According to Avi Shlaim's "The Debate about 1948", p. 293

If Bevin was guilty of conspiring to unleash the Arab Legion, his target was not the Jews but the Palestinians. The prospect of a Palestinian state was pretty remote in any case because the Palestinians themselves had done so little to build it. But by supporting Abdullah's bid to capture the Arab part of Palestine adjacent to his kingdom, Bevin indirectly helped to ensure that the Palestinian state envisaged in the U.N. partition plan would be stillborn. In short, if there is a case to be made against Bevin, it is not that he tried to abort the birth of the Jewish state but that he endorsed the understanding between King Abdullah and the Jewish Agency to partition Palestine between themselves and leave the Palestinians out in the cold.

The Zionist charge that Bevin deliberately instigated hostilities in Palestine and gave encouragement and arms to the Arabs to crush the infant Jewish state thus represents almost the exact opposite of the historical truth as it emerges from the British, Arab, and Israeli documents. The charge is without substance and may be safely discarded as the first in the series of myths that have come to surround the founding of the State of Israel.

The passage doesn't footnote any materials though.

So, what evidence is there of a conspiracy/agreement between the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah for the latter to take over the West Bank etc. in 1948?

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    I see Wikipedia has a short para about this, which isn't terribly detailed "According to Yoav Gelber, Shlaim's claim that there was a deliberate and pre-meditated anti-Palestinian "collusion" between the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah, is unequivocally refuted by the documentary evidence on the development of contacts between Israel and Jordan before, during and after the war.[19] Marc Lynch however wrote that "the voluminous evidence in [Gelber's] book does not allow so conclusive a verdict".[20]" Commented Apr 30 at 2:50
  • Not an answer but Prof. Shlaim speaks about it here too meforum.org/92/a-totalitarian-concept-of-history; he says there was a meeting between Golda Meir and King `Abdallah of Transjordan on November 17, 1947
    – Ona
    Commented Apr 30 at 2:57
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    I'm not even understanding the claim here. Is the book saying that fledgling Israel incited the Arab nations to attack non-Israeli Palestine to destroy the Palestinians? So how come they actually ended up fighting Israel? Commented Apr 30 at 11:31
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    Seems like a better question for History.SE.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 30 at 14:13
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    @Ona Sounds very far-fetched given the actual fighting that happened. Are we saying that the large numbers of Jews killed in the Battle of Latrun was by agreement with the Israelis? Commented Apr 30 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


In 1921 Britain created Trans-Jordan and gave it to the Hashemites to rule over. Trans-Jordan is an arbitrary piece of the Arabian desert and Churchill famously boasted that he had created it with "a stroke of his pen" on a Sunday afternoon. Syria considered Jordan to be part of Southern Syria. Ibn Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, considered the territory part of his kingdom. On the other hand, the Hashemite king Abdullah made no secret of his plans to expand his kingdom. Hence, Trans-Jordan's standing on the international scene was precarious and greater cooperation with the Zionists in Palestine became logical.

King Abdullah and Golda Meir of the Jewish Agency had a secret meeting in the middle of November 1947. There, they outlined a general strategy for the upcoming war in Palestine that they both knew were inevitable. A few days later the UN General Assembly would recommend that Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish and an Arab state, against the wishes of its population. According to Yaacov Shimoni of the Jewish Agency, who Shlaim cites:

We would agree to the conquest of the Arab part of Palestine by Abdullah. We would not stand in his way. We would not help him, would not seize it and hand it over to him. He would have to take it by his own means and stratagems but we would not disturb him. He, for his part, would not prevent us from establishing the state of Israel, from dividing the country, taking our share and establishing a state in it.

Meir and Abdullah met again in May 1948, days before Israel declared independence. There he lamented the circumstances that forced his hand, "I am one among five. I have no alternative [but to declare war], and I cannot act otherwise" Meir reported back to the Mapai Central Committee:

We met [on 10 May] amicably. He is very worried and looks terrible. He did not deny that there had been talk and understanding between us about a desirable arrangement, namely that he would take the Arab part [of Palestine]...."

But the agreement with the Zionists held; his Arab Legion would not enter territory earmarked for the Jewish State.

The supreme commander of the Arab Legion was Glubb Pasha, a British officer tasked with implementing the Jordanian part of the agreement. He discussed the parties' plans for Palestine in a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, in London in February 1948:

The situation envisaged by us and by H.M.G. when we were in London, was that nothing much would happen until May 15th. The Jews would then implement the Jewish state, with the blessing of a united U.N.O., and the Arab areas of Palestine would be a vacuum, into which the Arab Legion would march.

Throughout the war the alliance mostly held; the Arab Legion and the Haganah/IDF avoided battling each other. Jerusalem which had been allotted to an international zone was the major exception. Glubb suspected that the Zionists would certainly try to capture the whole city for themselves. Abdullah was also subjected to repeated pleas to save the Arabs of Palestine. Thus, he ordered Glubb to take the Arab Legion into Jerusalem and Glubb reluctantly accepted. However, the Arab Legion only occupied the Old City and Arab parts of Jerusalem - the Jewish colony in west Jerusalem was left alone.

Counterpoint Israeli and Jordanian units fought each other so there couldn't have been an alliance.

This a bogus argument since by the same logic the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact couldn't have existed since the heaviest fighting of the Second World War was on the eastern front between the Germans and the Soviets. Tactical considerations, fog of war, politics, and other factors explain perfectly well why Israeli and Jordanian units clashed despite the agreement.

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    There was no "alliance". The harshest fighting of the war took place between Jordanian and Israeli forces in the area between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
    – Colin
    Commented May 5 at 19:27
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    The addendum about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact seems a bit off: Germany explicitly broke that alliance, leading Russia to switch sides in the larger war. That doesn't seem a relevant comparison in this case, where you're arguing that the alliance "mostly held" throughout the war.
    – IMSoP
    Commented May 9 at 8:51
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    Operation Barbarossa does not disprove the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hence fighting between Jewish and Jordanian troops does not disprove the Hashemite-Zionist agreement. The claim that it "mostly held" comes from the scholarly sources I cite. According to them the cooperation continued up until Abdullah's assassination in 1951. Commented May 9 at 12:36
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    My point is that it's a poor analogy, unless you are claiming that the Hashenite-Zionist alliance was similarly broken by unambiguous aggression by one or other party. Operation Barbarossa was about as far as you can get from "fog of war, politics, and other factors". Note that I'm not arguing with your actual claim that an agreement of sorts need not preclude all fighting; I'm just arguing that this analogy does nothing to support that claim. "Alliances can be broken, hence, alliances can coexist with fighting" is a non sequitur.
    – IMSoP
    Commented May 10 at 14:14

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