Six months ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah said publicly that his country was in “dire straits,” a sentiment widely held among his subjects. Among the many reasons for concern, the chaos in Iraq and Syria have caused an influx of refugees, a threat from Islamic State, and the loss of Jordan’s two major trading partners; additional factors include internal political instability, economic woes, and chronic water shortages. Daniel Pipes evaluates the situation:
[Jordan’s] core issue of identity remains unresolved. As a destination of massive immigration for over 100 years, it has received waves of Palestinians (in 1948-1949, 1967, and 1990-1991), Iraqis (2003), and Syrians (since 2011). Palestinians, according to most estimates, constitute a substantial majority of the population and present the deepest [internal] division. It’s common to speak of “Jordanians” and “Palestinians” even though the latter are citizens and children and grandchildren of citizens. As this suggests, [Jordanian Palestinians’] sense of being separate from and superior to the mostly tribal peoples of the East Bank has not diminished over time, especially not when Palestinians have achieved economic success.
But the country’s strengths are also formidable. Surrounded by crises, the population is realistic and wary of trouble. The king enjoys an undisputed position of authority. Intermarriages and the influx of Iraqis and Syrians are eroding the historic divisions between Palestinians and others. The population enjoys a high level of education. Jordan has a good reputation around the world.
Then there’s Israel. “Where are the fruits of peace?” is a common refrain about Jordan’s 1994 treaty with Israel. Politicians and the media may not say so, but the answer is blindingly obvious: whether it is using [Haifa’s port] as an alternative to the Syrian land route [to connect to foreign markets], the purchase of inexpensive water, or the provision of plentiful gas (which is already being delivered), Jordan benefits directly and substantially from its ties with Israel. Despite this, a perverse social pressure against normalization with Israel has grown over time, intimidating absolutely everyone and preventing relations with the Jewish state from reaching their potential.