Facing growing protests at home and seeing how Islamic fundamentalists are gaining power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Territories, Jordan’s King Abdullah has embarked on a policy aimed at appeasing radical Muslims as a pre-emptive measure.
HUDSON NY King Abdullah’s decision to woo Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as a no-confidence vote in the US President Barack Obama’s policy toward the Arab world, as leaders there are beginning to realize that they can no longer rely on Obama, especially after his hasty decision to abandon Egyptian President Hosni Mubabrak.
In the past few months Jordan has been hit by a wave of weekly anti-government demonstrations. For the first time, former senior security and civilian officials have joined the protests – a move seen by many as a direct and unprecedented challenge to King Abdullah.
Most recently, reports indicate that the Jordanians may approve a request by Hamas to move its offices from Damascus to Amman. Relations between the Syrian regime and Hamas have been strained as a result of the movement’s refusal to support Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless crackdown on his opponents.
The improvement in relations between Jordan and Hamas comes more than a decade after the Jordanians closed down the Hamas offices in the kingdom and deported the movement’s leaders.
Relations between Hamas and Jordan reached their lowest point a few years ago when the Jordanian authorities announced that they had foiled a plot to smuggle weapons into the country for launching terror attacks against the kingdom and Israel.
In recent weeks, however, there have been countless reports about a rapprochement between Jordan and Hamas. Last month, the Jordanian authorities permitted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to visit Amman to see his ailing mother.
It was the second time that the Syrian-based Mashaal had been allowed to enter Jordan since he was deported from the kingdom a decade ago, In 1999, he was allowed into Amman to briefly visit his dying father.
Other Hamas representatives have since visited Jordan. One of Mashaal’s top aides was the first to phone the newly-appointed Jordanian Prime Minister, Awn Khawasneh, to congratulate him on his new job.
In addition to Hamas, the Jordanian monarch appears also to be wooing the Muslim Brotherhood organization in his country. His new prime minister last week invited the Muslim Brotherhood to join his new government – an offer that the radical group rejected. The prime minister would not have dared to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood had he not received a green light from the king.
The king’s gestures to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are a clear attempt to absorb growing discontent in the kingdom over his failure to implement major reforms that would limit the role of the Jordanian security forces in civilian and political matters.
The king is afraid of an “Arab Spring” in his country. But the only way to avoid a larger revolt against his regime is by embarking on real and comprehensive reforms in all walks of life — not by engaging radical Islamists who in the long run pose an even bigger threat.