By Zuhair Andraos
By Zuhair Andraos
September 18, 2011
Political sources in Israel, described as “high-level”, have claimed that the government in Jordan is now very weak and is close to collapse. While the United States is trying to dissuade the Palestinians from making a unilateral bid for UN recognition of an independent state, the authorities in Tel Aviv are, it seems, equally concerned about their neighbour to the east. Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth has cited the same sources about the lack of stability in Amman.
Speaking on condition of anonymity the Israeli officials told the newspaper that the Hashemite Kingdom is about to face a real test and decision-makers in Tel Aviv need to deal with this seriously. They added that the whole region is unstable so this is not the right time for the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas to go to the United Nations for recognition. Such a move, they believe, will only add to the instability across the Middle East.
The media report noted that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has decided not to respond formally to comments by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who said earlier in the week that Israel is facing a more difficult situation after the outbreak of Arab uprisings and the future for Jordan and Palestine is stronger than Israel’s. “Israelis,” said the King, “are the ones who are afraid today.” In a speech to intellectuals and academics in Amman, King Abdullah added, “When I was in the United States an Israeli intellectual told me that what is happening in Arab countries today is in the best interest of Israel, but I replied to the contrary, as Israel’s situation today is more difficult than ever before.”
There have been several occasions since the summer of 2008 when concerns have been raised by Jordan, notably the possibility of the annexation of part of the occupied West Bank territory to the Kingdom. The monarch and his government have rejected proposals repeatedly for Jordan to be the “alternative homeland” for the Palestinians; around half of the Kingdom’s six million population originates in Palestine. That balance would, it is feared, be damaged if 2.4 million Palestinians currently in the occupied West Bank are “transferred” to Jordan.
The anonymous Israeli sources believe that King Abdullah had no choice but to make such statements because of the situation in his country and the instability in the Middle East. However, they added that they shouldn’t be taken seriously because the King is linked closely to the US. Israel, they said, should keep calm on its eastern front, while maintaining a close watch on developments in Jordan.
Meanwhile, a study prepared by the Begin-Sadat Centre in Tel Aviv has said that it is too early to predict where the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is heading. It is unlikely, claims the report’s author, that the King will be able to absorb protests as happened in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, and to satisfy the young people who want reform. Indeed, said Professor Eyal Zisser, the proximity of Jordan to the hotbeds of Arab protests in Syria and Egypt make an outbreak of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Jordan difficult to prevent. While the demand to change Jordan into a constitutional monarchy may be marginal and impossible to replicate across the Middle East, Professor Zisser believes that such a move would lead to the break-up of the Kingdom with a resultant threat to the relative calm on Israel’s eastern border. Nevertheless, it will be difficult for King Abdullah to avoid any concessions as a result of the Arab revolution sweeping towards Amman.
The study calls for attention to be paid to the reasons for the protests, including the difficult economic conditions in Jordan, the widening gap between Amman and the rest of the country, political corruption and lack of real political choice for the people. With the ultimate fate of Egypt and Syria still uncertain, said Zisser, the people of Jordan may be deterred for the time being from pushing their country into a state of chaos.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood has respect for Jordan’s royal family and maintains a relationship with King Abdullah, Zisser believes that this situation will not continue indefinitely. The Brotherhood, he claims, is making preparations in case the revolutionary tide against the region’s ruling regimes finally reaches Jordan. Since the beginning of the year, demonstrations in the Hashemite Kingdom have been small, involving relatively few citizens, but these were eclipsed by the demonstrations which erupted in mid-July in Amman and a number of the country’s provinces. These illustrated the potential of the people of Jordan to achieve successful outcomes with their protests which will reach all the way up to the King and his family.
Israel will be watching the situation very closely.