Is Jordan planning to restore ties with Hamas?

Hamas has been banned in Jordan since 1999, but an increasing number of voices seem to be joining those calling for this decision to be reversed.

 Jordanians carry flags and banners during a demonstration to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and to celebrate the Israel-Hamas truce, in Amman, Jordan, May 21, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/MUATH FREIJ)
Jordanians carry flags and banners during a demonstration to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and to celebrate the Israel-Hamas truce, in Amman, Jordan, May 21, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUATH FREIJ)

A recent visit by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Jordan has revived the talk of a possible restoration of relations between the kingdom and the Palestinian Islamist movement.

In 1999, Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was banned in Jordan after facing charges of carrying out illegitimate activities within the Hashemite Kingdom.

Then, the Jordanian authorities issued arrest warrants against Mashaal and five senior Hamas officials: Musa Abu Marzouk, Ibrahim Ghousheh, Izzat al-Risheq, Sami Khater and Mohammed Nazzal.

The Hamas officials have since been living in Qatar.

In 2006, Jordan accused Hamas of smuggling weapons into the kingdom from Syria.

 Former head of the Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, talks during an interview with Reuters in Doha, Qatar January 30, 2020. (credit: NASEEM ZEITOON/REUTERS) Former head of the Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, talks during an interview with Reuters in Doha, Qatar January 30, 2020. (credit: NASEEM ZEITOON/REUTERS)

In 2015, 12 Jordanians were sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years for their involvement in a Hamas cell. They were convicted by a Jordanian security court of manufacturing explosives and carrying out acts to disturb the peace.

“There’s no reason to be afraid of Hamas. Even some European countries are secretly reaching out to Hamas.”

Jordanian MP Saleh al-Armouti

Last year, Mashaal and two other Hamas officials, Ismail Haniyeh and al-Risheq, were allowed to participate in the funeral of Ghousheh, who died at the age of 85 and was buried in Jordan.

In 2009, Mashaal was permitted to enter Jordan to participate in the funeral of his father.

Last month, the Hamas leader again paid a surprise two-week visit to Jordan. Jordanian and Palestinian sources said it was a “private visit” during which he only met with family members and relatives.

The sources pointed out that Mashaal could not have visited Jordan had he not received permission from “senior decision-makers” in Amman, a hint to the involvement of the royal palace.

Nazzal, one of the Hamas officials who had previously been expelled from Jordan, arrived in the kingdom to prepare for Mashaal’s visit, the sources said.

Before heading back to Qatar, the Hamas leader met with a number of senior Jordanian political and security officials, according to the pan-Arab news website Arabi 21.

A source close to Hamas confirmed that Mashaal held a series of meetings with Jordanian officials, but refused to reveal their identities.

A Palestinian Authority official said on Saturday that Ramallah was “closely following” the apparent rapprochement between Hamas and Jordan.

The official stressed that the PA’s relations with Jordan remain as strong as ever despite talk about a potential “sulha” (reconciliation) between Amman and Hamas.

Days after Mashaal’s visit, a number of Jordanian politicians and academics called on their government to restore ties with Hamas.

The call was made during a seminar organized by the Middle East Studies Center, an independent think tank in Amman, under the banner “The Relationship between Jordan and Hamas; Foundations, Transformations and Future Directions.”

Jordan's "big mistake"

Jordanian MP Saleh al-Armouti, head of the Islamist Al-Islah Bloc in Parliament, said during the event that Jordan made a “big mistake” when it cut off its relations with Hamas.

“Jordan’s interest is to restore relations with Hamas,” Armouti said, noting that the kingdom had previously “used the Hamas card on more than one level.”

He added that restoring relations with Hamas will allow Jordan to enhance its role in the international arena. “There’s no reason to be afraid of Hamas,” Armouti argued. “Even some European countries are secretly reaching out to Hamas.”

 Saleh al-Armouti, member of the Jordanian parliament, speaks during an emergency meeting to discuss a potential announcement by the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, at the parliament in Amman, Jordan, December 6, 2017.  (credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED) Saleh al-Armouti, member of the Jordanian parliament, speaks during an emergency meeting to discuss a potential announcement by the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, at the parliament in Amman, Jordan, December 6, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)

The Jordanian lawmaker praised Hamas for opposing the so-called “Jordan Option,” which envisions replacing the kingdom with a Palestinian state.

He further hailed Hamas for standing with Jordan against former US president Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan, officially titled “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”

The Jordanians were quick to reject the plan, saying it poses an existential threat to the national security of the kingdom, mainly because it denies the Palestinians the right to establish an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, a move that could pave the way for turning Jordan into a homeland for them.

Armouti claimed that contacts between Hamas and Jordanian officials have continued despite tensions between the two sides.

He claimed that Haniyeh used to brief the head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate on the latest developments concerning the Palestinian issue.

Another speaker, Dr. Hassan al-Mumani, an international relations lecturer at the University of Jordan, said the restoration of ties between the kingdom and Hamas would benefit the two sides. “Jordan needs to adopt a pragmatic approach in dealing with Hamas,” he said.

Atef Joulani, editor of the Islamist weekly newspaper Assabeel, and retired Jordanian army general Kassed Mahmoud, also voiced support for restoring Jordan’s relations with Hamas, according to the Arabi 21 news website.

Commenting on the reports about a possible warming up of relations between Jordan and Hamas, former PA official and political analyst Hassan Asfour asked whether Amman was preparing for the post-PA President Mahmoud Abbas era.

“Is this a preemptive attempt to make arrangements for the post-Abbas era?” Asfour asked in an article published on the Palestinian Amad news website. “Has Jordan lost faith in the Palestinian Authority?

“What was published in the media about Jordan’s relationship with Hamas represents a direct violation of Palestinian legitimacy,” he said. “Jordan is renewing its ties with Hamas although the kingdom is facing a major problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. This requires the Palestinian Authority to review [the issue]. The Palestinian Authority must not stand by and watch developments unfold under its feet.”