Jordan’s King Abdullah II Fights to Retain His Throne

On May 29, 2019, the United States team tasked with forging peace in the Middle East met with Jordan’s monarch Abdullah II. Abdullah insisted that the so called “deal of the century” include an independent sovereign state of Palestine with “East Jerusalem” as its capital.

On its face, the king’s comment might seem a gesture of support for the Palestinian Authority. It was actually more than that. It was a statement made out of fear about losing his own monarchy.

To understand the current state of the Jordanian king, one must appreciate two factors: the history of Jordan regarding Palestine and the current situation in the country.

History of Jordan / Transjordan / Palestine

When the Ottoman Empire was facing defeat in World War I, the world powers sought to set up distinct new entities in the Middle East. The broad region now known as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Israel were to be administered by the United Kingdom and France for a period of years until each would become an established new state. The Mandate of Palestine (1922) fell under the UK and included the area now known as Jordan.

Due to effective lobbying of the British government, the Hashemite family was able to secure a monarchy on 77% of the Palestine Mandate in 1924, incorporating all of the area east of the Jordan River. Such division was hinted at in the Mandate (Article 25), but other key provisions of the Mandate were ignored by the Hashemite king, notably Article 15 which forbade the exclusion of any person based on religion (no Jews allowed as detailed below).

The Hashemite kingdom’s quest for more of Palestine would play out over the years 1948 to 1954.

When Israel declared itself an independent state in May 1948 as the British mandate ended, the Jordanians attacked the nascent Jewish State together with armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. At war’s end in 1949, the Jordanians took over Judea and Samaria which would later become known as the “West Bank.” They ethnically cleansed all Jews from the region, including the eastern portion of Jerusalem, while tens of thousands of Arabs from Israel moved to the West Bank and Jordan. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank in a move not recognized by any country other than the United Kingdom and Pakistan.

In an effort to further cement its ownership of “Greater Jordan,” the Hashemites gave all West Bank Arabs Jordanian citizenship, as well as those who moved to Jordan. The 1954 Jordanian Citizenship law specifically forbade Jews from obtaining citizenship (Article 3), a bold anti-Semitic initiative which received no condemnation at the United Nations.

In June 1967, Jordan attacked Israel again. However this time it lost the territory it had illegally annexed. Many of the Arabs who had moved to the West Bank in 1948-9 then moved to Jordan, while many others remained, holding onto their Jordanian citizenship even though they no longer lived in Jordanian-ruled land.

Many Arabs were furious with the failures of the leadership.

In 1964, several Arabs decided that they did want to be ruled by the Hashemites of Jordan nor the Jews of Israel and established the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to launch a “holy war” to free the land from “International Zionism and colonialism.” The 1967 loss of more land was an alarming setback in those goals.

In September 1970, the PLO fought to topple the Hashemite monarchy attempting to kill King Hussein, King Abdullah’s father, and take over Jordan. The Jordanian army routed the Palestinian fighters, killing over 3,000 of them. The remaining fighters were expelled to Lebanon, where they would later participate in the Lebanese Civil War and then wars against Israel.

The Jordanians would not be done with the Palestinian issue.

After Israel fought to expel the PLO terrorists from Lebanon in 1982, they moved on to Tunisia, but only for a few years. The Tunisians withdrew the passports issued to several members of the PLO leadership and cancelled the residency permits of many others in 1986. The group began to spread throughout Algeria, Yemen, Sudan and Syria, establishing terrorist training camps around the region.

And they would soon find themselves back next door to Jordan.

In 1988, Yasser Arafat nominally recognized Israel’s right to exist, as the Palestinians declared an independent state, a move not recognized by most of the world. The Jordanians revoked the Jordanian citizenship of the Palestinians at this time, leaving them theoretically with Palestinian citizenship, but effectively no citizenship since no countries recognized Palestine. The Jordanians would also give up all claims to the West Bank (indicating that they clearly sought to recapture that land before such time).

A few years later in 1991, 400,000 Arabs of Palestinian descent were expelled from Kuwait, due to the PLO’s siding with Iraq in its war with Kuwait. The vast majority of these Arabs would settle in Jordan, inflating the already significant number of Stateless Arabs from Palestine (SAPs) in the country.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Arab “intifada” against Israeli Jews would rage from 1987 until 1993. It was in that year that Yasser Arafat, the head of the PLO, moved from Tunisia to Gaza, and the current Jordanian King Abdullah would take a Palestinian bride, Rania. The Oslo I Accords of September 1993 set in motion a plan for a “two-state solution,” one for Arabs (Palestine) and one for Jews (Israel), helping pave the way for the Jordanians to make peace with Israel in the following year, in October 1994.

The tug-of-war between the Palestinians-and-Jordanians, the Palestinians-and-Israel, and Israel-and-Jordan was seemingly coming to a peaceful conclusion.

It was not to be.

