Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas' win: Implications for Jordan

Well, it looks like we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Palestinian issue. Hamas seems to have won the majority of seats in the Palestinian legislative council. How will this reflect on Jordan? This is not a simple question, to say the least. We can start with what we know now, and build a thesis based on that.

1- Despite some statements to the contrary, the general mood within the Hamas movement is against negotiations with Israel. If Hamas were to agree to negotiations, they will make maximalist demands.
2- Israel has little tendency to deal with Hamas, given its "terrorist" background. The US and Europe have similar attitudes. Any negotiations with a Hamas dominated PA will be on the condition that arms are taken away from the various militias. This demand was not and could not have been met in the past, precisely because Hamas would not agree to it. In the remote chance that Hamas agrees to this, other factions and even individual Hamas members would not. The whole issue is a non-starter.
3- The promise to eradicate corruption is easier said than done. Attempts to degrade the economic and social base of Fateh will lead to friction and possibly conflict between the two armed groups.
4- The promise to impose Sharia may or may not be feasible. It is probably the only promise that Hamas will be able to keep, and will probably cause the greatest resentment among the largely secular Palestinian population (people didn't vote for Hamas for this reason, but for a combination of other factors).
5- International aid to the PA will probably drop. The economic situation in the PA is already dire, with 50% unemployment and a per capita income of 600 dollars. The economic situation is unlikely to get any better.

So, within the next six months to a year, the security situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis will stay the same, and the possibility of conflict between the various Palestinian factions will grow. In the mean time, the Israelis will continue to build their separation wall, so that they will isolate themselves from the mess going on on the other side.

Thus the situation will be that of increasing hardships and more radicalization and polarization. In effect, two scenarios can materialize. The best case scenario is that things will stay as they are, and the Palestinians will accommodate each other, either by Hamas taking a more moderate stand in its administrative and social agenda (which would risk alienation of their base) or by the Fateh and the secular Palestinians accepting whatever Hamas dishes out. The worse case scenario is that armed conflict will break out between the various factions. In either case, it is difficult to imagine the peace process with Israel moving forward.

How will this effect Jordan? This might be even more difficult to analyze. There are internal and external politics involved. The following questions arise:
1- Will the Hamas win strengthen the Islamic movement in Jordan? Certainly, the Islamists in Jordan are elated. However, the political dynamics in Jordan are very different from those in Palestine. The idea that "Islamism is spreading" across the region is an oversimplification. Each country has its own history and its own ghosts that it needs to deal with. In Jordan, the Islamists base is stable if not diminishing. If anything, Hamas' win in Palestine might cause alarm more than sympathy. In the case of failure of the Palestinian experiment, it would definitely weaken the Islamist movement in Jordan.
2- What will increased hardship in Palestine mean for Jordan? There will be increased pressure to allow movement of people to Jordan. Most likely, only the wealthy will be allowed in, but pressure will increase to allow people to cross over for humanitarian reasons.
3- What would armed conflict and the disintegration of the PA mean for Jordan? Possibly international demands to Jordan to intervene in the West Bank, and, in a very extreme scenario, take over. This possibility never seems to go away, despite our best efforts.



At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

will jordan's stand on khaled masha'al et al.'s return jordan to practicing politics in the country change now?

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Interesting question. My guess is no, because the legal ground was that they represent a non-Jordanian organization. This has not changed, unless the PA decides to appoint one of them in an official capacity. In that case, it will be under a strict ban on meddling in Jordanian politics (if that is possible).

At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess i failed to clarify that i meant Hamas's leader's return as PA officials. but that would be a bit of an uncomfortable situation for the government of Jordan and political inappropriateness on Hamas's side.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Blogger said...

I think the Islamic Brotherhood in Jordan will gain more base on the ground!

Though political diversity in Jordan is absent.

I think the Jordanian government will try its best to convince Hamas to become a political party with some real and feasible agenda.
Because any upset in the Westren banks, means unrest on the eastren bank as well!

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Ziad said...

I'm glad for this result! It gives Hamas a stake in the political process, and forces it to face reality. I don't think that the situation will be as drastic as most people believe; Hamas (and the Muslim Brotherhood in general) are actually quite pragmatic. A role-division is already being hinted at where Hamas leads a government that handles domestic affairs and Abu Mazen handles external affairs and negotiations through the PLO.

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Jameed: Jordan should be even more sensitive now about Hamas interfering it it's affairs.

Firas: Part of the attractiveness of Hamas is that it has no feasible program that can be discussed. It is too late for that now, and we will see their actions.

Ziad: Wishful thinking, my friend. We will see who is right, and I hope that you are.


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