Behind the Palestine-Jordan debate

The debate over whether Jordan is Palestine goes back to the post-World War I period when Britain and France carved up the remains of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Basically, France received the lands of Syria, and Britain received the lands of Palestine west of the Jordan River and TransJordan, east of the Jordan. The British rule over that area was authorized by the League of Nations, which in 1922 approved the British ''Mandate of Palestine.''

Earlier, in 1917, Britain endorsed in the Balfour Declaration the establishment of ''a national home for the Jewish people'' in Palestine. This opened the area to large-scale Jewish immigration. (The Balfour Declaration also noted that ''nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.'' At that time the Jewish community there numbered 60,000 to 80,000, constituting a small minority in relation to the Palestinian Arabs.)

Though TransJordan was originally included in a draft of the Palestine mandate, the British ceded the area from the mandate in 1923. In May of that year the British recognized the government of Amir Abdullah (grandfather of the current King Hussein) in TransJordan, but continued to play a role in its affairs.

Some observers contend that because TransJordan was included in the Palestine Mandate it was a part of Palestine. But most historians say that Palestine was the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In March 1946 Britain formally recognized TransJordan as a sovereign independent state.

In 1947-48, prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, there were 300 ,000 to 400,000 Jordanians - mostly Bedouins - living in Jordan.

Today, the population of Jordan is about 2.3 million, of which some 1.2 million are Palestinian. These are primarily refugees or the children or grandchildren of refugees who fled between 1948 and 1967 from lands on the west side of the Jordan River.

King Hussein allowed the Palestinians to become Jordanian citizens, businessmen, and in many cases political leaders in Jordan. In sharp contrast, many other Arab states acted to restrict the inflow of refugees and tightly controlled applications for citizenship.

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