Jordan marks anniversary of historic battle with Israel amid ongoing conflict

The Battle of Karameh occurred on March 21, 1968, in Jordan, with Israeli forces facing off against a mix of Palestinian fighters and Jordanian soldiers. The significance of the battle lies in the name of the site, which means “dignity,” making it a symbol of victory for Palestinians and Jordanians, though it is often overlooked in Israel. This year, it is receiving attention in Jordan and Arabic media due to the conflict in Gaza.

Following the Six Day War in 1967, where Israel swiftly defeated Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, the Battle of Karameh unfolded. Palestinian groups, notably Fatah, launched attacks on Israel from bases in Jordanian territories inhabited by Palestinians. Concerned about potential conflicts on multiple fronts, the IDF planned a swift operation to crush Fatah in Jordan and dismantle the terrorist networks operating near the Jordan River. The Jordanian army unexpectedly joined the battle, turning it into a prolonged and intense engagement in the Jordan Valley around Karameh. Despite the IDF’s withdrawal after fifteen hours, Jordanians and Palestinians view the battle as a triumph.

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the Israeli cabinet agreed to the assault, aiming to quash a rising “wave of terror” in the Jordan Valley. What was intended as a decisive blow to Palestinian groups turned into a faceoff with the Jordanian military. Arab media outlets like Al-Ain in the UAE highlighted the battle’s significance, showcasing Arab unity’s ability to challenge Israel’s perceived invincibility post-1967.

In Jordan, state media commemorated the battle’s enduring legacy, unveiling historical artifacts and documenting King Hussein bin Talal’s efforts to defend against Israeli aggression during the conflict. The valor of Arab soldiers in the Jordanian army was praised, emphasizing the pivotal victory against Israeli incursions and garnering international support for Jordan’s territorial defense.

Members of the Jordanian Gendarmerie during a demonstration in Karameh, Jordan valley, Jordan on May 21, 2021. (credit: JEHAD SHELBAK/REUTERS)

Today, the Battle of Karameh’s remembrance is interwoven with contemporary events, raising questions about Israel’s military capabilities and portraying Palestinians as resilient against Israeli forces with Arab backing. This narrative shapes regional policies and reflects shifts in the evolving geopolitical landscape.