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Op-Ed: Kerry Can't Keep Kidding Himself on 'Palestine'

The negotiations have failed. Why not try something realistic?
Published: Sunday, April 06, 2014 7:40 AM



Kerry now needs to immediately focus his attention on Jordan.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s unshakeable belief that he could succeed in facilitating what had eluded former American Secretaries of State for the last 20 years – the creation of a 22nd Arab State in the "West Bank" and Gaza for the first time ever in recorded history - has been shattered following Israel cancelling the release of 26 prisoners convicted of terrorist attacks prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Israel’s action was in response to the PLO lodging applications to join 15 UN international agencies in breach of its commitments not to do so whilst negotiations between Israel and the PLO were being conducted.

Kerry now needs to immediately focus his attention on Jordan - the last Arab State to have occupied Judea and Samaria between 1948 -1967 and which – together with Israel – comprise the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine 1920-1948.

Redrawing Jordan’s international boundary with Israel to a situation that leads to the status quo existing before the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War - as far as is now possible given the changed circumstances on the ground and keeping Jewish communities intact – provides a realistically achievable alternative to the doomed Israel-PLO negotiations.

Lorenzo Kamel - a historian at Bologna University and a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for ­Middle Eastern Studies - has published an error-riddled article attempting to distance Jordan from becoming involved in any such negotiations – which Kerry should unequivocally reject.

Kamel’s following misleading claims have been corrected by my bold responses:

 1. “Whenever there is a concrete effort to push forward the peace process, talk about 'a substitute homeland' for the Palestinians re-emerges. Most of those supporting this scheme claim that well before the partition suggested by the UN General Assembly in 1947, the Zionist movement suffered a mutilation of territory following the unilateral British decision in 1922 to separate Transjordan from the rest of the land subject to the Mandate for Palestine…

...” Transjordan was thus part of the Mandate for Palestine with the proviso that Britain might administer it separately and for a period which at best may be considered scarcely relevant.”

Transjordan remained subject to the Mandate for Palestine from 1920 until 1946.

It was only the provisions of the Mandate relating to the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine that were “postponed or withheld” in Transjordan under article 25 of the Mandate –  as this Note presented by the Secretary General to the League of Nations clearly stated:

"In the application of the Mandate to Transjordan, the action which, in Palestine, is taken by the Administration of the latter country will be taken by the Administration of Transjordan under the general supervision of the Mandatory.

"His Majesty's Government accepts full responsibility as Mandatory for Transjordan, and undertake that such provision as may be made for the administration of that territory in accordance with Article 25 of the Mandate shall be in no way inconsistent with those provisions of the Mandate which are not by this resolution declared inapplicable."

The seeds for an independent Jew-free Arab State in 78% of Palestine had thus been planted by Great Britain in 1922.

Transjordan achieved its eventual independence on May 25, 1946 - whilst the remaining 22% of Palestine continued to be subject to the Mandate until 1948.

2. “Transjordan, unlike Palestine, was never occupied by British troops and during the mandatory period there was no 'overlapping', either at a legal or practical level, between the two areas.”

The Arab Legion was formed in Transjordan in 1923 and financed by Britain and commanded by British officers under Captain Frederick Peake.

Transjordan was always included in the annual Report for the Mandate for Palestine presented to the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission.

 “A citizen of Transjordan was required to ask for official permission before being admitted to Palestine.”

Immigration from Transjordan was not illegal, and was not recorded as immigration at all until 1938

3. “The awareness that Palestine was distinct from Syria and Lebanon is said to have always been present in the Arab and Muslim consciousness.”

An early nineteenth-century Egyptian historian, 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Jabarti, referred to the inhabitants of El Arish in the Sinai Peninsula as Syrians. Palestine was called Southern Syria first in French, then in other languages, including Arabic. …

…Indeed, from the moment Prince Faysal set up a government in Damascus in October 1918, he stressed that Palestine was a part of Syria. At the Paris Peace Conference, where the British, French and Americans sorted out their interests after the war, Faysal called Palestine his "right hand" and promised to work for it as he would for Syria and Iraq. "I assure you, according to the wishes of its people, Palestine will be a part of Syria." Three months later, Faysal wrote General Edmund Allenby that Palestine "is an inseperable [sic] part of Syria."

4.“Zionism certainly accelerated the general development of the region and the process of self-identification of the local majority, but never did the land beyond the Jordan have a religious, social or cultural value comparable to the land between the river and the Mediterranean Sea.

Kamel’s claim is refuted by article 2 of the PLO Charter which states that “Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit.”

Negotiations between Jordan and Israel have now become the only answer to avoiding renewed conflict and violence between Jews and Arabs.

Kerry is kidding himself if he thinks otherwise.