Jewish-Transjordanian Relations 1921-1948
by Yoav Gelber
London: Frank Cass, 1997. 313 pp. $49.59 (paper, $25).
Reviewed by Raad Alkadiri
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Middle East Quarterly
Gelber adds to the growing literature documenting contacts between Emir ‘Abdallah of Transjordan and the Zionist leaders. Relying primarily on Jewish sources, particularly those of the Central Zionist Archives, he documents the evolution of those contacts from their beginnings until the first Arab-Israeli war, arguing that the relationship forged in the 1920s laid the groundwork for later Jewish-Transjordanian agreements and influenced Transjordanian behavior during the 1948 war. He shows how early Zionist interest in Jewish colonization in Transjordan provided the principal impetus for contacts. Then, as the battle over Palestine grew more intense, and as ‘Abdallah increasingly perceived the Zionists as potential backers of his territorial aspirations, a new and more political- and security-oriented mutual appreciation developed.
Two limitations diminish this ambitious study. First, it lacks breadth. By focusing almost exclusively on the Zionist archives, Gelber does not provide a complete picture of the conduct and motives of the many other parties who contributed to Palestine's fate. On occasion, what emerges is a snapshot of the Jewish Agency's view of the emir and his domain. Second, the author fails to place his narrative in the broader context of the political debates among the Zionist leadership. Not only does he take for granted the reader's prior knowledge of Zionist aims; he also makes few explicit references to the impact they had on relations with Transjordan.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Israel & Zionism, Jews and Judaism, Jordan | September 1998 MEQ
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