We now very much take for granted that the PLO and/or Hamas represents the Palestinian people. During Israel's early years, when Jordan controlled the West Bank, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and the Arab states did not yet consider the "Palestinian" national identity as a useful means to attack Israel, many Arabs living in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon or Syria were specifically not integrated into those societies and were kept in refugee camps. Even though the PLO was not yet formed, those Arab states realized the importance of maintaining a refugee population that could be used against Israel in the court of public opinion. However, the creation of a separate Palestinian identity that necessarily required its own national representation separate from the Jordanians represented a significant departure from the historical origins of Arab identity in the former British Mandate.
As I have previously expressed, I am of the opinion that the Palestinian identity originated, from its earliest stages under Hajj Amin al-Husseini, from a political and not ethno-tribal-nationalist conflict with the newly formed Hashemite Kingdom of (Trans)Jordan. When the British placed Abdullah I on the Jordanian throne as a reward for his family's spearheading the Arab Revolt in 1916, they did so with little regard for the power structure that had evolved in the region during 400 years of Ottoman rule. This disregard put the Hashemites (who were from the Saudi Hejaz region, where Mecca and Medina lie) into immediate conflict with the prominent ruling Arabs in Jerusalem, Jericho and Nablus. Those Arabs had no interest in being ruled by foreign Hashemite leaders and sought to carve out a dominion for themselves. Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the heir to the powerful Jerusalem Arab leadership and British proclaimed "Mufti of Jerusalem" used his leadership position to instigate rebellions against both the British and the Jews living in Palestine. His intransigence and unwillingness to compromise with the Jews led to the British functionally renouncing the geographic promises of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 by issuing the White Paper in 1939, which advocated partitioning the British Mandate west of the Jordan river. The moment the British agreed to the idea of creating a second Arab state in the British Mandate, they lent some credence to the idea of separate Arab nationalities in the region. However, the competing political and power interests of both the Hashemites in Amman and the Husseinis in Jerusalem led to both sides claiming suzerainty over the entire Arab community of the British Mandate.
Tensions arose almost immediately after the 1949 Armistice Agreements ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. By 1950, Jordan had annexed the West Bank, creating a situation where 1/3 of its population were pre-1948 "Jordanians," 1/3 were Arabs who fled east cross the Jordan river during the 1948 War, and 1/3 were Arabs living under Jordanian control in the newly named "West Bank" of the Jordan River in the newly annexed territory. Although Jordan was demographically an Arab state with a majority of its citizens originating from or still living in territory acquired during the 1948 War, the Hashemite kings significantly restricted the rights of that 2/3 of the population. This hostility escalated when a "Palestinian" activist assassinated King Abdullah in 1957, ushering significant tension and hostility between the "Palestinian" nationalists and the Hashemite Kingdom. King Hussein became increasingly concerned that Palestinian nationalism would threaten Hashemite control over Jordan, especially as he saw Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser bankrolling and encouraging such nationalists. The situation grew even more complex when Jordan lost control of the West Bank during the Six Day War and was placed in a quandary over how to address both the large influx of Arabs fleeing new Israeli control of the West Bank and how to address the newly established Palestinian Liberation Organization because of the large number of "Palestinians" who now lived in Jordan. The growth of the PLO, and later Hamas, created significant and unique problems for Jordan because of the PLO's attempts to oust the Hashemite government in the 1970s and its attempts to assassinate prominent Hashemite officials for their perceived misdeeds against the "Palestinians" in their midst. Significantly, many Arabs who fled into Jordan were denied citizenship, political representation and in many cases had citizenship revoked because the Hashemites maintained a strong desire to control the demographic and political balance in Jordan.
After the PLO departed from Lebanon after Israel's invasion in 1982 and headed to far off Tunisia, the orchestrated First Intifada in 1988, combined with Jordan's decision to remove itself from controlling the increasingly violent Palestinians in the West Bank and the United States' decision to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Arabs west of the Jordan led to decisive split between Jordan and "Palestine." Indeed, the First Intifada's dual success was that it convinced the world of a separate Palestinian identity and forced the Jordanians to terminate all claims to represent the Palestinians because the PLO was now viewed as more effective in combating Israeli denials of Palestinian autonomy than the Jordanians were. Of course, the PLO and Hamas have taken on the historical mantle of not just opposing Israel's very existence, but also of attacking the legitimacy of Hashemite rule over Jordan. As a result, while Jordan is willing to let the PLO and Hamas fight the Israelis, it is very weary of attacks on Hashemite sovereignty and attempts by the PLO or Hamas to assert their legitimacy over Jordan as well as Israel.
The placement of the PLO and now Hamas as the representative of the presumptive second Arab state in the former British Mandate of Palestine represents a major about face from over 40 years of Palestinians being lumped in with Jordan. Given the circumstances that brought about what, in the grand scheme, represented a fantastic transformation in political representation. The idea that "Palestinians" went from being politically represented by another state to being represented by a non-state political entity. What is beyond dispute is that the separation of Palestinians and Jordanians and the establishment of Palestinian nationalism as separate from Jordanian nationalism is based on a political dispute and not a realization that Palestinian nationalism could not be realized in Jordan. Indeed, the question I find myself and will always ask is: if the Arab Spring takes Jordan and an Arabist or even "Palestinian" government, then what will be the compelling reason why Palestinian nationalism cannot be realized in Jordan, especially considering that the majority of Jordan's population (especially if one were to include the West Bank in the territory) is "Palestinian" as defined by those Arabs that left the British Mandate west of the Jordan River during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. So, aside from a fundamental displeasure with Hashemite rule, what is the compelling distinction between Jordanian and Palestinian identity? The formation of these two distinct "nations" is based both on creating a separate identity to maintain the Palestinians as a thorn in Israel's side while at the same time easing pressure on the Hashemite monarchy by directing Palestinian nationalist aspirations toward Israel.