How Israel’s Arab Triangle Came to Be

February 20, 2020 | Raphael Bouchnik-Chen
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In an interview with an Arabic-language television station on Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he would not cede a cluster of Arab villages, known as the Arab triangle, to a Palestinian state as called for in the U.S. peace proposal. The authors of the plan hoped that the area, which abuts Samaria and has an Arab-majority population, could be exchanged for territory of a roughly equal area in the West Bank that will be annexed by Israel. The people of the triangle, however, wish to continue living in Israel and have protested vociferously. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains the secret negotiations between Israel and King Abdullah of Transjordan (now Jordan) that created the enclave:

In the course of the fighting between May and July 1948, the Arab Legion had cut off the Wadi Ara road—the direct link between Tel Aviv and the Galilee—and entrenched itself firmly in the hills above it to the northwest. The Israeli delegation had instructions to do all it possibly could to have the Arab Legion retreat to the southeast of this road and leave it in Israeli hands. As it stood, the Legion had the IDF by the throat in that region, forcing traffic to move down longer and more roundabout routes.

The Israeli government was prepared to pay for the recovery of Wadi Ara, and the assumption was that the price would be high. Surprisingly, the king agreed without hesitation to withdraw his troops several miles to the southeast. To the king, who was keen to reach an agreement with Israel, the road his Legion had cut led from nowhere to nowhere. In his view, he was not really losing anything by conceding it, and it could be worthwhile to make a gesture toward Israel.

The agreement was signed on April 3, 1949. Immediately thereafter, King Abdullah annexed the West Bank and changed the name of his country from Transjordan to Jordan.

The [peace proposal] claims that “these communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the armistice line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated.” In fact, the armistice lines with Jordan were the outcome of intensive bargaining with King Abdullah that led to a territorial “deal” as a compromise.

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