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The Truth About Jordan

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I read with interest Dr. Joseph Olmert's article Something Is Happening in Jordan.

The excellent article raised a number of contentious points and I am not going in this piece to analyse every point but would like to clarify a number of issues which Dr. Olmert touched on in his article.

As regards the Hamas Leader Khaled Mashal's possible move to Jordan, I share Dr. Olmert's concerns about Hamas transferring its entire leadership to Jordan. Hamas is embarrassed by the deteriorating situation in Syria and is now considering an alternative location. Tunisia and Jordan are still possible places but no final decision has been taken. In principle Jordan agreed to accept the Hamas families on condition that Hamas would not engage in any political activity there. Even if Jordan is chosen, there will be an office but not a military base. They will not be allowed to mount attacks against Israel and will not be allowed to display any military presence in Amman. Jordan will not permit any action or statements from Hamas that will jeopardise the Peace-Treaty with Israel. Peace with Israel is important to Jordan.

Jordan is now hosting direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Amman which underlines Jordan's commitment to peace and stability in the region. Jordan supports the two-state solution which is supported by the International Community and the Quartet (USA, EU, Russia and the UN).

Dr. Olmert suggested in his article that King Abdullah of Jordan is assuming the role of the regional pontificator-in-Chief when it concerns Israel and its PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Dr. Olmert knows that any negative developments in East Jerusalem and the West Bank would ultimately have an adverse impact on Jordan. As regards Jerusalem Article 9 of the Wadi Arba Peace Agreement gives Jordan a special role over the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. Article 9: Holy places states: "Israel agreed to respect Jordan's special role in protecting Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. Israel agreed to give high priority to Jordan's historic role in these shrines during permanent status negotiations. The states also pledged to promote interfaith relations among Judaism, Islam and Christianity, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, and freedom of religious worship, tolerance and peace".

If something happens there, the King is entitled to say something.

However the King does not have to say much about the prime minister of Israel. A great deal is being said and written about Israel and its prime minister by Israel's own politicians and Israel's own vibrant press, by Israeli and American writers in the Huffington Post and by the New York Times columnists and editorial writers.

As for domestic problems, of course Jordan has internal problems. Which country in the world hasn't? The basic problem for Jordan is the rise of fundamental Islam which threatens freedoms and uses the democratic process to seize power then deny the rights of others. Jordan also has economic problems being a non-oil state and therefore seeks inward investments which require a peaceful and stable environment.

Corruption and reforms:

Corruption in Jordan is now a top subject in the Jordanian Newspapers and Websites. It is being vigorously debated in Parliament and other forums. Top people have been exposed and some are under investigation. This subject is not being swept under the carpet as more and more revelations will follow. As for reforms and since the eruption of the Arab Spring a year or so ago, Jordan has witnessed demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, strikes and other forms of protest. The King recognised that demand for reforms are legitimate and peaceful protests must be allowed. To Jordan's credit, not a single demonstrator has been killed since the onset of the Arab Spring. The King has acknowledged the demands of the protesters and promised significant reforms including the right of Jordanians to elect a prime minister and a government. This by necessity means political parties must be able to compete freely for voters.

In a recent speech in London, the King said that the Arab Spring has brought positive change to the region, asserting that the people of the region want dignity, freedom and justice. Economic reforms, fighting corruption must go hand in hand with political reforms. Peace and stability in the region are essential for stimulating investments and economic growth.

The Black September 1970 events no massacres committed.

In his article Dr. Olmert hinted at what he called Black September massacres by stating; "The Hashemites of Jordan have long cultivated their image as benign autocrats, massacres like Black September of 1970 against their Palestinian enemies notwithstanding". There were no massacres as such. There were real military confrontations between the Jordanian army and armed Palestinian guerrillas. After the 1967 war, Jordan welcomed Yasser Arafat and his men. By the summer of 1968 Arafat tried to seize control of Jordan. Tensions had been growing and by September 1970 there were roadblocks manned and controlled by Palestinian guerrillas. They were effectively building a state within a state exactly as Hezbollah has done successfully in Lebanon in the last few years. Whereas Hezbollah is acting on behalf of Iran, the Palestinian guerrillas were acting on behalf of Syria.

Meanwhile and on 6 September 1970, the PFLP (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) hijacked three airlines from three European Airports Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich after taking off en-route to New York and diverted them to Dawson Airfield in the Jordanian desert. When the hijackers' demands were not met they blew up the planes. To complicate matters further, two days later the PLO called for the establishment of a 'national authority' in Jordan. By 17 September 1970, the late King Hussein decided enough was enough and the Jordanian army moved against the guerrillas. It is important to mention here that the majority of Jordanians of Palestinian origin were with the King's stance and with the army and many Jordanians of Palestinian origin fought bravely in the army.

A week or so later the Syrian army invaded northern Jordan with three armoured brigades to help Arafat's men. The Syrian invasion nearly created an international crisis involving regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. By 23 September the Syrian army had been driven back. Sporadic fighting against the guerrillas continued until the summer of 1971 when the guerrillas were eventually chased out of Jordan and many went to Lebanon and the Jordanian army prevailed. Years later prominent PLO and PFLP men including Arafat himself admitted that what they did in Jordan in the late 1960s was a big mistake and blamed Syria.