Jordan to revoke citizenship of PA, PLO officials

Move coincides with a new electoral law in Jordan that seeks to limit Palestinian representation in parliament.

Jordan's King Abdullah II with Abbas_311 (photo credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)
Jordan's King Abdullah II with Abbas_311
(photo credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)
In a surprise move, Jordan has decided to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinian Authority and PLO officials, sources in Amman disclosed Wednesday.
The sources said the decision would also affect the leaders of the PA, who would be granted temporary Jordanian passports to facilitate their travel.
The move coincides with a new electoral law in Jordan that seeks to limit Palestinian representation in parliament.
The latest steps are seen in the context of Jordan’s 1988 decision to sever all legal and administrative ties with the West Bank, except for Jordanian sponsorship of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
The late King Hussein justified the move then by arguing that it was intended to help the Palestinians establish their own independent state.
Amman has defended the decision to strip Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship by explaining that it is aimed at “preserving the Palestinians’ national identity and paving the way for their return to Palestine.”
It is unknown at this stage if PA President Mahmoud Abbas would be stripped of his Jordanian citizenship, the sources told Saudi newspaper Al-Madina.
Jordan’s Interior Minister Mohammed Al-Raud is expected to visit Ramallah to inform the Palestinian leadership of the decision, the sources added.
In recent years the Jordanians have stripped thousands of Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship in an apparent response to calls to establish a Palestinian state in Jordan. Nearly half the kingdom’s 6 million people are of Palestinian origin.
Al-Raud will also discuss with Abbas the status of Palestinian refugees living in Syria who have begun fleeing to Jordan in recent months.
Some 1,100 Palestinians have been stranded along the border between Syria and Jordan for the past few weeks after the Jordanian authorities refused to allow them into the kingdom.
Nearly 100,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan since the beginning of the crisis in their country 13 months ago.
“The Jordanian minister will tell the Palestinian president that he can’t in any way receive the refugees,” the sources told the paper. “He will also inform Abbas that the Jordanian authorities are thinking of establishing a buffer zone along the border with Syria where the refugees could stay.”
The Jordanian authorities have placed 17 Palestinian refugees who fled the violence under house arrest in a refugee camp along the border with Syria for Syrian citizens.
The Jordanian government is working on a security plan aimed at preventing the flow of tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to the kingdom, the sources said, noting that nearly half a million Palestinians live in Syria.
The Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al- Yawm said senior officials of the Interior Ministry and top security officers would accompany the Jordanian interior minister on his visit to Ramallah.
The paper quoted government officials in Amman as saying that the decision to revoke the Jordanian citizenship would affect some 1.6 million Jordanians of Palestinian origin.
The Jordanian delegation will also discuss with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah the extradition of Palestinians the PA is seeking to arrest for various crimes, first and foremost financial corruption, the paper reported.
A PA official in Ramallah confirmed that the Jordanian minister was planning on visiting Ramallah. He said that the visit would take place on Saturday.
However, the official said he knew nothing about a decision to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of PA officials and other Palestinians.
A spokesman for the Jordanian Interior Ministry, Ziad Zu’bi, said his Palestinian counterpart invited the minister to Ramallah to discuss bilateral cooperation.
Zu’bi denied that the visit had anything to do with revoking the citizenship of Palestinians.
In a related development, Jordanian parliament members criticized a new electoral law, which they say is aimed at limiting representation of Jordanians of Palestinian origin in parliament.
Khalil Atiyeh, a Jordanian MP, pointed out that the controversial law “ignores half of the Jordanian people” – a reference to those of Palestinian origin.
Atiyeh told the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that under the new law, the city of Russeifa near Amman would have only two seats in parliament although its population is estimated at approximately 700,000. Russeifa has a large Palestinian population. Experts said the new law would reduce Palestinian representation in parliament to less than 8 percent.
The law has also enraged Jordan’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization, whose leaders threatened Wednesday to call for a boycott of parliamentary elections slated later this year.
The organization complained that the new election law did not guarantee a proportional representation system and favors regime loyalists.
Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh said the new law lies in the hands of the parliament, and his government would defend the law despite sharp criticism.
“It is only a draft law and there might be some negative comments on it,” Khasawneh explained.
He added that the Jordanian government “will have no fears” if Islamists won the majority of seats in parliament.
The law envisages a mixed electoral system featuring a majority vote in the districts and a closed proportional list at the national level, while raising the number of seats to 138, of which 15 seats will be designated for the women’s quota.