Current Situation of the Hashemite Kingdom

The Oslo I Accords would be followed by the more comprehensive Oslo II Accords in 1995 which set in motion a plan to arrive at a conclusive deal within five years, by September 2000. Those five intermediate years were marked by constant Arab terrorist attacks against Israel, but the two parties still tried to advance to a peace agreement.

The Jordanian King Hussein who forged the peace agreement with Israel died in February 1999, and was succeeded by his son King Abdullah II. Abdullah kept the peace treaty with Israel in place, a move unpopular with many Jordanians during the Second Intifada which began in September 2000 when the Oslo II Accords failed to bring about a Palestinian State. Abdullah’s police and military fought with members of the Parliament and countered riots in the street which were committed to the Palestinian cause.

The monarchy was once again caught in the three-way fight between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians.

And then 9/11 happened.

King Abdullah strongly condemned the attacks against America, and pushed forward a much more authoritarian shutdown of the public protest in support of Palestinians. However, the daily bloodshed of the Second Intifada made the protests from the streets where most people were SAPs and had relatives in the West Bank hard to contain. Queen Rania herself led some of the protests.

But King Abdullah saw that America was coming to wage war again in Iraq after the attacks of 9/11. He ruled over a people who overwhelmingly supported Iraq just a decade earlier, and who cheered when Iraq fired scud missiles into Israel which wasn’t even part of the battle. How could Abdullah manage such a population when he relied on America for economic aid and military protection?

As described in an article by The Middle East Policy Council, King Abdullah instituted a “Jordan First” policy, to manage the internal threat.

“Through its emphasis on domestic priorities, Jordan First offered an innovative political strategy that mixed elections with repression in an effort to ensure a loyalist parliament that would allow the Hashemite regime to continue its support of American policies in an effort to secure the economic benefits essential to the regime’s long-term survival…. In brief, these policies are the maintenance of normal ties with Israel, alignment with U.S. policies toward the Middle East, and active support for the American war on terror.”

Abdullah prioritized Israel-Jordan over Jordan-Palestine while he ignored Palestine-Israel. And he would continue to do so throughout the Second Intifada, even while occasionally berating the Israeli government, in an effort to convince the Arab street that he was not a puppet of the US administration or a closet Zionist.

And then the “Arab Spring” happened in December 2010, devolving most notably into the Syrian Civil War in March 2011.

The bloodshed and anarchy of a fellow Arab monarch slaughtering his own citizens at his borders was difficult for Abdullah to watch. So his country of 9.7 million people welcomed almost a million Syrian refugees, almost 10 percent of its population. This was on top of the over 2.3 million people in Jordan who were registered as Palestinian refugees.

In total, King Abdullah rules over a population in which one-third of the people don’t identify with the country. The loyalties, allegiances and aspirations of the “Palestinian”- Jordanians and Syrian refugees lie elsewhere, in neighboring lands. The country is like an airport waiting area in which the flights keep on getting delayed and the people become more and more restless.

Which brings us back to King Abdullah’s comments today.

The Tottering Hashemite Crown

Jordan’s unemployment rate now stands at 18.7%, roughly the same high mark for the past six quarters. By way of comparison, Israel’s unemployment rate is at a remarkable low of 3.8%, a level which keeps getting lower. Jordan may have survived the Arab Spring violence that engulfed Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but it is limping along.

The “Arab Spring” may not have liberated the Arab world, but it made the populations question the legitimacy of their governments. This is much more true in the motley group of “Jordanians” who have nothing to do with the Hashemite who sits on the throne, a man who cannot deliver jobs.

It is therefore impossible for Abdullah to take on another 2.9 million Arabs living in the West Bank in a possible confederation scenario. Such a move would bring the Palestinians to roughly 42% of the Jordanian population, and together with the Syrians, a majority. And this majority has no loyalty for a small tribe which took control of the area almost 100 years ago. In Abduallah’s calculation, the Palestinians must gain their own state, or he risks losing his monarchy in Jordan.

The Jordanian king often uses passionate and flowery speech to convince his audience of his good nature. But as a creature of the volatile Middle East, he is simply a crafty survivor, fighting to retain his family dynasty among a restless and poor population which doesn’t recognize him.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Oh Abdullah, Jordan is Not So Special

The Jordanian King Abdullah’s Absurdities

Time for King Abdullah of Jordan to Denounce the Mourabitoun

The Original Nakba: The Division of “TransJordan”

Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem

Related First.One.Through video:

Jordan’s Hypocrisy: Queen Rania on Palestinians and UNRWA

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The Original Nakba: The Division of “TransJordan”

This year marks 100 years since the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917 which endorsed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People.” The declaration became the basis for the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) to endorse the Palestine Mandate which clearly articulated the history and rights of Jews to a reconstituted national homeland in the area now commonly thought of as Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Article 25 of the Mandate allowed the administrator (Britain) to change the contours of the reestablished Jewish homeland.

