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Walid Obeidat, Jordan’s new ambassador to Israel, a member of one of Jordan’s largest and most influential tribes, deserves an award for being one of the most courageous diplomats not only in his country, but in the entire Arab world.
His tribe has now “disowned” him because he agreed to serve as ambassador to Israel, which has a peace treaty with Jordan.
This is a particularly harsh punishment: it means that Obeidat would no longer enjoy the backing of his tribe.
Clans often “disown” one of their members when he or she is involved in an extremely serious crime or an act of treason.
It also means that he and his wife and children would be boycotted by the tribe for the rest of their lives.
Obeidat is courageous not only because he decided openly to challenge his tribe, but also for rejecting a $5 million bribe that was offered to him by the tribe in return for turning down the offer.
The tribe had also offered to nominate him as as its candidate in the upcoming parliamentary election, but Obeidat insisted on rejecting that offer, as well.
A defiant Obeidat is set to assume his new job this week after presenting his credentials to President Shimon Peres.
“By accepting this post, he has crossed all the red lines,” the Obeidat tribe said in a statement published last week. “The tribe was and remains loyal to the liberation of all Palestinian land, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.”
The Jordanian tribe is now planning a huge rally against Israel that will coincide with the ambassador’s arrival in Tel Aviv. Other tribes have been invited to join the rally, posing a major and unprecedented challenge to the monarchy.
By coming out against the decision to appoint a new ambassador to Israel, the Obeidat tribe is openly challenging King Abdullah and questioning his policies and decisions.
The Obeidat’s response to the appointment of the new ambassador is a sign of increased tensions between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the kingdom’s Bedouin tribes.
This is not about hating Israel as much as it is about King Abdullah losing the traditional support and loyalty of his kingdom’s tribes.
Some of these tribes have recently come out in public against the beleaguered monarch, who is already facing strong criticism for failing to implement meaningful reforms and combat rampant corruption.
Yet these tribes have also stopped the Jordanian authorities from taking legal action against members who are suspected of corruption and other crimes.
Some of the tribes, according to sources in Amman, have formed alliances with the king’s Muslim Brotherhood rivals, who are spearheading the current wave of anti-government protests in Jordan.
There is nothing that King Abdullah can do at this stage other than attempt to “compensate” or “appease” his erstwhile supporters, probably by offering them financial aid and government jobs.
If the king fails to do so, his kingdom will be headed toward more instability in the coming weeks and months.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
About the Author: Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.
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