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Are Jordan and Hamas Getting Friendly Again?

In 1999 Jordan waged a crackdown against Hamas to weaken the Islamists and solidify the peace agreement signed with Israel in 1994. In August 1999, Hamas offices were closed. In November, senior Hamas officials were expelled from the country, including Khaled Meshal.

Despite being blacklisted since, in recent months, Jordan has tried rapprochement with Hamas. In November 2011, Jordan’s Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh said that the expulsion of Hamas was “a legal error.”

A few days after this announcement Jonathan Schanzer in The Weekly Standard wrote:

Khasawneh’s rapprochement with the Palestinian terrorist group is an attempt to woo the Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan’s arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, into a government coalition. The IAF is a powerful force in Jordan. Khasawneh understands that appeasing the Islamist group may help preserve the Hashemite Kingdom.

…[the] announcement of the Jordanian outreach to Hamas was a jarring change in tone and policy. The regime is now yielding on ideology because it cannot deliver on real political change, which would weaken its ability to maintain control of this fragile country.

But these populist appeasements will only last so long. Last month, Abdullah promised his people (yet again) that Jordan would move toward a more representative parliament.  If and when Jordan becomes truly representative, the rise of Islamist forces is a foregone conclusion.

Since November, there have been a number of reports suggesting that Hamas officials would visit Jordan on an official trip, however, none have taken place. Nonetheless, in December, Al-Hayat reported that senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk had visited Jordan to potentially relocate his family. However, it now appears that Marzouk’s family ended up in Cairo, while some of Khaled Meshal’s family left Syria for Jordan.

Two weeks ago, Jordan’s Prime Minister told TIME’s Karl Vick:

The idea is not to bring them [Hamas] back as a launching pad for jihad against Israel or whatever. But as individuals they should be allowed to come back. I thought from the very beginning that their expulsion was unconstitutional and it was the wrong move from the point of view that it stands to reason that if you have many alternatives for as long as possible, it’s the good sign of effective diplomacy.

In addition, he said that “We don’t want them to establish another organization here.”

Today most of the major news outlets are reporting that Hamas’s Khaled Meshal will visit Jordan on Sunday and meet with King Abdullah.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal will head to Jordan on Sunday for the first official talks since a crackdown by Amman on the group more than a decade ago, Jordanian officials said on Tuesday.

They said the trip arranged with Qatari mediation reflected Jordan’s desire to normalize ties with the main Palestinian opposition group but not a shift away from stalwart support for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas.

Despite the new reports, don’t be surprised if this visit is cancelled at the last minute. Either way it seems that Jordan is undergoing a slow motion demise.

Update: The Jordan Times reports:

According to the source, who preferred to remain unnamed, Mishaal and the delegation are expected to request permission for a “permanent presence” in Jordan, stopping short of whether the Palestinian movement will seek to reopen its political office in Amman.

The source stressed that Hamas’ intentions to establish a presence in the Kingdom comes as part of the movement’s desire to “expand” its diplomatic reach and not a sign that the Palestinian movement is abandoning its Damascus headquarters.

“The internal situation in Syria has no influence whatsoever on our request to establish a branch in Jordan or our desire to improve relations with Jordanian authorities,” the source said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Majali stressed that the reopening of Hamas’ political office is “not on the current agenda” of discussions.

 

About the author

Picture of Challah Hu Akbar

Challah Hu Akbar

Challah Hu Akbar has been providing Fresh Baked Middle East Nonsense since 2010. Challah "retired" from blogging in October 2011, but has remained a twitter enthusiast. Like Challah Hu Akbar on Facebook.
Picture of Challah Hu Akbar

Challah Hu Akbar

Challah Hu Akbar has been providing Fresh Baked Middle East Nonsense since 2010. Challah "retired" from blogging in October 2011, but has remained a twitter enthusiast. Like Challah Hu Akbar on Facebook.
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