After a Century, Jordan Has Outlived Expectations, but Remains Precarious

In the past several days, the Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz has mentioned repeatedly the importance of Jerusalem’s strategic relationship with Amman. While observers have been predicting Jordan’s imminent demise since at least the 1950s, the kingdom recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and, compared to neighboring Iraq and Syria, appears stable and successful. Even the still-mysterious conflict between King Abdullah and his half-brother that came to the surface in April seems to have been resolved, at least for now. Asher Susser takes stock:

In one critical feature Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon differed markedly from Jordan, and it was this feature that spelled their undoing. All three were heterogeneous conglomerates of multiple sects that did not exist in Jordan. Jordan is 90-95 percent Sunni Muslim and Arab. In this respect, Jordan is more similar to homogeneous Egypt than to its heterogeneous neighbors in the Fertile Crescent, whose sectarian conflicts have led to their destruction.

Jordan is indeed divided between the original East Bank Transjordanians and its large Palestinian population, [made up of descendants of refugees from Israel’s War of Independence]. But these are relatively new national identities that have only taken root in the latter part of the 20th century. They are historically shallow in comparison to the sectarian identities that originate in the early 7th century. . . . There are real and palpable tensions between Jordanians and Palestinians, but in these days of more emphatic sectarian schisms their sectarian common ground tends to outweigh their national divisions.

This dynamic, Susser explains, has begun to reverse itself in recent years, with Abdullah alienating many East Bankers while earning increasing respect from the Palestinians:

In the eyes of many East Bankers Abdullah was an outsider, too Western and not really one of them. There were some who said of him that he was more comfortable in the company of foreigners than with other Arabs. Abdullah, in appointing officials, believed also in merit and not just loyalty. Tribal East Bankers complained that instead of traditional loyalists like them, Abdullah preferred “the digital crowd.” Abdullah, in turn, had his frustrations with East Bankers, and thus his angry reference to tribal elders as “dinosaurs,” who were holding Jordan back.

Jordan’s problems—the tensions within the [royal] family and the cracks in the political elite, coupled with the country’s endemic corruption, socioeconomic distress, and popular political disaffection, [are] far from over. There [are] no miraculous solutions for Jordan’s structural economic problems. They [go] beyond corruption and stemmed, in the main, from the underlying imbalance between population and resources.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Jordan, Palestinians

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf