Prior to 1948
Prior to hostilities in 1948, Palestine (modern-day West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel) had been under the British Mandate for Palestine (legal instrument) control of the British Empire, which captured it from the Ottomans in 1917. The British, as custodians of the land, implemented the land tenure laws in Palestine, which it had inherited from the Ottoman (as defined in the Ottoman Land Code of 1858), applying these laws to both Arab and Jewish tenants, legal or otherwise. Toward the expiration of the British Mandate, Arabs aspired for independence and self-determination, as did the Jews of the country.
The establishment of Jordanian rule in the West Bank
Following Israel's declaration of independence on 14 May 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion, under the leadership of Sir John Bagot Glubb, known as Glubb Pasha, was ordered to enter Palestine and secure the UN designated Arab area. After the invasion, Jordan began making moves to perpetuate the Jordanian rule over the Arab part of Palestine. King Abdullah appointed governors on his behalf in the Arab cities of Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramla and the Arab controlled part of Jerusalem, that were captured by Legion in the invasion. These governors were mostly Palestinians (including Aref al-Aref, Ibrahim Hashem and Ahmed Hilmi Pasha), and the Jordanians described them as "military" governors, so it wouldn't anger the other Arab states, who opposed Jordan's plans to incorporate the Arab part of Palestine into the kingdom. The king made other smaller moves towards the annexation of the West Bank: He ordered Palestinian policemen to wear the uniforms of the Jordanian police and its symbols; he instituted the use of Jordanian postage stamps instead of the British ones; Palestinian municipalities were not allowed to collect taxes and issue licenses; the radio of Ramallah called the locals to disobey the instructions of pro-Husseini officials and obey those of the Jordanian-backed governors.
The December 1948 Jericho Conference, a meeting of prominent Palestinian leaders and King Abdullah I, voted in favor of annexation into what was then Transjordan.
By the end of the war, Jordanian forces had control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. On 3 April 1949, Israel and Jordan signed an armistice agreement. The main points included:
- Jordanian forces remained in most positions they held in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Old City.
- Jordan withdrew its forces from its front posts overlooking the Sharon plain. In return, Israel agreed to allow Jordanian forces to take over positions in the West Bank previously held by Iraqi forces.
- A Special Committee was to be formed to make arrangements for safe movement of traffic between Jerusalem and Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along the Latrun-Jerusalem Highway, free access to the Holy Places, and other matters. The committee was never formed, and access to the Holy Places was denied to Israelis throughout the Jordanian occupation.
The remainder of the area designated as part of an Arab state under the UN Partition Plan was partly occupied by Egypt (Gaza Strip), partly occupied and annexed by Israel (West Negev, West Galilee, Jaffa). The intended international enclave of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The Jordanians immediately expelled all the Jewish residents of East Jerusalem. All but one of the 35 synagogues in the Old City were destroyed over the course of the next 19 years, either razed or used as stables and chicken coops. Many other historic and religiously significant buildings were replaced by modern structures. The ancient Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives was desecrated, and the tombstones were used for construction, paving roads and lining latrines; the highway to the Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the site.