Meanwhile, in Jordan...
|By ARYE ELDAD|
The world’s attention, and Israel’s as well, is riveted on Syria. Media outlets and analysts are having a field day with a plethora of stories: The massacre of civilians, Bashar and Asma al-Assad’s shopping sprees, the cynical politics of Russia and China, the West’s refusal to intervene militarily or extend economic or military assistance, and the benefits that would accrue to Israel and the West of an end to the Syrian-Iranian axis, along with the fear of massive amounts of arms reaching Hizbullah.
Meanwhile, in Jordan, dramatic events are quietly occurring under the radar of the world’s media. The Hashemite regime is in trouble, and not only because the Palestinians, who comprise 70-80 percent of Jordan’s population, are waiting for an opportunity to join the “Arab Spring” and throw off the yoke of autocratic rule in order to enjoy true democracy. The Beduin are the traditional power base of the royal family, especially the Beduin of the cities of Karak and Salt, and they too are threatening to revolt, and for the first time calling to overthrow the monarchy.
King Abdullah understands that his turn will come after Assad’s. Perhaps this is why he has prevented the Saudis from transferring arms to the Syrian rebels via Jordan. Al-Jazeera reported that five Palestinians have been arrested and charged with attempting to undermine Hashemite rule. Undoubtedly many arrests have not been brought to the attention of Al-Jazeera.
A Palestinian blogger who dared criticize the monarchy was stabbed and seriously wounded. The monarchy has tried to insinuate the attack stemmed from “immoral behavior” on her part but demonstrations swept through the local refugee camps, where angry Palestinians are sure the government tried to silence her.
Compared to what is happening in Syria, this really is not much of a news story. But compared to what was happening in Jordan even just one year ago, it is the equivalent of an earthquake.
Abdullah is no Assad, and the Jordanians know he will not massacre his own citizens; when the riots begin, he is more likely to flee to London. (The Palestinians do fear a civil war in which the armed-to-the-teeth Beduin minority tries to defeat the unarmed Palestinian majority which is unprepared for battle.) A growing number of Palestinians see this as their big chance. An independent Palestinian state in Jordan is within reach. Many will not make do with that, they view it as a first stage in the establishment of a “Greater Palestine” stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Saudi desert. Yet the number of voices in Jordan and in the Palestinian- Jordanian community abroad, mostly in London, calling to adopt a “Jordan is Palestine” plan is steadily increasing.
They see it as a way out of the dead end in which the Palestinians are trapped. They understand that faced with the Palestinian Authority’s internal problems and the never-ending postponement of local elections, along with the ever-present and openly stated threat to dismantle the Authority – they are not likely to establish a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem.
In Israel, even the Hashemite monarchy’s greatest supporters and even those who view Jordan as a strategic asset for Israel know a regime change there may bring an anti-Israel government to power. Historically, Israel’s alliance with the Hashemites rested on the mutual knowledge that the Palestinians were the dangerous enemy of both. When the circumstances change, our strategy will have to change, too.
Israel should be prepared for the day after the king is deposed. If we do not, but just sit on the sidelines and watch, Jordan may become another “Hamastan” taking up arms in the unsolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Only if Israel readies itself for the day a Palestinian state is established in Jordan will we be able to adapt to the change and turn it into an opportunity for all the sides involved.
The writer is a member of Israel’s Knesset for the National Union party.