Jordan Annexes the West Bank Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Jordan’s forces occupied the West Bank territories that were to have become part of a Palestinian state. King Abdullah of Jordan was suspected by other Arab states of wanting to take advantage of this situation at the expense of Arab unified support for a Palestinian state. Jordan’s formal annexation of the region tended to strengthen these suspicions.

Summary of Event

Before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War Arab-Israeli War of 1948[Arab Israeli War of 1948] , the status of the East Bank of the Jordan River (Transjordan) could be said to have been just as problematic as was that of the territories of the West Bank. Shortly after Britain assumed responsibility for the League of Nations’ League of Nations Palestinian mandate Palestinian mandate Mandates, territorial in 1920, it divided the mandate into two parts. London recognized Abullah (son of the Hashimite sharif of Mecca) as emir of Transjordan and gave assurances that the terms of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which had been integrated into the mandate, would not apply to the East Bank territories. Thus, between 1921 and the 1947 U.N. General Assembly resolution declaring an end to the Palestinian mandate and creating an Israeli and a Palestinian state, no parties accepted suggestions by the emir’s supporters that he be recognized as king of a broader Palestinian state. It is possible that Britain’s 1946 decision to grant separate independence to Transjordan was meant to keep the Hashimite monarchist out of the approaching clash over the rest of Palestine’s future. West Bank Jordan;annexation of the West Bank Israel;territorial gains and losses [kw]Jordan Annexes the West Bank (Apr. 24, 1950) [kw]West Bank, Jordan Annexes the (Apr. 24, 1950) West Bank Jordan;annexation of the West Bank Israel;territorial gains and losses [g]Middle East;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] [g]Jordan;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] [g]Israel;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] [g]Palestine;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] [c]Colonialism and occupation;Apr. 24, 1950: Jordan Annexes the West Bank[03190] Ḥusaynī, Amīn al- Abdullah Hussein I

Because the Arab League Arab League states rejected the General Assembly’s partition vote and declared war on Israel, the Kingdom of Jordan joined the Arab war effort. The ensuing conflict went through several phases, marked by two ceasefires. Each Arab state was affected differently by the fighting. In Jordan’s case, the nation’s comparatively well-equipped army, especially the crack units known as the Arab Legion who had benefited from advanced training under British officers, succeeded in occupying the West Bank of the Jordan and the eastern half of Jerusalem.

Observers who were suspicious of Abdullah’s intentions, including members of other Arab states that had suffered major defeats at the hands of the Israelis, thought that in the second phase of the war Jordan had capitalized upon tactical advantages that placed their presumed allies at a disadvantage. Whatever the truth may have been, when a formal armistice was signed on April 3, 1949, Jordan found itself in a position comparable to Egypt in the Gaza Strip: It was in “temporary” occupation of a major portion of what was to have been a Palestinian state. This meant that Jordan had administrative authority over the Palestinian population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The chaos of the 1948 war had had drastic effects, not only for the original population of the West Bank, but also for hundreds of thousands of refugees Refugees;Palestinians who had fled from Israeli-assigned territory and found themselves (like their counterparts in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip) in what became U.N.-administered refugee camps. As a result of this influx, the total number of Palestinians under “temporary” Jordanian administration was quite substantial. This Jordanian responsibility would soon be challenged.

In September, 1948, a body that called itself the All Palestine Government All Palestine Government (APG) had been established in Gaza and had elected Amīn al-Ḥusaynī as Palestine Assembly president. In fact, the APG was under Egyptian protection, with no real power of its own. When Abdullah guessed correctly that this body would challenge his authority over the West Bank, he refused to recognize its legitimacy. A Palestinian refugee conference, albeit one made up mainly of traditional notables that gave no real voice to the actual refugees, declared its support for Abdullah’s rejection of the APG.

By the end of the year, participants in another meeting in Jericho called for the formal attachment of the West Bank to Jordan. Both conferences were denounced by Farouk I Farouk I of Egypt, the king of Saudi Arabia, and the (Egyptian) Arab League’s secretary-general as unrepresentative of the views of the majority of Palestinians. Many historians believe that this inter-Arab and intra-Palestinian division, when combined with the ambiguity of Abdullah’s relations with Israel, explain the eventual decision by Jordan to annex the West Bank.

