Jordan Table of Contents

After his victory over the fedayeen, Hussein sought to reestablish his authority in the country and his image in the Arab world through the implementation of dynamic domestic and foreign policies. In September 1971, he announced the formation of the Jordanian National Union to serve as the nation's sole authorized political organization, representing--at least in theory--both banks of the Jordan. The union was not a political party in the traditional sense but, according to the king, would be used "as a melting pot for the Jordanian people." With the exception of communists, Marxists, and "other advocates of foreign ideologies," all citizens were eligible for membership within the union, which would "provide constructive opposition from within its own ranks."

Hussein also introduced a plan for the creation of a federation to be called the United Arab Kingdom. Under the plan, the West Bank and the East Bank would become autonomous provinces within the sovereign Hashimite kingdom. Seats in the National Assembly would continue to be divided equally among representatives of the two regions. The PLO repudiated the United Arab Kingdom and the Jordanian National Union, and neither plan was ever implemented.

Hussein paid a state visit to the United States in February 1973 during which President Richard M. Nixon assured him of his "firm. . . support for Jordan" and promised increased economic and military aid. During interviews Hussein, who earlier had called for United States intervention to bring about a comprehensive Middle East settlement, reaffirmed that he contemplated no partial or separate agreements with Israel that would be prejudicial to Arab unity, but he left the door open for bilateral talks and condemned the PLO for its divisive influence. On his return to Amman, Hussein reemphasized that all of East Jerusalem must be returned but offered to put the holy places there under international supervision.

At the Arab summit in Cairo in September 1973, a reconciliation mediated by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia took place between Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, the "front-line" or confrontation states against Israel. On October 6, less than a month after the meeting, Egyptian and Syrian armies launched simultaneous attacks across the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights that caught the Israelis by surprise. After initially threatening to break through Israel's inner defenses, the Syrians were checked and then thrown back by an Israeli counteroffensive that drove to within thirty kilometers of the strong defense emplacements surrounding Damascus. By October 10, Jordan had mobilized nearly 70,000 men, forcing Israeli troops to deploy in the West Bank. Hussein did not open a third front against Israel but he sent 3,000 Jordanian troops in two armored brigades to the Golan front on October 13, and they saw limited action under Syrian command in fighting near Lake Tiberias. More than 25,000 regular Palestinian troops also were engaged under separate command.

With the Arab armies in retreat, the Soviet Union called a special session of the UN Security Council on October 21 to impose an immediate cease-fire. Although accepted by Israel and Egypt, the cease-fire did not become effective for another three days. On the northern front, Israeli troops retained control of the Golan Heights, and in the southwest they had opened bridgeheads across the Suez Canal and occupied more than 1,500 square kilometers of territory in Egypt. UN Security Council Resolution 338, submitted on October 22, reiterated the Security Council's position on Israeli-occupied territory, first expressed in Resolution 242 in 1967.

At a postmortem on the fourth Arab-Israeli war held in November in Algiers, the Jordanian representative stressed that the ceasefire did not mean peace and called again for Israel to evacuate the occupied territories that combined Arab forces had failed to win back in battle. Over Jordanian protests, the summit conference voted to recognize the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Hussein, who conceded in Amman that he did not claim to speak for the Palestinians, supported their right to selfdetermination --"but," he added, "only after the occupied territories are liberated."

Hussein stated on more than one occasion his willingness to leave the liberation of the West Bank to the PLO, but he pointedly boycotted a meeting with PLO officials in Cairo at which Egypt and Syria were expected to deal with the PLO as the "only legitimate representatives" of the Palestinian people--a position that Hussein admitted he had no alternative but to accept in practice. President Anwar as Sadat of Egypt, however, warned the PLO that its refusal to cooperate with Hussein could lead to an Arab civil war on a broader scale than that of 1970-71. When the Palestinians refused to compromise their claim to total sovereignty in the West Bank, Hussein requested a postponement of the Arab summit scheduled for Rabat in October 1974. The purpose of the summit was to give formal recognition to the PLO's role. In an abrupt turnabout in policy, Egyptian foreign minister Ismail Fahmi responded by declaring that Egypt now opposed the return of the West Bank to Jordan and accepted without reservation the PLO claim to represent the Palestinian people.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress