In Jordan, Uneasy Lies the Head

by Hugh Fitzgerald

King Abdullah of Jordan recently accused his half-brother Hamzah bin Hussein of plotting a coup against him, and had him placed under house arrest in Amman. A few days later, and the Palace announced that, in fact, there had been no coup attempt. Prince Hamzah’s real crime seems to have been his open criticism of the regime for corruption and incompetence, and for meeting recently with tribal leaders, a meeting which, in the heated imaginations of Jordanian authorities, suggested he was planning a coup, even though the Prince has no known support in Jordan’s military. The King and his half-brother have now made up. The Prince has signed a letter in which he pledged his loyalty to the King. The crisis has passed. But damage has been done to the country’s image. It seemed to the outside world that Jordan, formerly thought of as a pillar of stability, was not immune to the palace intrigues other Arab monarchies – such as Saudi Arabia – have endured..

A report that considers the possible future of Jordan, and what it means for Israel, is here: “Jordan’s instability and the ‘Palestine’ states,” by Daniel Tauber, JNS, April 18, 2021:

Long live King Abdullah II. Sincerely. Though it is not clear that he needs our well wishes. As “painful” as he said that recent events in the Kingdom of Jordan were for him, reports of an attempted coup were conflicting at best.

Whatever happened, Jordanian officials were sufficiently concerned about the “security and stability” of the kingdom to arrest a number of high-profile Jordanians, including the king’s own brother, and publicly expose the drama.

Even with this episode behind Jordan, the fears driving the response to it should worry Western countries that see Jordan as an important and reliable military host and contributor to a stable, if not democratic, Middle East. It should worry Israel the most, due to the long border that it shares with the kingdom, and because Jordan is home to a population that, to put it frankly, hates the Jewish state.

As long as King Abdullah rules, Jordan will respect its “cold peace” with Israel, but make no move to warm it up. Between 50% and 70% of the people in Jordan are Palestinians who are consumed with hatred for the Jewish state, which they believe “stole” their land; they prevent King Abdullah from making further overtures, beyond that 26-year-old peace treaty, to Israel.

While Israeli citizens go about their lives without giving much thought to the kingdom, the Jordanian parliament is busy passing anti-Israel resolutions or trying to veto the agreement to import Israeli natural gas. Whenever an Israeli even sneezes on the Temple Mount, Abdullah and the parliament condemn Israel, despite the heavy restrictions on Jews at the site.

Jordan controls the Waqf that administers the Temple Mount, and whenever it is felt that the Israelis have impinged on its power, there is always anger in Amman, as politicians and clerics vie with one another in how extreme their denunciations of the Israelis can be. In fact, Israel only very rarely, in times of great tension – as when Muslims throw rocks down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below — limits Muslim access to the Temple Mount. The Israeli police are on the Mount not to interfere with the Muslims, but to prevent Jewish visitors from praying, or even silently mouthing prayers, which would offend Muslim sensibilities.

Then there are Abdullah’s routine calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, to pressure the country that he has called “fortress Israel,” and his complaints about relations with Israel.

While King Abdullah calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, it’s a possibility that also fills him with alarm. For such a Palestinian state might wish to become part of a larger political entity, by joining with a Jordan that would be ruled by its Palestinian majority. And that would entail the removal of Abdullah.

Meanwhile, polling shows that the overwhelming majority of Jordanians hold negative views about normalization with Israel at both state and individual levels, and a majority, even a large majority at times, supports Hamas.

Support for Hamas means support for terrorism. It is only Abdullah’s security forces, especially his loyal Bedouin troops, who keep Hamas and its sympathizers under control, and prevent Jordan from turning into hotbed of Hamas-prompted terror attacks on Israel which would result, of course, in devastating Israeli reprisals intended to warn Jordan to suppress the terrorist threat itself, or face worse from Israel.

Jordanians would cite a laundry list of alleged Israeli affronts, but the deep-seated ill-will towards Israel cannot be divorced from the fact that Jordan’s population is between 51 and 70 percent Palestinian or of Palestinian origin.

