An Israeli far-right journalist and an academic teaching at Ariel University have exposed plans proposed by Labor governments after the 1967 War to expel the residents of Gaza to Jordan. They discovered government reports and memos advocating that the best way to deal with Gazans would be to remove them from their homes and transfer them to Jordan. The discussions were taken up and discussed seriously by the governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. In addition. as part of his Allon Plan to “deal with” West Bank Palestinians, he suggested that the Gazans be “off-loaded” onto the Hashemite Kingdom.
It appears that much of this material was reported in Haaretz last November.
Then IDF deputy chief of staff, Mota Gur suggested, in that delusional way some Israeli leaders have, that the Gazans should “migrate willingly” to Jordan. PM Eshkol formed a committee which included prominent foreign ministry officials like David Kimchi, to explore the “Palestinian problem” in light of the Israeli victory. This committee offered a number of options, one of which would today be called ethnic cleansing of Gaza.
The Haaretz report recounts some of the ideas which Eshkol floated in cabinet discussions. They are both chilling and prescient in light of how events have developed in the fifty years since:
One of the solutions to the new situation, according to Eshkol, was to encourage Arabs to emigrate. In this context, Eshkol told ministers he was working on the establishment of a unit or office that will engage in encouraging Arab emigration.
He added, We should deal with this issue quietly, calmly and covertly, and we should work on finding a way for them to emigrate to other countries and not just over the Jordan [River].
Eshkol expressed the hope that, precisely because of the suffocation and imprisonment there, maybe the Arabs will move from the Gaza Strip, adding there were ways to remove those who remained. Perhaps if we dont give them enough water they wont have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither, he said in this context. Another solution, he said, could be another war. Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved. But thats a type of luxury, an unexpected solution.
…As for Gaza, Dayan was pretty optimistic. According to his calculations, of the 400,000 people who then lived in Gaza, only 100,000 would remain. The rest, whom he termed refugees, must be removed from there under any arrangement thats made. Among his ideas was to resettle the Gazans in eastern Jordan.
Unlike today’s Israeli political environment, when there would be no objections raised to such a plan (here is an example of a recently published Israeli op-ed calling for the complete “liquidation” of the “Arab presence” in Gaza), there were then dissenters inside the Israeli cabinet who suggested expulsion (which is what this policy was) was a terrible idea. They tended to be the more junior cabinet members with lesser portfolios. But at least they did raise objections. None of them however, considered the interests of the Palestinians themselves (not much has changed there either). Dissent focused on the opposition of the rest of the world to Israeli subjugation of millions of Palestinians; and on the dilution of the Jewish majority in conquering and occupying millions of “Arabs.”
Almost as interesting as the discovery of these disturbing government documents is the motivation of the two researchers who publicized them. Hagai Huberman is the settler correspondent for the hardline right-wing religious publication, HaTzofeh. Miriam Bilig teaches at Ariel University, an institution granted accreditation over the objections of all major Israeli universities, and which received an unprecedented $50-million gift from settler supporter, Sheldon Adelson.
Though I have not read their own explanation of their goals in this research, I can see two reasons: one, and perhaps the most likely, is the desire by settlers to expose the hypocrisy of the Israeli “left” (only settlers and their supporters view the Labor Party as “the left”) in claiming to support a two state solution and peace with Palestinians, when they themselves supported the same policies later (and currently) advocated by the Israeli nationalist right (expulsion, ethnic cleansing, etc).
The second motive could be to revive interest in the Jordanian Option, an approach favored by Israel’s far right which would either expel Palestinians to Jordan; or negotiate an arrangement in which Jordan assumed governance of the areas of the West Bank which would not be annexed to Israel. Decades ago, King Hussein renounced all interest in representing the interests of the Palestinian national movement. He assigned these interests to the PLO itself and offered his blessing to it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Israelis who attempt to revive this hoary old nugget are deluding themselves. They’re attempting to foist the Palestine problem onto yet another Arab leader, just as they’re tried to foist the Palestinian refugee problem onto the Arab states, as the latter created the problem in the first place or has some obligation to resolve it on Israel’s behalf (after all, Israel was responsible for the Nakba, not the Arab states).
No less a figure than Jared Kushner appears to have embraced the Jordanian Option and is considering including it in the “Trump peace plan.” Even mainstream ‘liberal’ think tanks have published ludicrous expositions of the benefits of this approach to resolving the conflict.
The lesson offered here is that every Israeli political stream–left, right and center–from the founding of the State to the present day has offered similar delusional notions for resolving the conflict. Just as Ben Gurion engineered the Nakba, the Labor Party expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 War. The idea of ethnic cleansing remains popular in Israeli society. No ruling parties have been willing to make the hard choices and decisions which would meet the Palestinians half-way. These right-wing researchers are right in one thing: Labor is no less guilty than Likud for the present mess Israel finds itself in. Labor offers no better options for finding a way out of it than the Likud.
But the possible goal of reviving the Jordanian Option as a viable one is dead and buried and should remain so. King Abdullah will never agree to it. Palestinians would riot in the streets. Terror attacks against Israeli and Jordanian targets would ensue. It would be a disaster. Full-stop. But Israelis like these have a habit of clinging to these notions as if they were panaceas, when they are poison.