The land that became Jordan is part of the richly historical Fertile
Crescent region. Its history began around 2000 B.C., when Semitic Amorites
settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan. Subsequent invaders
and settlers included Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians,
Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks,
Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the British. At the end of World War I, the
League of Nations as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan awarded
the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem
to the United Kingdom. In 1922, the British divided the mandate by establishing
the semiautonomous Emirate of Transjordan, ruled by the Hashemite Prince
Abdullah, while continuing the administration of Palestine under a British
High Commissioner. The mandate over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946;
on May 25, the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.
It ended its special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom
Transjordan was one of the Arab states which moved to assist Palestinian
nationalists opposed to the creation of Israel in May 1948, and took part
in the warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel.
The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949 left Jordan in control of the
West Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without
prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.
In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to
include those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah. While recognizing
Jordanian administration over the West Bank, the United States maintained
the position that ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement.
Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated
in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of Syria, Egypt,
and Iraq. During the war, Israel gained control of the West Bank and all
of Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but
retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994
treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim holy
places in Jerusalem. The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be
territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should
be determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on
the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians
living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--grew
by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war
saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements
(fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing
threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open
fighting erupted in June 1970.
No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during
the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to
fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in
the Gulf war of 1990-91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon,
and Palestinian representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations
with Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities
with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan has since sought
to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.
King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges
to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol
of unity and stability for both the East Bank and Palestinian communities
in Jordan. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections.
Controversial changes in the election law led Islamist parties to boycott
the 1997 elections. King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized
political parties in 1992.
King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's
death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace
treaty with Israel and its relations with the U.S. Abdullah, during the
first year in power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.
King Abdullah II is the only monarch to ever appear on the American TV
series Star Trek: Voyager.
Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population,
and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of
political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's Parliament
has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and
has become the major forum in which differing political views, including
those of political Islamists, are expressed. In June 2001, the King dissolved
Parliament. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2003 and municipal
elections were held in July 2003. The King dissolved the government in
October 2003, appointing a new Prime Minister and ushered in an unprecedented
three women and several young technocrats as ministers. The cabinet declared
its commitment to accelerated economic and political reforms.