Sunday, June 17, 2007

Intro to Hamas-Jordan relations

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal met at his home in Damascus with a Jordanian writer by the name of Nahid Hattar, who summarizes what Meshaal said in an article on the Jordanian news-site This can probably be taken as an a indicator of Hamas strategy with respect to Jordan, currently a timely issue. So even though the background will be a little hazy to those of us not up to speed on Jordanian politics, it is worth trying to at least review what the issues are.

Following the creation of Israel in 1948, the West Bank was annexed by Jordan, until it was taken by Israel in the 1967 war, following which (in 1988) Jordan officially relinquished its claim to the West Bank. There had been a wave of Palestinian immigration following the 1948 war, and there was another wave following the 1967 war, and to make a long story short, from a Jordanian-establishment point of view, the current demographic split of around one-half Palestinian is a cause for anxiety, while for many Jordanians of Palestinian origin, there are too many indications of of Palestinian under-representation in Jordanian institutions. And this is coupled with the fact that the resistance movement Hamas in Palestine shares a common origin with the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

The gist of what Meshaal told his Jordan-establishment interlocutor was this: We (the Palestinian resistance) have no interest in changing or pressuring the Jordanian establishment. The rights we are looking for are rights of Palestinians in Palestine, not anywhere else. So there should not be any anxiety along those lines, and you should not use that kind of anxiety as a reason to withhold your support from us. Conversely, if we are not supported by Jordan and others, and if the Palestinian movement collapses, then indeed Jordan will have a problem, because then there will be a third and much bigger and more overwhelming wave of Palestinians moving from the West to the East Bank of the Jordan river, and this could bring with it major problems for the Jordanian establishment.

Meshaal said--and Nahid Hattar reports the remarks with approval--that there is a good reason why Hamas has not had the record of clashes and confrontations that Fatah has had in the past with Jordan or other Arab regimes. He said
Hamas believes in the Arab nature of the Palestinian cause and is intent on perpetuating friendly relations with all Arabs, particularly Jordan which is closest to it in geography and demography. Hamas is intent on being a new model for the Palestinian movement, focusing on fighting the Israeli enemy only... [lack of comment about the Gaza confrontation with Fatah suggests this conversation took place before that happened]...And among the Arab roles in the Palestinian cause, the most important remains that of Jordan simply because Jordan will be the most affected, after Palestine itself, by the Palestinian cause and the Zionist threat.

The dissolution of the Palestinian cause would affect the Jordanian nation to its core. Because the Zionist project is based on the idea of expelling and displacing the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian demands to east of the Jordan river. And this is something that puts Jordan--quite apart from questions of day-to-day management--in a situation of direct confrontation with Israel. ...
The "peace process" is at a dead-end; the constraints imposed on residents of the West Bank ensure that there will soon be a third Intifada; and when that happens, said Mashaal, Hamas will be in the forefront. So it is time for Jordan and Hamas to coordinate their views.

Here Mashaal returns to the theme that under Hamas leadership, Palestine and the Palestinian cause will be no threat to Jordan's internal stability.
Hamas has absolute loyalty to the historic legitimacy of the Jordanian state-structure and rejects any tampering with it. Hamas rejects the "alternate state" concept; and it is critical of the "inadequate rights" movement (Palestinians for more rights in Jordan). Because the rights of Palestinians, wherever they are and under whatever conditions, are in Palestine and only in Palestine.
Mashaal rebutted in detail suggestions that Hamas could pose any security threat to Jordan, and he took up also the issue of Iran, stressing that while Hamas accepts help from whatever Arab or Islamic sources it can, the Iranian help doesn't mean Hamas is "part of any 'axis' in opposition to any other 'axis'". He says Hamas' participation in the Mecca accord was one demonstration of its independence from any Iranian party-line. And Hamas' support for the Sunni resistance in Iraq, along with its criticism of the Saddam execution, is another. As for the suspicions of Hamas support for the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, Mashaal said their common ground is in the area of ideology only. Organizationally they are completely separate, and Hamas has no desire to influence the Jordanian Ikhwan.

The interview, at least according to this report of it, didn't get into questions of what specifically Hamas thinks Jordan could do to help the Palestinian cause. (And anyway, as noted above, it appears this conversation took place before the recent events in Gaza). Rather, it is more of a position piece in which Hamas lays out for the Jordanian establishment its view of the Palestine-Jordan relationship: Over and above any day-to-day accomodations you have to make to Israel, fundamentally we are in the same boat, because if Palestine is happy, then you are secure, but if Palestine collapses then you will see an Eastward migration across the river and this will inevitably bring about a security threat such as you haven't seen before.

(This piece in was flagged by a Jordanian blogger whose view is that this represents a good example of the Machivellian scheming of Hamas, selling out in this way the interests of the Jordanian-Palestinians in the interests of trying to win over the Jordanian government; and the Jordanian blog in turn was flagged by Marc Lynch in one of his rare internet appearances as he struggles with the tyrannical Comcast for his right to broadband service in his new Washington home. We should support him. Otherwise I wouldn't have seen this).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all well and good, but King Abdullah of Jordan is totally in the pocket of the Americans, isn't he? These client Arab regimes don't reflect the sentiments or genuine interests of their own people. That was demonstrated by the fate of the late Iraqi President, who always supported the Jordanian people and enjoyed their esteem, but was betrayed and sacrificed by the likes of King Abdullah.

7:31 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Fair enough. But apart from what the Jordanian regime won't do, I thought it was interesting to see how Meshaal formulated the Hamas position, particularly in highlighting the risk to Jordan of a third wave of Palestinian "immigration". I found it sort of educational.

7:46 AM  

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