Jordan’s king trying to play on Israel’s fears

Abdullah should wake up and realize that beating the Israeli piñata will not save his ailing throne

Jordan King Abdullah 370 (photo credit:  	 REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Jordan King Abdullah 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in trouble.
Protests against him have been continuous for over two years now, and the theme of toppling the king has become well-established, as confirmed by Al Jazeera, The Independent and other media sources.
To add to the king’s woes, both his Palestinian majority and the formerly loyal East Bankers have joined forces against him. This has sent shock waves through Abdullah’s regime, with sources close to his palace confirming to me he has been flying all of his personal valuables out of the country, possibly cautiously preparing for the day he might have to flee the country.
Abdullah’s instability was made clear in an interview he gave to American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg which was published by The Atlantic magazine. In the interview, Abdullah states clearly that he had considered stepping down, and that he had no control over his Beduin-dominated department of intelligence.
In other words, Abdullah might as well be an “ex-king” walking, and thus he is just buying time.
While the king sticks around, the protests keep raging, with some coming too close for Abdullah’s comfort, in fact dangerously close. For example on Friday, May 3, thousands of protesters blocked the Dabouq area, meters away from the king’s private palace, barring royal motorcades from going in or out, all at the same time the southern governorate of Ma’an – Jordan’s largest in area – was out of control, with armed Beduin militias roaming the governorate, blocking highways and occasionally exchanging fire with the Jordanian police, which remains unable to break into the area.
Abdullah is in deep trouble – so he seems to have reached for the oldest trick in the book for Arab dictators: beating the Israeli piñata.
FOR STARTERS, the royally controlled and hand-picked Jordanian parliament has been throwing bricks at Israel. It is a fact that that most of those in the Jordanian parliament are loyal East Banker figures, with very few Palestinians.
Also, a Jordanian MP, Yahiya al-Soud, admitted on TV that he was the “phone operator” for the king’s intelligence service, receiving orders by phone and conveying to other MPs what to do and say, and how to vote.
Jordan’s parliament – barely a façade for the king – has recently launched a verbal war on one of the very few Palestinians in the parliament, Muhammad Dawaymeh, because he reportedly visited Israel on its independence day and met with President Shimon Peres. The Jordanian parliament members have described Dawaymeh as “a Zionist and a traitor.”
The regime-controlled Jordanian media demonized the man ruthlessly. Further, famous Jordanian journalist Maher Abu Tair published an article in which he suggested the leak about Dawaymeh’s Israel visit came from the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Abu Tair is a regime-celebrated journalist, and the king’s personal friend, having flown with the king to meet President Barack Obama in 2012. Nonetheless, Abu Tair is now demanding “all of those who normalized ties with Israel be exposed retroactively.” Abu Tair cannot and would not take up such a notion without the king’s direct approval.
On May 8, 2013, the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously in favor of petitioning the government to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman and recalling Jordan’s ambassador to Israel. The parliament alleged the petition was in protest of “Israeli desecration of holy sites in Jerusalem.” Jordanian parliamentarians went as far as demanding the annulment of the entire peace agreement with Israel.
A few hours after that, dozens of protesters were seen approaching the Israeli Embassy in Amman, waving Jordanian flags and threatening to storm the embassy.
Strangely, the protests were allowed to stand within dozens of meters of the Israeli Embassy under the watchful eyes of the Jordanian police. A senior member of the Jordanian anti-regime movement, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that some of those protesters were familiar Jordanian intelligence operatives, dubbed “Sahijah” by Jordanians, and known for physically attacking anti-regime Jordanian protesters.
It seems Jordan’s king is trying to play on Israel’s fears; he is making his mouthpieces and puppet parliament send messages to Israel that there will be “hell to pay” if Abdullah falls.
Abdullah’s poor knowledge of the country he rules (which he admits in his interview with Goldberg) seems to have gotten to him. He thinks he can ignite people’s hatred for Israel to save himself, while at the same time scaring Israel with the monsters that would rise against it the day after the king falls.
What Abdullah does not understand is the fact that his Palestinian majority has a problem with him and the way he treats them as subhuman, and that therefore Abdullah’s beating the anti-Israel drum will not deter Jordan’s East or West Bankers from toppling him.
Also Abdullah chooses to ignore that Israel’s security has never been dependent on any Arab regime’s goodwill. Even with Jordan, Abdullah’s father, Hussein, had peace with Israel only because he attacked Israel first and lost, a lesson Abdullah does not seem to have learned. Thus, Israel’s military superiority is what has kept its borders with Jordan safe, and this will remain Israel’s only guarantor, whoever rules Jordan after the king falls.
Abdullah should wake up and realize that beating the Israeli piñata will not save his ailing throne. Instead he should finish up picking his spoils and perhaps consider a decent exist strategy through which he can maintain his lavish lifestyle in exile.The writer is a Jordanian-Palestinian writer and activist living in the UK.