Middle East Studies

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Israeli–Jordanian Dialogue, 1948–1953

Cooperation, Conspiracy, or Collusion?

Yoav Gelber is Professor of History at the University of Haifa and Head of the Herzl Institute for Research and Study of Zionism. He is the author of a number of books on Middle East affairs, including: Palestine 1948: War, Escape and the Emergence of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Sussex Academic, 2001); and Jewish–Transjordanian Relations, 1921–1948 (Frank Cass, 1997).

This book is a refutation of Professor Avi Shlaim’s theory of an alleged collusion between the Jews and king Abdullah (Collusion across the Jordan, Oxford University Press 1988, and The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists and Palestine, 1921–1951, OUP 1990). Shlaim asserts that to further his own aims of creating a greater Jordanian empire, Abdullah conducted secret diplomacy with David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and other Israeli leaders in self-serving maneuvers which hastened the partition of Palestine, and left more than a million Palestinian Arabs without a homeland.

Israeli–Jordanian Dialogue, 1948–1953 describes the development and vicissitudes of the relations between Israel and Jordan from the end of the British mandate and Transjordan’s invasion of Palestine, through the war in 1948, the resumption of a direct dialogue that led to an armistice agreement, the abortive peace negotiations in 1949–51 and the simultaneous escalation of border hostilities. Gelber analyzes the triangle of relationships that developed between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians; and explains the involvement of Britain, the United States and the inter-Arab system in the shaping of these relations and their subsequent deterioration. Based on Israeli, Arab, British and American archival documents, the book follows the intricate balance between Israeli–Jordanian diplomatic activity, and the realities of Israeli–Palestinian relations along the new armistice lines – innocent and hostile infiltration, retaliations and reprisals, to their culmination in the tragedy of Qibia in the fall of 1953 and the return of Jordan to the anti-Israeli Arab coalition.

The conclusion drawn is that this five-year period saw the apparent indifference of the Great Powers to impose a settlement, a Jordan unsure of its place in the Arab fold, and a confusing situation between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians over border issues. Gelber finds no evidence of an alleged collusion between the Jews and king Abdullah – just a tragic unfolding of events that inflamed the still unresolved Arab–Israeli conflict.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-044-6
Hardback Price: £60.00 / $75.00
Release Date: May 2004
Page Extent / Format: 376 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Abbreviations


1 The Israel–Transjordan War: May–July 1948

2 Transjordanians and Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank

3 Seeking an Outlet from the War

4 Shune Talks and the Armistice Agreement

5 From Transjordan to Jordan

6 The Transjordanian and Palestinian Options

7 Peace Talks Lead to a Non-Aggression Pact

8 Domestic Crisis in Transjordan over Relations with Israel

9 Israel–Jordan Border Problems

10 Looking for Palliatives

11 Abdullah's Assassination and its Repercussions

12 Israeli Dialogue with Jordan under Talal

13 Infiltration, Retaliation and Escalation

14 Jordan Rejoins the Arab Coalition



Relying on documents from Israeli and British archives (the latter of which include records of broadcast statements from Arab leaders), Gelber details the Zionist–Jordanian dialogue from the waning days of the British mandate through the 1948 war, to the Israeli raid on Qibya in 1953, which marked the end of the Israeli–Jordanian bond and Jordan’s reunion with the Arab coalition ... Gelber highlights King Abdullah’s struggle in balancing his necessary relations with Israel with those he had with the broader Arab world, hostile to the Jewish state’s independence, while at the same time posturing himself as a representative of the Palestinians following the Egyptian subordination of Gaza.
... Israeli–Jordanian Dialogue, 1948–1953 sheds light not only on an important historical episode, but it has historiographic significance as well … Careful historical research such as Gelber’s grounds the debate about the early years of the Palestinian refugee crisis.
Middle East Quarterly

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