A new approach
The royal pardon and release of the two deputies jailed for glorifying Abu Musab Zarqawi and the recent release of Islamists involved in the Hamas weapons case has been somewhat of a puzzle. Why would Jordan compromise its security to appease violent Islamists?
A series of commentaries in the press today probably explain this. In Al Rai, Sultan Hattab suggests that there is an internal message imbedded in the decisions. He thinks that the message is that the Islamists are not being targeted, and they should know that. The implication is that a “turn the other cheek” policy is at work. Call me cynical, but I don’t think this will work. The Islamists will continue to claim that the government is targeting them, because it is politically expedient and useful, and it diverts away from them dealing with their own ill intentions and misbehavior. Moreover, individuals working to undermine the security of the country will perceive their release as an affirmation of their strength and of the government’s weakness. This is hardly an incentive for them to change their behavior.
Hattab has a more interesting point regarding the desire to open a new page with Hamas, in an effort to try an influence the deteriorating conditions in Palestine. This point makes more sense, although it has not been fleshed out as well as other articles talking about the issue.
Two articles in Al Arab Al Yawm also support this theory. Fahed Khitan points out that the Hamas weapons case is still not closed, and that three suspects are still under arrest. Moreover, Jordan has not abdicated its right to demand information and clarifications regarding this case. On the other hand the release of nine of the suspects might pave the way for smoothing relations between the Jordanian government and Hamas.
Nahid Hattar writes an important piece where he emphasizes the importance of stopping internal fighting between Fateh and Hamas, and the strategic importance of Jordan helping in facilitating reconciliation between the two parties. He goes on to elaborate the required outline of the agreement between the two parties. He says that US and Israeli conditions should be set aside because they are not serious about any peace accord anyway. The agreement should be on power sharing, possibly the formation of a technocratic government. To achieve this, Jordan can help by making up with Hamas, pressuring Fateh to accept Hamas’ rule, trying to end the blockade on the Palestinian people and going as far as threatening abrogating the peace treaty with Israel to pressure them to return to the negotiating table.
It is clear that the king and the Jordanian government view the situation in Palestine as a serious issue that has important ramifications on Jordan. While the security issues raised by the Hamas weapons case are grave, and not minor as suggested by Khitan and Hattar, the situation in Palestine is an even greater danger. We still need to watch our back, though.