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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Remembering King Abdullah of Transjordan at the Birth of Israel

Nadene Goldfoot
Serious fighting in Palestine started with the UN announcement of partition on November 29, 1947 between Jews and Arabs.

The War of 1948 was at an end and the Israelis had fought their last campaign.  In Rhodes of March 1949, the Israeli delegation informed the Jordanians that the southern Negev had been allotted to the Israelis under the UN partition plan and that they planned to occupy it.  The next day of March 11, the two delegations signed a preliminary cease-fire agreement.  Agreements had already started on the 12th of January with Arab countries. 

Some 64 years ago personalities were different.  Mecca, Saudi Arabian born King Abdullah (Abdullah I bin al-Hussein) of Transjordan spoke for himself.  In dealing with the Israelis, he finally met face to face by inviting them to his palace for a conference. He was also receiving advice from the USA and Great Britain and had included British Charge d'Affaires Gordon and American Charge d'Affaires Wells Stabler, who was assigned to the Amman, Jordan office on February 18, 1949.

He hadn't liked Golda Meier and referred to her as Mrs. Golda Myerson.  When told she had become Israel's Ambassador to Moscow, he was happy as he remembered their cold meeting with her on May 10, 1948.  He told her then not to hurry in declaring a state.  She told him that "we've been waiting for 2,000 years already.  Is that hurrying?

He felt he couldn't have bargained with a woman seriously.  He hoped she would stay in Moscow.  She did until 1949.  Golda was one of 24 people who had signed the Declaration of Independance of Israel on May 14, 1948.  She was one of two women who did so. The next day they were attacked by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq. Other units from other Arab countries also joined in.

He made a speech when talking to the Israelis that was also intended for his own ministers.  In it he said that the Jews belonged to a united, advanced nation and that the Arabs belonged to weak, backward nations.  He said the West was against them.  He realized that they had not won the war against the Israelis and  copped a plea that they really hadn't intended to fight but that it was the Egyptians and other Arab nations that pushed them into war.  As he spoke he yelled at his ministers in attendance, saying that he told them so from the start that they had no chance to beat the Israelis, but that they didn't listen to him.

He continued saying that he was a Bedouin and that Bedouins have a saying:  When you're riding a mule that is overloaded with goods and your enemy chases you, you have one of two choices.  You either fall prisoner with your goods or you run away, ridding yourself gradually of the load.  He had invited the Israelis to listen to him in order to get rid of the load.

The Jordanians in attendance were very uncomfortable.  Iraqis had said that they would refuse to sign an armistice agreement with Israel.  Israel really wished to have peace guarantees from all the Arabs who had fought against them.  Damascus-born Jewish Eliahu Sasson had met with King Abdullah on January 30th saying that Israel might attack the Iraqis unless the King could persuade Iraq to withdraw her troops.   Sasson suggested that Arab Legion forces should replace the Iraqis on their front.  He thought Ben Gurion would not attack Legion troops. They would be led by John Bagot Glubb (Glubb Pasha). This made the King happy so that he could extend his control over large areas of Palestine without military effort.  The Iraqi army hadn't received any payment for months and was on the verge of revolt anyway,.  Iraq couldn't keep up the fight alone.  The new Regent agreed to withdraw their forces. 

Before they had started the conference, Munich-born Israeli Diplomat Walter Eytan  handed King Abdullah a gift of a rare Old Testament, telling him that Prime Minister Ben-Gurion was giving it to him.  It was a gift of simple material value but precious in its meaning and meant it as a symbol of friendship between the two countries signifying good will from the Israeli government.

King Abdullah opened it and was shocked with the first page being a map of Israel from the days of King Solomon.  It showed areas of the nation then being in the hands of Jordan now.  Eytan explained that it was a map of ancient Israel.  The King thought a bit, smiled and then said he also had a gift.  He presented Eytan with an ornamental silver dagger.

 King Abdullah changed the name of Transjordan to Jordan in April 1949 after taking over illegally Judea and Samaria and calling it the West Bank in the War of 1948.  It wouldn't be till June 1967 when Israel was again attacked by all the surrounding Arab nations that Israel would gain it back again.  Israel has not annexed it but it is under Israel's military control.  Both Israelis and Arabs live there but not together. 

The Arab countries signed an armistice in 1949. 
1. Egypt signed on February 24, 1949
2. Lebanon       on March 23, 1949
3. Jordan          on April 3, 1949
4. Syria            on July 20, 1949
5. Iraq didn't sign but withdrew, handing over their sector to Jordan's Arab Legion instead. 

Book: Genesis 1948-The First Arab-Israeli War by Dan Kurzman

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