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 territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem was awarded to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan. 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 continued to have a special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom until 1957, when the treaty was dissolved by mutual consent. The British mandate over Palestine ended on May 14, 1948, and the State of Israel was proclaimed. Neighboring Arab states, including Transjordan, moved to assist Palestinian nationalists opposed to this development, resulting in open warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel. The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949, established armistice demarcation lines between Jordan and Israel, leaving Jordan in control of the West Bank. The agreements expressly 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. Jordan established three governorates on the West Bank: Nablus, al-Quds (Jerusalem), and al-Khalil. 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. After repelling the Arab attack, Israel extended its control to the Jordan River, including Jordanian-controlled eastern Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement on the West Bank. 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. Differing with the Jordanian Government's policies, the heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state. Tensions between the government and the fedayeen increased until open fighting erupted in June 1970.
Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but by September, continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan--including the destruction of three international airliners hijacked and held in the desert east of Amman--prompted the government to take action to regain control over its territory and population. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force (camouflaged as a Palestinian force) initially took up positions in northern Jordan to support the fedayeen. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the fedayeen in July 1971, expelling them from the country. Since then, the fedayeen have not presented a threat to the Jordanian Government.
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. Except for a period of border tension with
Syria in 1980, it has been at de facto peace with all its neighbors. 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.