“In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.”

On September 23, 1922, the League of Nations adopted the suggestion of the British to divide the territory in two, in a document called the “Transjordan Memorandum.” That memorandum stripped away any mention of Jewish history in the land, facilitating the emigration of Jews to Palestine or the creation of a Jewish homeland in the area east of the Jordan River.

The memorandum also facilitated a complete abrogation of key components of Article 25 of the Palestine Mandate that allowed such separation: that “no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.” Those provisions specifically enumerated non-discrimination clauses that were to be kept in place in the new TransJordan:

Article 15:

The Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.

The right of each community to maintain its own schools for the education of its own members in its own language, while conforming to such educational requirements of a general nature as the Administration may impose, shall not be denied or impaired.

Article 16:

The Mandatory shall be responsible for exercising such supervision over religious or eleemosynary bodies of all faiths in Palestine as may be required for the maintenance of public order and good government. Subject to such supervision, no measures shall be taken in Palestine to obstruct or interfere with the enterprise of such bodies or to discriminate against any representative or member of them on the ground of his religion or nationality.

Article 18:

The Mandatory shall see that there is no discrimination in Palestine against the nationals of any State Member of the League of Nations (including companies incorporated under its laws) as compared with those of the Mandatory or of any foreign State in matters concerning taxation, commerce or navigation, the exercise of industries or professions, or in the treatment of merchant vessels or civil aircraft. Similarly, there shall be no discrimination in Palestine against goods originating in or destined for any of the said States, and there shall be freedom of transit under equitable conditions across the mandated area.

Subject as aforesaid and to the other provisions of this mandate, the Administration of Palestine may, on the advice of the Mandatory, impose such taxes and customs duties as it may consider necessary, and take such steps as it may think best to promote the development of the natural resources of the country and to safeguard the interests of the population. It may also, on the advice of the Mandatory, conclude a special customs agreement with any State the territory of which in 1914 was wholly included in Asiatic Turkey or Arabia.”

International law was clear that any division of the territory would ensure that no discrimination of any kind be allowed on the basis of religion.

But that is exactly what Transjordan/Jordan became: an anti-Semitic country established by the United Nations which prohibits Jews in a variety of areas.

No Citizenship

Consider Jordan’s Nationality Law of 1954:

“Article 3:

The following shall be deemed to be Jordanian nationals:

Any person who, not being Jewish, possessed Palestinian nationality before 15 May 1948 and was a regular resident in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between 20 December 1949 and 16 February 1954;”

Can you think of anything more explicitly anti-Semitic than a law that specifically separates Jews from others and bans them from becoming citizens?

No Land Purchases

Jordan prohibited Jews from buying any land in the area that had been part of the Palestine Mandate in an edict, Law No. (40) of 1953 Concerning the Leasing and Selling of Immovable Properties from Foreigners, as amended by Law No. (12) of 1960; and  Law No. (2) of 1962.

Jordan has continued along this path even post its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

In March 2016, the Jordanian government singled out Israelis as being banned from buying or renting property around the city of Petra. No other country is subject to such provision.


The League of Nations considered at the outset of its endorsement of a Jewish national home in 1920 and 1922 that perhaps the contours of such homeland should exclude the land east of the Jordan River. But international law has – and continues to fail – in two major respects:

  • In JORDAN: The provision (Article 25) to cut the eastern part of the Mandate (and ONLY the eastern part) from the Jewish homeland specifically did not allow the discrimination against Jews from buying land or obtaining citizenship there;
  • In the WEST BANK: All of the land west of the Jordan River was allocated for a Jewish homeland, and obviously with full legal authorization for Jews to purchase homes and obtain citizenship, despite calls by the current Palestinian Authority leadership to have a Jew-free country

The division of the Palestine Mandate in September 1922 to create Jordan was a disgraceful tragedy which denied Jewish history and rights east of the Jordan River. Despite this, people have attempted to expand upon Article 25 almost a century later to divide the land WEST of the Jordan River in an identical course of anti-Semitic charges that the West Bank should not have a single Jew.

The Palestinian Arabs coined the term “Nakba” (catastrophe) for the founding of the Jewish State on just a part of the Palestine Mandate on May 15, 1948. However, the original Nakba happened 26 years earlier, when the British gutted the essence of international law set out in the Palestine Mandate: for all of the land west of the Jordan River to be the Jewish homeland, and the land east of the river to have full legal rights for Jewish worship, land ownership and citizenship.

Remarkably, the Jewish Nakba of September 23, 1922 is seeking a second coming.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Oh Abdullah, Jordan is Not So Special

Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem

Palestinian Jews and a Judenrein Palestine

Regime Reactions to Israel’s “Apartheid” and “Genocide”

A “Viable” Palestinian State

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

“Ethnic Cleansing” in Israel and the Israeli Territories

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