This Palestinian population appears to drive Jordanian attention to Israel in two main ways.

 First, Palestinian identity is tied to resentment towards the state that, to their mind, stole their country and oppresses their people, some of whom may even be family. This makes this population especially inclined to dislike and focus on Israel. The U.S. Congressional Research Service’s 2011 report on Jordan, therefore, noted that the “issue of Palestinian rights resonates with much of the [Jordanian] population, as more than half of all Jordanian citizens originate from either the West Bank or the pre-1967 borders of Israel.”

The second is that because of Jordan’s large Palestinian population, the Hashemites, as well as the non-Palestinian tribes, fear that Jordan will be made into the “alternative homeland” for Palestinians. Experts have called this a key or even dominating issue in Jordanian politics and policy.

There are Israelis who insist that “Jordan is Palestine” and clearly see the “Jordanian option” as a better outcome than having two states, Arab and Jewish, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This prospect terrifies Abdullah.

To prevent this, in 1988, Jordan disengaged from Judea and Samaria (so-called the West Bank because for a brief period it was the part of the country on the western bank of the Jordan River) stripping 1.5 million Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship. In announcing the policy, King Hussein declared that “Jordan is not the Palestinian homeland.” King Abdullah has reiterated his father’s policy, saying that “Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine.”…

By stripping those 1.5 million Palestinians of citizenship, and thus of voting rights, the Jordanians hoped to weaken the Palestinians’ political power in the Majlis (Parliament). Those 1.5 million Palestinians lost the right, as well, to government benefits. Possibly some of those 1.5 million would thereby be encouraged to emigrate from Jordan, and thereby restore the balance between Jordanians and Palestinians.

Jordan “for the Jordanians” means that once there is an independent Palestinian state, the Hashemite kingdom will be eager to transfer as many of its own Palestinians out of Jordan into that state as possible. The author suggests that, hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of those Palestinians might be forcibly expelled, whether they are Jordanian citizens or are those who were stripped of citizenship in 1988. It’s not surprising that the Jordanians are eager to reclaim their own country, and that they see expulsion or transfer as a way to reduce the demographic threat the Palestinians pose to the Kingdom of Jordan.

The Palestinians who would be forced into the new state of “Palestine” from their host countries, which are glad to be relieved of the Palestinian presence on their soil, will – as Daniel Tauber notes – hate Israel. And they are likely to be the poorest and least educated of Palestinians, having been kept in camps, while those who are better educated and with marketable skills would likely have moved to Europe or North America. The state of Palestine, consisting of all of Gaza and a still-to-be-determined part of the West Bank, would become even more densely-populated than those areas are today. No good can come of this. Like flies in a fly-bottle, consumed with hate, unable to create a sustainable state, the sole export of this Palestinian state will be terrorism directed at its next-door neighbor, the maddeningly successful state of the Jews.

Right now Jordan’s population is between 50% and 70% Palestinian. How long can the King rely on his Bedouin troops to keep the lid on a constantly increasing Palestinian majority, and their push for turning Jordan into a Palestinian state that, in turn, will be able to merge with the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza?

If this occurs [either a fall of the monarchy, or a takeover of Jordan by its Palestinian majority] , a union of some kind between the “West Bank” and “East Bank” Palestinian states might also be inevitable. Confederation between a Palestinian state and Jordan has been discussed favorably in the past and has even been discussed by Jordanians and Palestinians in recent years. A majority of Palestinians have even favored it in polls.

But whether or not a Palestinian Jordan formally ties itself to a West Bank “state of Palestine,” the dangers posed by the Palestinian state(s) that would surround Israel and its capital, are not mere fear-mongering by right-wing extremists.

What can Israel do to ensure that the Palestinians in Jordan do not take over the country as was tried once before by Black September? And what can Israel do to prevent Jordan and other Arab countries that now host Palestinian refugees from expelling them, once an independent Palestinian state has been established and is willing to take them in? Questions, most alarming questions, for study and discussion.

First published in Jihad Watch.


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