Are winds of change blowing in Jordan?

T. Belman.  Of course, yes, but not the way he thinks.

There are encouraging signs that Jordan’s new government could become an integral part of the U.S. peace push and also move towards rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.

By Pinhas Inbari, JCPA

A new government in Jordan was sworn in on Oct. 12, and the change deserves attention. The new prime minister, Dr. Bisher Khasawneh, who was most recently the king’s political adviser, has reportedly held extensive talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the past six months and was scheduled to meet with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince. It was also reported that he has a close connection to Jared Kushner, the architect of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, as well as special ties to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Until now, Jordan was reluctant or even hostile to Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan and worked to improve its relations with the Palestinian Authority, emphasizing the coordination with the Palestinians on issues related to Jerusalem.

In addition, there is dramatic development taking place beyond Jordan’s borders that may ultimately influence the possible rapprochement between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has begun the evacuation of an estimated 20,000 members of the al-Huwaytat tribe from ancestral territory along the Red Sea coast in the Hejaz Province to construct NEOM, a planned cross-border city. Planned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, NEOM is an ambitious project—a high-tech city and tourism center for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Human-rights advocates claim the evacuation so far has been abusive and violent.

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah on May 29, 2019. Source: King Abdullah II’s official website.<
How Is NEOM related to Jordan?

The large al-Huwaytat tribe made up the Hashemite army of the Sharif of Mecca, which marched on Damascus during the great Arab revolt of Lawrence of Arabia in World War I. After their expulsion from Mecca and the Hejaz by the Saudis, they established the Kingdom of Jordan with the help of Great Britain.

Today, the members of the tribe in Jordan are worried about the fate of their brothers in the Hejaz, provoking discontent in Jordan. It is therefore assumed that in the framework of an expected rapprochement between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the matter of the Saudi al-Huwaytat tribe will also be resolved through appropriate compensation.

The al-Huwaytat issue may have an impact on Jordan’s policy regarding Jerusalem. The new Jordanian government appears to have less of a focus on the city. Unlike the previous government, there is no minister with the Jerusalem portfolio, according to Jerusalem sources. The previous government had had a minister who was a Jerusalemite; the new one does not.

In presenting his government, Prime Minister Khasawneh laid out 12 planks for his government’s platform. The Palestinian issue and the “Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites” were only No. 11. His message was that Jordan now prefers economic programs to “enhance economic resilience, and combating poverty and unemployment” over political activism.

These are the first signs. It remains to be seen how things develop.

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper. He currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


October 16, 2020 | 1 Comment »

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  1. I hope that Mudar Zahran achieves his goal of becoming President of Jordan some day. In the meantime, however, if Abdullah has appointed a better Prime Minister who wants to reduce the level of conflict with Israel, that is a good thing. I am particularly encouraged by the claim that the new Prime Minister is close to Jared Kushner.

    Abdullah is a shrewd politiican with a knack for appeasing his foreign backers, as well as some influential sectors of public opinion within Jordan, just enough to avoid being overthrown. That is the main explanation for how he has managed to remain in power for seventeen years despite being unpopular.

    He may have decided to tone down his anti-Israel policies in order to stay on the good side of Trump, the UAE, and the Saudis, all of whom are major donors to his regime that he can’t afford to offend beyond a certain point. He may also have decided he can no longer afford to risk a cut-off of Israeli aid, which he also needs to survive (such as essential water supplies). It is also possible that public opinion inside Jordan, in spite of all the anti-Israel, antsemitic brainwashing that its people have been subjected to, has begun to move towards reconciliation with Israel.