 1994, p. 300, "So severe were the Jordanian restrictions against Jews gaining access to the old city that visitors wishing to cross over from west Jerusalem...had to produce a baptismal certificate."
  41. Armstrong, Karen, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, "Only clergy, diplomats, UN personnel, and a few privileged tourists were permitted to go from one side to the other. The Jordanians required most tourists to produce baptismal certificates – to prove they were not Jewish ... ."
  42. Martin Gilbert (1996). 'Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century. Pimlico. p. 254. 
  43. Collins (1973), pp. 492–94.
  44. Benny Morris (1 October 2008). 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. Yale University Press. pp. 218. ISBN 978-0-300-14524-3. Retrieved 14 July 2013. ""On 26–27 May, the Legionnaires took the Hurvat Israel (or “Hurva”) Synagogue, the quarter’s largest and most sacred building, and then, without reason, blew it up. “This affair will rankle for generations in the heart of world Jewry,” predicted one Foreign Office official. The destruction of the synagogue shook Jewish morale."" 
  45. "Jordan's Desecration of Jerusalem: Table of Contents". Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  46. Oren, M. (2003). Six Days of War. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 307. ISBN 0-345-46192-4. 
  47. King Hussein (31 July 1988). "Address to the Nation". 
  48. Shaul Cohen (2007). "West Bank". West Bank. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009. 
  49. 49.0 49.1 "Jordan – History – The Madrid Peace Process". The Royal Hashemite Court. 
  50. "The Washington Declaration". The Royal Hashemite Court. 

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