Change in Jordan – Is Israel prepared? (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MUDAR ZAHRAN 06/07/12)
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The Hashemite regime in Jordan has kept Israel’s eastern border
secure for over four decades, and has proven itself a comfortable
partner with Israel on the Palestinian issue.
Nonetheless, the Hashemite regime is not necessarily immune to the
Arab Spring. If it were to be deposed, who might succeed the regime,
and can Israel be prepared for the outcome? The regime in Jordan is
not perfect. It has refused to integrate its Palestinian majority,
telling them they are merely refugees who should return to Palestine,
and it is also is an autocratic regime that strips the majority of
its citizens of their civil rights.
Nevertheless, Jordan has proven one virtue: It has kept Israel’s
longest borders safe and virtually worry-free for over four decades.
Furthermore, it has been integrating a high-level cooperation on
intelligence, counter-terrorism efforts and crime prevention with
both the US and Israel.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the best arrangement Israel can
ever possibly find along its borders is the current one, where the
Hashemite family rules Jordan.
Nonetheless, the Arab Spring has proven that the strongest of
dictators can fall to peaceful protests, and Jordan may not
necessarily by an exception.
While the protests in Jordan have been quieter than those in other
Arab countries, nonetheless they are regular and the protesters are
constantly upping the ante, to the point where there have been open
calls for toppling the king.
Should the king of Jordan be toppled, Israel will face limited
options as to his successor. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is
dominated by Beduin Jordanians, not Palestinians, and yes, the
Palestinian voting record in parliamentary elections shows they have
been voting Brotherhood members out of office, to the point of
electing none of them in 2010. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood
is the most organized, well-financed and regionally-connected
political organization in Jordan.
Common sense, then, indicates they will dominate the elections or at
least have the strongest part in the new Jordanian government, just
as was the case in Egypt, Tunisia and possibly soon Libya.
The Obama administration’s attitude toward the Brotherhood isn’t
helpful, either. In fact, cables exposed by WikiLeaks show the US
Embassy in Amman has been in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood.
BUT THERE is another strong contender: the PLO. The PLO is well
integrated in Jordan; and is more accepted than the Muslim
Brotherhood, especially are refugee camps. The PLO has the resources
to dominate the public vote of a future democratic Jordan, but will
that be good for Israel? The organization, which already dominated
the Palestinian Authority, has been a thorn in Israel’s side for
almost two decades now, dragging it into painful negotiations that
usually end up with Israel being asked to give more land for nothing
Should the PLO take control of Jordan it will be in a much stronger
position to hurt Israel politically and militarily. It is true that
the PA under chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been able to bring terrorism
under control in its territories, but on the political level Abbas
and the PA have been harassing Israel ceaselessly.
Examples include Abbas’s unilateral bid for UN Security Council
recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign state, a
breach of the Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the
Another scenario is that the Beduin take control of the country. This
is a possibility today as the anti-regime/proreform protests have
been driven by them, and they make up the regime’s army and security
agencies, which protect the king.
The Beduin have a history of tribal unrest and in-fighting, and
furthermore they have been heavily radicalized. For example terrorist
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian Beduin. Such a situation would
create havoc and tribal unrest in Jordan, and the Beduin are likely
to be hostile to both the Palestinians in Jordan and to Israel.
THERE IS, though, a more positive opposition to the king. There are
moderate opposition movements in Jordan, mostly dominated by
Palestinians as well as moderate “native” Jordanians, that are quite
active in the peaceful protests and political arena.
In fact, the major Jordanian opposition movement, the March 24
movement, and the Tafilah Movement (in the south) are at disagreement
with the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, the secular movements in Jordan lack funding and receive
little media coverage, as major Arab media such as Al Jazeera seem to
focus only on the Islamist opposition. Therefore, they are less
likely to dominate any future democratic elections in Jordan if the
So what is to be done? Should the world simply sit back and wait to
see if a situation identical to Egypt or Tunisia unfolds in Jordan?
Firstly, it would be very wise of Israel not to meddle in the current
Jordanian affair, as it might end up being blamed by Arabs, Jordanian
and Palestinians alike over whatever the outcome might be.
Israel should consider a careful “justin- case” Plan B for Jordan
that will secure the arrival of non-hostile forces to rule Jordan in
case the king falls. Such a Plan B must be thought of like an extra
gas tank – you only use when you run out of gas.
Israel and pro-Israel forces across the world must think up ways to
mitigate the damage should the Hashemite regime fall, and possibly
find workable back-up plans to support the secular Palestinians’ and
moderate Jordanians’ bid for power.
Such a plan should be carefully examined and prepared, then quietly
executed if a need for it arises, and never before that.
The writer is a Palestinian-Jordanian writer who resides in the UK.
(© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/07/12)
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