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Mordechai Kedar: Is Jordan ‘The Alternative Homeland’?


King Abdullah of Jordan with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

King Abdullah of Jordan with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90

The third event was Israel’s liberation of Judea and Samaria, (the “West Bank”) in the Six Day War (1967), and since then a conspiracy theory has developed that the Jordanian government actually gave up the territory willingly because it didn’t want the Palestinian residents.

The fourth event was the blocking of the connection between the two banks in 1988, as a result of the first Intifada. The disconnection included cancelling the Jordanian citizenship of the residents of Judea and Samaria, which led to the reality in which many of them today lack any citizenship at all. This event added to the suspicion that the only thing the Jordanian government wants is to rid itself of its Palestinian citizens, in order to proportionally increase the Bedouin component of the Jordanian population.

An additional aspect that negatively influences the way the Jordanian government relates to Palestinians is the tension that exists between the right of citizenship and the “right of return”. One would expect any person to want citizenship of the state in which he lives, because citizenship gives him a status of permanency in the state, and basic services such as passport, education, employment, medical care and pension insurance. But in the case of the Palestinians in Jordan, obtaining citizenship means that they have permanent status in the state of Jordan and therefore lose their status as refugees. Therefore they can no longer demand the “right of return”. This matter was exacerbated as a result of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1994, in which Jordan recognized Israel without demanding from it to recognize the “right of return” of the Palestinians to the West Bank. In the opinion of many Palestinians, the awarding of Jordanian citizenship to Palestinians residing in Jordan serves Israel’s interests because Jordan is thus released from the refugee problem in a way that is unsatisfactory to the Palestinians.

During the past fifty years, since the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded, a cat and mouse game has been played between the Palestinians and the Jordanian government. The PLO has claimed all these years that it is the “only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” meaning all of the Palestinians in the world, including those Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship. Therefore King Hussein always suspected the PLO of undermining his status among the Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship and trying to incite them against the monarchy. This came to a boiling point in September of 1970, when the PLO took over broad areas in northern Jordan and turned it into an area of Palestinian autonomy with a military dimension. The claim then was that the PLO needed these territories in order to conduct the battle against the state of Israel, three years after Israel had eliminated the PLO from Judea and Samaria. However, Hussein understood that the battle against Israel was only part of the story, while the other part was the desire of the PLO to control the northern parts of Jordan, the areas in which the Palestinians are an absolute majority. Hussein also understood this as “it’s either Arafat or me” so he conducted a massacre among the Palestinians that resulted in the deaths of about 20,000 Palestinians. This seminal event created a positive balance of power for Jordan, the memory of which is not forgotten until today.

The peace with Israel is seen as illegitimate among the majority of Jordanian Palestinians. They see the peace as a personal interest of King Hussein, in order to win Israeli and American support against the neighboring Arab powers to the North and East: (then) Syria of Haffez al-Assad and Iraq of Saddam Hussein. The Palestinians see the peace agreement as a betrayal of their interests, because there was no stipulation for progress in the Palestinian matter, in contrast to the Camp David agreements between Sa’adat and Begin (1978) in which there was a clear reference to the promotion of Palestinian autonomy. Moreover, Palestinians saw the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan as a result of the desire of King Hussein to win recognition of the monarchy by Israel, and thus put an end to the Israeli talk by some – Ariel Sharon for example – about Jordan as a Palestinian state.

Also the internal situation in the Palestinian arena is a source of tension between the PLO and the Jordanian monarchy. Since Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament in January of 2006, PLO figures suspect that Jordan prefers Hamas over the PLO for a number of reasons. The first is the close cultural similarities between the Bedouins of Jordan and Hamas, a movement that is based, in large part, on the groups of Bedouin descent, which constitute a significant part of the population in the Gaza Strip. The second reason is the assumption that in the Palestinian arena, Hamas is the rising power and the PLO is declining, and the Jordanians prefer to connect with the future leadership over those politicians whose star is falling. Another reason is the desire of Abdullah, King of Jordan to placate the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the ideological brothers of Hamas. Senior PLO people have found ways to express their displeasure with the connection between the Jordanian government and Hamas in the ears of their brothers in Jordan.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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One Response to “Mordechai Kedar: Is Jordan ‘The Alternative Homeland’?”

  1. Myriam Obadia says:

    It is actually a relatively simple problem to resolve. Just return to Jordan the name it got when it was created in 1928 as a British Protectorate: Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan Palestine.

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