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.