Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hamas and Jordan: Take care

The victory of Hamas in the latest Palestinian legislative elections has brought up some awkward questions. In 1999, the government of then-prime minister Abderaouf Rawabdeh expelled four leaders of Hamas who were headquartered in Jordan. The stated rationale was that Hamas' presence gave the impression that Jordan was undermining the Palestinian Authority and the peace process. The entanglement of Hamas in the local politics and threats to the security of Jordan were probably important factors as well.

But things have changed now, and Hamas is an important component of the PA. Moreover, as I have argued before, it is Jordans interest to stabilize the situation in the Palestinian territories. This is why the king has strongly argued for continued funding of the PA and positive engagement with Hamas during his latest trip to the US. Whether Hamas and Israel will eventually be able to work out the illusive peace deal between themselves or not is still questionable, but even if not, it is still in our interest for Palestine to remain as peaceful and prosperous as is permissible by the circumstances.

In fact, the orientation of Hamas with regard to the peace process and regional conditions is a critical question. Will they work towards a peace deal (with a strident public posture, of course) or will they join the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis (or will they be pushed to this axis?). This is question that is difficult to answer, but has serious implications.

If Hamas opts to continue with the peace process, then Jordan and Egypt will try to work with them to create circumstances to make that happen. On the other hand, if it opts to join the Iran Syria axis, than one would expect this axis to develop a joint negotiating strategy. What is the strategy of Syria and Iran? Well, basically to create trouble in Iraq and in Lebanon as a way to project influence and hold leverage. How would Hamas fit in to this? The scary answer is that its role would be to create trouble in Jordan. This is not a far fetched scenario, and we should be aware that it is a possibility.

Interference of Hamas in Jordanian politics was a sore spot that eventually led to the clash and expulsion from Jordan. The links between the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas are well known, and some even believe that they are fundamentally the same organization. Given the reach of the MB into Jordanian politics and society, this should be a question of extreme concern. This is especially true given the lack of a strong political counterbalance to the MB. This is probably why the government is bending over backward to out maneuver the Islamists on THE CARTOON issue.

Thus, now that there seems to be a rapprochement between Hamas and Jordan, it should be quite clear that Jordan will not tolerate any form of meddling in Jordanian security or in Jordanian politics.

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8 Comments:

At 2:11 AM, Blogger Ziad said...

Hamas is in a weak position in any confrontation with Jordan (or with the Palace to be more exact). Even weaker than before the elections! Now they have the responsibility to form a government and prevent a severe deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinians in the occupied territories which, if occurs, would back-fire on them in the Palestinian public opinion.

Israel is not interested in helping out in this task, which leaves Jordan with a strangle-hold on the West Bank as its only channel to the outside world. Hamas, as the head of the Palestinian government, can't afford to upset Jordan, or even to try and pressure it or play "hard ball".

As for Hamas trying to use the sympathy of part of the Jordanian public with it against the Jordanian government, this too will back-fire with a counter-action by the "nationalist stream" of the Jordanian public who will rally around "the flag and the king" in response to such a challenge. Again, the government will easily have the upper hand in such a confrontation because, although the MB may have large public support, it is the government that has control of the media, the border crossings, the security forces, the trade and financial transactions, the foreign relations and all the other sovereign tools that are relevant in such situations. Add to that the fact that the "Jordanian system" represented by the king is not lacking in public support within the Jordanian street.

Hamas lost the previous confrontation with Jordan (what was the MB able to do back then??), and it will lose the next one just as easily!

 
At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Jordanian said...

Dont know you but i guess this is worth these lines.
When Hamas was expelled from Jordan they were involved in some illegal activity that was distructive in nature to the Kingdom and its people. To be more precise and without getting into what i feel is information that i do not want to discuss, the computers in the Hamas offices were stored with information regarding Jordanian politicians whom were influential in the policy making process in Jordan this information included pictures of the politicians, they family members, locations of their homes and relatives homes in addition it included surveilance of their movements including when they left their homes, when they came back and what routes they took to get to their Jobs.
Figures..so trust between the Jordanians and Hamas will never be established.. not for years

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear sir,

From your post,you seem more concerned with the Hamas threat to Jordan than the Israeli threat,it seems that this is the general trend in Jordan these days, while I do understand the significance of the Hamas factor as you describe it, I fail to understand the logic behind omitting the other half of the equation. After all there has been huge changes in the political landscape in Israel as well as that of the PA, and I dont think you can discuss this issue by looking at one half of the whole picture.

 
At 7:28 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Ziad: Although I agree with you, I would stress that this isn't a time for complacency.

Anon 1: What you say is probably true, and I believe that Hamas can trust Jordan more than the other way around.

Anon 2: There is no credible evidence that Israel is behind terror in Iraq and Lebanon. We should keep our eyes open, though.

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Yael K said...

I always enjoy coming by your blog and gaining greater understanding and food for thought. You not only write well but your analyses are so well thought out and accessible. Thanks :)

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hello Yael: welcome to my blog!

 
At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Issam said...

I think it is up to Hamas to define this relationship. It either represents the PA or itself. Things change in that arena, so if they will put the Palestinain interest infront of their own political party interst, then I think Jordan has no choice but to deal with them on a relationship that is based on trust and respect. The question is, whether Hamas will understand the differnce between being a ruling party or a oppostion party. And by the way this will determine Hamas relationship not only with Jordan but with Israel, US, EU and Egypt.

 
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