Israel’s eastern front, the coming storm

Amid uncertainty on Israel-Jordan border, one thing will be certain if and when the king falls: Jordan’s next ruler will be a Palestinian.

A PALESTINIAN attends  ‘Nakba’ day protest in Jordan 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
A PALESTINIAN attends ‘Nakba’ day protest in Jordan 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel has enjoyed calm borders with Jordan for over four decades. While Israel’s military superiority and alert borders guards are the main reasons for that, still, the Hashemite regime in Amman has managed to keep anti-Israel forces at bay, an advantage for which Israel has given much in return to Jordan’s king and his late father.
But will this arrangement remain the same with the tsunami of the Arab Spring? The facts on the ground suggest Jordan is anything but stable. Upon the king’s return from his recent visit to the US, tribal fights broke out in Ma’an, Jordan’s largest governorate in the area. Four people were killed in cold blood on the campus of Ma’an’s university and all hell broke loose. Now Ma’an residents are claiming “independence from the Hashemite regime”; videos leaked on YouTube and even appearing in Jordanian media show raging gun battles between Jordan’s army and tribal Jordanians in the south. The last police post was declared “liberated” by Ma’an’s locals on June 24.
Despite public calls “daring” the king to visit Ma’an to solve the matter, Abdullah visited Kerak, another troubled southern city in Jordan, 160 km. from Ma’an, two weeks ago.
Abdullah spoke in Kerak’s university, Mutah, where regular gun battles between students recently claimed the life of a sophomore.
In his speech, Abdullah said there were “those who try to claim that Jordan is going through unrest because of the tribes. That is not true! The tribes have always been a foundation of security.” Four days after his speech, gun battles broke out again on the very same campus.
At the same time protests right at the gates of his private palace became regular events, with people calling for him to step down.
The king’s troubles did not stop there. On June 22, Gazan Palestinian Muhammad Assaf won the Arab Idol reality television competition.
Jordan’s Palestinian majority took to the streets for days in massive numbers, waving Palestinian flags and kaffiyehs right under the noses of Jordanian police.
In the past, merely wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh in Jordan could get you harassed by the police, and hanging a Palestinian flag on your car would get you imprisoned by the fearsome intelligence department.
Young Palestinian men were moreover seen all over Amman shooting their M-16 rifles in celebration. While it is common knowledge that Palestinians in Jordan have weapons just like their brothers on the other side of the river, they never showed them off before, nor were they ever able to show off their oppressed character right in the Hashemite regime’s face.
In short: the king’s formerly loyal “East Bankers” now want him out, and the Hashemite-despising Palestinians are not afraid to move against the king openly.
This means the king’s days might, indeed, be numbered.
Speaking to a crowd in London almost a year ago, Arabist and political thinker Murdachi Kedar said: “Those buying an insurance policy on the Jordanian regime’s survival should reconsider their options.” Even more, he predicted Jordan’s south would break away from the state.
Apparently, Kedar’s prophecy for Jordan seems to be fulfilling itself. But what would that mean for Israel’s longest borders? If Jordan falls into Islamists’ hands it will turn into either another Hamas or at best another Egypt.
Nonetheless, the Islamists in Jordan have had a long partnership with the Hashemite regime, and the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood has been openly refusing public calls to topple the king.
Additionally, The Independent, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera all reported Jordan’s secular citizens were the ones leading the protests against the king; nonetheless, they are not financed as are the Islamists, and they are almost totally ignored by the Western media.
If the king falls, the Islamists opposing the revolution now will hijack it and put a president in Amman.
Unless something changes and secular population gets the support it needs.
The response among those concerned about peace in the Middle East does not seem to match the level of the threat an Islamist takeover of Jordan poses.
Some choose to maintain verbal support for the king, saying that “Jordan is just clam and the king is stable.”
They are basically ignoring the facts.
In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg, Abdullah admitted he thought of stepping down back in 2010, before there was an Arab Spring. What would the king do if Jordanians do actually take to the street like the Egyptians and Tunisians did? There is another camp, nonetheless, one that agrees that there is not much to be done to save the king, and that instead he should be replaced by a pro-peace secular Palestinian leader.
Wondering if that were even possible, I spoke to Palestinian-Jordanian writer and former Washington Institute fellow Samer Libdeh, who lives in Amman.
He said “Jordan is like a soft mould, it’s not like Egypt where Islamists had influence before Mubarak fell. Jordan is easy to direct anywhere its next leader will take it – if he is secular, Jordan will turn secular, if he is an Islamist, Jordan will turn into another Afghanistan, so it’s basically what the outside world wants to make out of it, and its future will depend on which country will invest more money or send its media reporters to cover the events to come.”
Amid uncertainty on Israel’s eastern front, one thing will be certain if and when the king falls: Jordan’s next ruler will be a Palestinian.
Those who care for peace and Israel’s eastern borders should try to prepare for the coming storm and ride the freedom train to help put the right engineer in the front carriage.
The clock is ticking.
The writer is a Palestinian- Jordanian residing in the UK.