It was in March, 1949, that Abdullah declared an end to military administration of the West Bank, instituting civilian rule in the area. This move came following disagreements within the Arab League concerning Jordan’s possible intention to thwart other parties’ plans to bring the West Bank under all-Palestinian rule.

An important factor leading to the Jordanian parliamentary vote in April, 1950, openly to annex the West Bank involved growing suspicions in the Arab League that Abdullah was intending to sign what would have amounted to a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah tried to prove that he intended to respect the identity and rights of West Bank Palestinians when in May, 1949—two months after setting up a civilian regime to administer the area—he appointed several Palestinians to his cabinet. These appointments did little to placate al-Ḥusaynī, however: They were soon followed by Abdullah’s appointment of Raghib al-Nashashibi Nashashibi, Raghib al- , member of a prominent Jerusalem family that was staunchly opposed to the al-Ḥusaynī clan, to become minister of refugee questions and deputy governor of Arab Palestine (Jordan’s name for the dependent region of the West Bank).

Whatever tensions existed among Palestinians themselves, a majority of Arab League Council members began to mount a campaign to reduce Abdullah’s obviously rising influence over the West Bank. In October, 1949, the council voted to internationalize control of Jerusalem, rather than allow Jordan to control it. In December, Abdullah dissolved Jordan’s parliament and announced that new elections would allow for the entry of twenty Palestinians into the legislature. This move fell just short of outright annexation of the West Bank.

In February, while campaigning was under way, unofficial sources revealed that negotiations aimed at a non-aggression pact were being conducted between Israel and Jordan. This led to an Egypt-backed move to include, in the twelfth meeting of the Arab League Council, a formal representative of Palestine. Since the Palestinian faction dependent on Cairo opposed any further extension of Abdullah’s control over the West Bank, Jordan refused to participate fully in the council’s meetings.

Just as elections were about to occur in Jordan, the council heard a motion to expel any Arab member who might sign a separate peace treaty with Israel. A second measure, which seemed more reflective of actual league intentions, stated that, if annexation of the West Bank occurred, the council would have a special meeting to determine if punitive action against Jordan should be taken.

In fact, Abdullah went ahead, not with peace negotiations with Israel, but with postelection moves formally to annex the West Bank. On April 24, 1950, the newly elected parliament, with substantial Palestinian membership, adopted a resolution unifying the West Bank and Jordan proper. Those who drafted the resolution took care, however, to assure that the expanded Jordanian state would pursue all means possible to obtain a final and just solution of the nationalist aspirations of the Palestinians through “inter-Arab cooperation and international justice.”

Although the Arab League failed to take specific action against the annexation of Jordan, pent-up tension continued to divide Palestinians both within and beyond Jordan’s borders. This tension yielded plans among Abdullah’s enemies to eliminate Hashimite royal ascendancy by force. A dramatic but inconclusive step occurred when Abdullah was assassinated as he entered the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on July 20, 1951.


Jordan’s unilateral annexation of the West Bank—roughly one-third of the territory identified in the 1947 U.N. partition vote as the proposed Palestinian state—had very serious implications for the future of inter-Arab relations. Most obvious, it created a dilemma for Palestinians who, from one day to the next, were declared to be subjects of the king of Jordan, without knowing if—sometime in the future—both they and their lands would be allowed to return to an independent Palestinian state. In the meantime, their status as subjects of Jordan did not really give them the same full citizenship status held by Abdullah’s subjects east of the Jordan River. With time, this situation would create a call for specifically Palestinian political representation and an identifiable party in the Jordanian parliament. In the broader inter-Arab arena, Jordan was bound to come under attack from critics who saw Abdullah’s act as one of self-aggrandizement at the expense of the Arab unity necessary to solve the Palestinian problem created by the 1948 war. West Bank Jordan;annexation of the West Bank Israel;territorial gains and losses

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bornstein, Avram. Crossing the Green Line Between the West Bank and Israel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. Covers social and economic conditions in the West Bank before and after the 1967 occupation by Israel.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hussein of Jordan. Uneasy Lies the Head. New York: Random House, 1962. Memoirs of Abdullah’s successor, who ruled the West Bank until the 1967 War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shipler, David. Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land. New York: Penguin Books, 2002. Although covering more than the West Bank issue, this book raises diverse questions about effects of the 1967 loss of the region after two decades of Jordanian administration.

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Categories: History