(left to right), Jordan's King Hussein, President Ronald Reagan & Egypt's Hosni Mubarak

On July 31, 1988, King Hussein of Jordan made a significant announcement, declaring his intention to completely disengage the Hashemite Kingdom from Judea, Samaria (West Bank), and East Jerusalem, effectively relinquishing control to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and leaving the region open to Palestinian political influence. Despite this decision, King Hussein sought to maintain some level of influence over Jerusalem, a goal he achieved through the Jordanian Waqf, which continues to manage the Temple Mount compound to this day.

The annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem by King Hussein's grandfather, King Abdullah I, in 1950 had been a contentious move, opposed by the Arab League. The annexation occurred during Israel's War of Independence when Jordan took control of these areas. Jordan retained control until the June 1967 War, when Israel captured the territory following a Jordanian assault on West Jerusalem. Over the next two decades, Jordan engaged in discreet talks with various Israeli officials in an attempt to regain the land.

One notable attempt was the United Arab Kingdom Plan proposed by King Hussein in March 1972. The plan aimed to link the East and West Banks of the Jordan River, subject to Palestinian approval, which was organized under the PLO. However, both the PLO and Israel swiftly rejected the plan, and the rest of the Arab World followed suit. In 1974, the Arab League officially recognized the PLO, an internationally recognized terrorist organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Years of tension and disagreements with the PLO over who should negotiate with Israel for the future of the West Bank ultimately led King Hussein to withdraw all Jordanian claims to the territory in 1988. This decision came during the First Intifada, a period marked by intense Palestinian unrest and demonstrations against Israeli occupation. It became clear to King Hussein that the Palestinians desired their own independent state, and he recognized that administering the West Bank under Jordanian rule was not the solution they sought. Additionally, the rising radicalization of Palestinian organizations and acts of violence further convinced him to disengage from the region.

By dissociating from the West Bank, Jordan secured its own stability and focused exclusively on its territory on the East Bank of the Jordan River. This strategic move provided King Hussein with greater freedom to pursue peace negotiations with Israel. After years of dialogue with Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, King Hussein signed a historic peace treaty with Israel in October 1994.

The decision to disengage from the West Bank was a pivotal moment in Jordan's history, shaping its relations with the Palestinian people and its pursuit of peace with Israel. It marked a turning point in the country's foreign policy and demonstrated King Hussein's commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, Jordan continues to play a significant role in regional affairs and remains an important player in efforts toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

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