After Jordan's move, new rules of the game in Palestine
By this week, the fallout from the events of July 31 were getting interesting. In Israel, the right wing was demanding immediate annexation of at least some of the occupied territories. In the Arab community there was talk of forming a provisional Palestinian government, recognizing the existence of Israel, and demanding recognition in return for a Palestinian state.
On July 31, King Hussein of Jordan announced that he was giving up claim to the occupied territories of Palestine and turning the problems of that area over to the Palestinians themselves, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
That deed broke the old pattern of diplomacy. Until that day the US-sponsored search for a Middle East peace was based on the assumption that it would be negotiated with King Hussein and that Jordan would police the Arab parts of the occupied lands.
All of that is gone now. Instead we have had a series of meetings in the Arab community out of which, it is reported, the executive committee of the PLO is considering a plan it may unveil at the next session of the European Parliament in September. Under the plan, a Palestine government-in-exile would accept the partition of Palestine as voted by the United Nations on Nov. 29, 1947.
Such an announcement would change drastically the context of the negotiations between Israel and the Arabs.
The Arabs have until now refused to accept the UN's 1947 partition plan, which meant that they refused to accept the right of existence of a Jewish state.
And until now the Jewish state in Palestine - Israel - has refused to negotiate with the PLO because the PLO declined to recognize the right of existence of a Jewish state. Israel also says it will not deal with the PLO because it is a terrorist organization.
If the Palestinians accept the 1947 UN partition plan, they wipe out automatically the main basis on which Israel has refused to negotiate with the PLO and also the basis on which US diplomats have refused to talk to the PLO.
Until now the Israelis could always blame lack of progress toward peace on the refusal of the Arabs to accept a Jewish state in Palestine. In the future (if the PLO does accept the 1947 plan) the question will be whether Israel is willing to share Palestine with the Arabs.
Israel has one thing to gain from being willing to share: a clear title to part of Palestine.
Under international law the acquisition of territory is recognized when there has been a treaty of peace which establishes its boundaries. Legally, Israel is still in a state of war with the Arabs.
The nearest thing Israel has to a title deed is the vote in the UN General Assembly back on Nov. 29, 1947.
On that day, the Assembly voted by 33 to 13 in favor of the partition plan. Israel had a majority favoring the grant to the Jewish community of three segments of Palestine.
The three segments were: (1) a portion of the province of Galilee lying west of the lake of Galilee (not including Nazareth); (2) most of the coastal plain but not including Jaffa; and (3) most of the Negev desert. It did not include any part of Jerusalem or a corridor to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was intended in the UN plan to become an international city under international control.
During 1949, UN mediator Ralph Bunche worked out a series of armistice agreements between Israel and its neighbors. These were based on the actual results of the fighting which had been going on from the morning after the UN vote.
Israel had won the war. It by then occupied more territory than had been provided in the UN plan. Under the armistice agreement, Israel gained a corridor to West Jerusalem, and the whole coastal plain, plus access to the Galilee segment, and also access to the Negev segment.
Israel settled down after 1949 into this portion of Palestine. The armistice agreements gave Israel a sort of provisional title to that amount of territory. But the only territory to which Israel has an internationally recognized title is the land awarded Israel by the 1949 UN vote.
If the PLO actually makes its new move, the question will then be whether Israel is willing to share Palestine with the Arabs, or try to cling to the whole of it as the right wing of the Likud bloc was demanding this week.
A new Middle East situation already exists because of King Hussein's move. The PLO began adjusting to it this week. The next move will be up to Israel.