Monday , October 18 2021

Jordan awaits Trump deal with fear, rumors – Middle East



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As the US government prepares to launch its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, there are signs of mounting instability and dismay in Jordan.

Facing increasing demands for major political and economic reforms in the kingdom, King Abdullah II seems worried that his kingdom will pay a heavy price, either by accepting or rejecting the agreement.

The king's greatest fear, political analysts say, is that the plan would require Jordan to absorb millions of Palestinians who are already living in the kingdom. Abdullah also fears that the plan will end the historical custody of the Hashemites over the holy sites in Jerusalem in favor of other Arab and Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

In an attempt to reassure the Jordanian monarch, US envoy Donald Trump of the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, last month took to Twitter to announce: "@King Abdullah II & Jordan are strong US allies. Rumors that our vision of peace includes a confederation between Jordan, Israel and the PA [Palestinian Authority], or that the vision contemplates making Jordan the home of the Palestinians, is incorrect. Please do not spread rumors.

Greenblatt's announcement, however, has so far failed to calm the king and other Jordanians, who continue to talk about a US "conspiracy" against Jordan.

Worse, Jordanian officials and political analysts fear that several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, are "conspiring" with the Trump government to force Jordan to make far-reaching concessions to facilitate implementation of the agreement .

The most significant concession, they believe, will come in the form of the resettlement of millions of Palestinians in the kingdom, where the economy faces enormous challenges not only because of Palestine, Iraqi and Syrian refugees but also result of unbridled corruption and mismanagement.

A report released last week by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Jordan continues to preserve macroeconomic stability in a difficult environment. As a result, the kingdom will still need substantial donor involvement, according to the report.

Noting that global, regional and domestic environments should remain difficult, the IMF report said that Jordan will continue to face the burden of sheltering some 1.4 million Syrian refugees at a time of slow growth, high unemployment and large financial needs.

The report also noted that Jordan "suffered a series of severe shocks for several years; In addition to hosting the Syrian refugees, the kingdom also faced an interruption of critical export markets and transportation routes, as well as increased borrowing costs. "

The economic crisis and recurrent reports of corruption in the public and private sectors has sparked a wave of protests in Amman and other Jordanian cities in recent months.

The protests are mainly directed against the government, although some Jordanians have also taken the unusual step of criticizing the king and blaming him for the bad policies of the government.

The protests recently prompted Abdullah to order a reform of the Jordanian cabinet – the third of its kind in less than a year. The move is seen in the context of the King's effort to tackle economic challenges and prepare Jordan for the Trump peace agreement.

Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs Jumana Ghunaimat said last March that "some people try to question Jordan's positions in an attempt to destabilize the country."

Jordan's position on the Palestinian and Jerusalem issues is unshakable, that is, the settlement of two states according to international legitimacy and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, he added.

His comments reflect Jordan's concern about Trump's future plan, particularly after reports that he does not refer to the two-state solution. This has generated a wave of rumors among Jordanians about a US and Israeli "conspiracy" to turn Jordan into a Palestinian state.

Rumors were reinforced by allegations that Abdullah was being kept off the circuit on the details of the peace plan.

Former Jordanian Information Minister Samih al-Maaytah said Jordan always wants to be updated and consulted on any future plans for peace.

"Jordan has good relations with the US and plays a role in regional issues," he told the pan-Arab media channel The New Arab. "Jordan wants a plan based on the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative and international resolutions. Jordan wants a viable initiative. Jordan did not depart from the equation of peace and a political solution. "

Maaytah said that Jordan has been "proactive, local and international" in preparation for the announcement of Trump's plan to emphasize the need to solve the problems of Palestinian refugees and resettlement (of Palestinians).

Several Jordanians and Palestinians who have met with Abdullah in recent weeks have said he complained that he was under pressure from some Arab countries and the US administration not to reject the peace plan.

Jordanian congressman Musa Hantash, who met last month with the king, said an Arab country was prepared to pay Jordan's debts in return for the king's acceptance of the Trump plan and the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood on terrorism lists. Hantash himself is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He did not name the country, although unconfirmed reports point to Saudi Arabia.

"The Hashemite leadership totally rejects anyone who takes part in Jordanian politics and society," Hantash told the Jordanian news website Saraya News. He went on to quote Abdullah telling him and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood that Hashemite custody over the holy sites in Jerusalem was being "threatened" by several parties.

Prominent Jordanian columnist Maher Abu Tir said in a television interview last month that Jordan received $ 100 billion in economic projects and donations as part of the peace plan.

Jordan, he said, is today at a "very difficult and sensitive" crossroads. Jordan's chances of accepting the deal are impossible, though many believe the kingdom will surrender under pressure. However, there are also many sensitivities linked to what is happening in Jordan. As you all know, Jordan can not be involved in such solutions. "

Abu Tir said that Jordan was betting on the Palestinians to be the first to reject Trump's plan.

"Jordan is betting on the Palestinians to reject the plan because of its direct involvement," he added. "Jordan is also counting on the Europeans to reject the agreement because, according to confirmed information, they do not support its formula. Jordan can not publicly reject this formula and will not be the first to rule it out. But Jordan is betting on other "safety belts" that would be against this agreement. "

The columnist predicted that Jordan's final rejection of the Trump deal would have a high price. "Likewise, accepting the plan will also cost Jordan a lot," he said. "We are facing two costs – and we have to choose one."

Anxiety caused by the upcoming revelation of the plan, accompanied by mounting demands for major economic and political reforms in the kingdom, is believed to be the reason behind a recent upturn in top political and security levels in Amman.

While ministerial reform is seen as an attempt to weather the economic crisis, other measures taken by the king indicate that he may also be facing real and unprecedented challenges in the country.

Earlier this month, Abdullah fired the director of the country's General Intelligence Department, Adnan al-Jundi. The king said his action was prompted by complaints about "abuses" under al-Jundi's administration.

The king did not give details of the alleged abuses. However, he explained that the decision to replace the intelligence chief "came at a delicate stage for the region as a whole, and the huge and unprecedented challenges created by regional changes and a unique and tense global climate."

In addition to the dismissal of the intelligence chief, the king also fired several high officials of the royal palace. According to unconfirmed reports, he also issued orders to replace the safety details of many members of the royal family.

The firing of the intelligence chief and senior officials of the royal palace occurred almost immediately after a Kuwaiti newspaper issued a "dangerous" plan aimed at destabilizing Jordan. The report said the man behind the "hellish plan" is the husband of the king's aunt – a wealthy businessman accused of financial corruption.

Palestinians in the West Bank who have visited Jordan in recent weeks said the kingdom was full of rumors and conspiracy theories amid growing calls for economic and political reforms and leaks related to the peace plan.

"The situation in Amman is very tense," said a Ramallah businessman who visits Jordan regularly. "The economic situation is very bad and many people complain that Syrian refugees are taking over their jobs. In addition, there are several senior political and security officials who may be involved in attempts to undermine the monarchy. "

An official of the Palestinian Authority who returned from Amman last week said Jordanian officials told him that Abdullah was "upset" with the Trump government and some Arab states. "The king feels he has been left alone to face serious internal and external challenges," said the Palestinian Authority official. "He fears that Trump's plan worsens tensions within the kingdom and creates a rift between Jordan and other Arabs."

Summarizing the situation in Jordan, a veteran political analyst in Amman said that the kingdom was facing "existential challenges" as a result of the peace plan. The king's efforts, he said, "should be focused on preserving Jordan's survival, independence and stability, while also pushing for extremely necessary economic and political reforms."

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