Why the Overreaction in Jordan?

The recent disclosure by WikiLeaks of cables sent by the American Embassy in Amman back in 2008 has created a storm in Jordan. The king has accused the Americans of meddling into domestic affairs by trying to force an unsolicited change in his kingdom whereby the Palestinians relinquish the “right of return” in exchange for being fully incorporated into Jordanian society. This perceived affront caused supporters of the king to stage an unprecedented protest against America at its embassy in Amman. This in turn was followed by calls for a “million-man protest” at the Israeli Embassy in Amman, despite Israel having no connection to the cables.

Upon review of the cables, called The Right of Return: What it Means in Jordan, the reaction of the king seems out of proportion. After all, the cables merely reflect the known positions of the various parties that make up the Jordanian mosaic and how the unresolved issue of “the right of return” plays a central role in the internal domestic problems of Jordan.

On the one hand there are the East Bankers, native-born Jordanians comprised mainly of Bedouin tribes that consider themselves “the real Jordanians”. Holding key positions in the government and security apparatus, they distrust the Palestinians and would be happy if they would “return” to the other side of the Jordan River. Moreover, the fact that the Palestinians have taken over large parts of the private business sector only adds fuel to the resentment that the East Bankers harbor towards them.

The Palestinians for their part are split. There are those who have a realistic view and understand that the right of return is no longer a viable option. They consider Jordan their home and their main concern is being fully accepted into the society and ending what they consider a policy of discrimination. At the other end of the spectrum are those who refuse to relinquish what they consider a sacrosanct right and still dream of going back to their “homes” one day on the other side of the Jordan River.

These issues are not new, the only unique aspect being that they were openly revealed. This being the case it appears that the king, to put it mildly, overreacted to the whole issue. Moreover, a careful reading of the cables shows that there is no plotting or planning but rather just an airing of various views and frustrations with the current situation. The question then is why the overreaction?

It seems the only plausible explanation is that the king, facing growing unrest and dissatisfaction in his own country, is feeling insecure about his position. Why else would he be angry with the Americans rather than addressing the legitimate concerns of his people? Moreover, the fact that Israel is being dragged into this seems to indicate that the king of Jordan, similar to other Arab rulers throughout the years, is playing “the Israel card” – when the pressure is mounting and in order to divert domestic criticism…. blame Israel.

Despite the attempts by the king and his supporters, the wheels are already in motion. Inevitable changes are on the way, the only question being what will emerge in Jordan. Will the East Bankers together with various Islamic groups wrest the reigns of power from the king and suppress the Palestinians and any hopes they have of achieving real equality? Or will Jordan evolve into a genuine democracy with the Palestinians, the clear majority in the desert kingdom, gaining full entrance into key public positions side by side with the East Bankers? Finally, should the latter scenario come to fruition, will Jordan eventually be transformed into a Palestinian state?

No one knows for sure what will be in Jordan but judging by the “back against the wall” response of the king it appears that a change is imminent.

This article was first published on American Thinker.

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6 Responses to Why the Overreaction in Jordan?

  1. Terry, Eilat - Israel says:

    I had to laugh – I wrote basically the same thing in a comment at YNET & it was censored. As it happens, I notice that any sharp criticism of King Abdallah, any accurate portrayal of Jordan’s instability, & any hint that instability in Jordan makes it essential for Israel to maintain sovereignty in Judea & Samaria, is censored.
    Try mentioning that a Palestinian state will almost immediately try to undermine Abdallah’s rule, any such comment will not be posted.
    I re-posted the comment at the JPost which now has a system of automatic posting but I doubt if JPost comments get the same number of readers as Ynet.
    King Abdallah gets ”protected species” status at Ynet & I leave it to you to guess why.

    • Yoel Meltzer says:

      Hi Terry,

      If what you’re saying is true, it’s very, very sad. This issue needs to be brought to the awareness of every Israeli ASAP. Then again, if things get worse in Jordan there will be no way to hide it.


      • Terry, Eilat - Israel says:


        This isn’t a case of ”if it’s true” – believe me, I KNOW which subjects always get censored. It forms a pattern.
        And yes, it’s very sad.
        For sure, you can make some lame comment like, ”Jordan is Palestine” & they post the comment. But if you write a concise but factual account of how supporting the Hashemite regime does not support our interests, of how unstable the monarchy really is, & the security risk inherent in losing control of the West Bank combined with the fall of the Jordanian regime, for sure, the comment will not be posted.

  2. Yehuda says:

    Your article is interesting and clear.
    Very interesting document on Wikileaks.
    Overreaction and – smearing/exaggerating/creating an angle that wasn’t there – is a common ploy in the Arab world.

    You wrote:

    It seems the only plausible explanation is that the King, facing growing unrest and dissatisfaction in his own country, is feeling insecure about his position. Why else would he be angry with the Americans rather than addressing the legitimate concerns of his people? Moreover, the fact that Israel is being dragged into this seems to indicate that the King of Jordan, similar to other Arab rulers throughout the years, is playing “the Israel card” — when the pressure is mounting and in order to divert domestic criticism…. blame Israel.

    It is not clear to me that the overreaction was because Jordan (or its monarchy) is any more unstable (facing growing unrest and dissatisfaction) or in danger than it was at any other time in its history. Revolutions (especially of late) and coup d’etats are also common in the Arab word. I think it might be correct to say that overreaction is, once again, being used to divert the attention of the people from the real issues (by, “whipping them up into a frenzy”).
    “Playing the Israel card” here is also a bit different than the way I think of the term. Often, Arab states will blame Israel for internal problems (poverty, violence, etc.) that are completely unrelated to the existence of the Israeli state. In this case the central discussion of the Wikileak is very directly related to the existence of the Israeli state (and the policies thereof).

    • Yoel Meltzer says:

      Hi Yehuda,

      There’s some truth to what you’re saying but I think the kind is acting the way he is because of real concern about the continued existence of his “kingship”. Although not mentioned here, I’ve received reports of many instances of late where the king is becoming more and more anti-Israel, and this is in reaction to events taking place w/in Jordan. His main traditional support comes from the Beduouins, many of which have connections w/various Islamic groups, and the Beduouins of late are also turning against the king. Thus to placate them and to preserve his authority he’s becoming more and more anti-Israel.


  3. Canadian Otter says:

    I remember when “extreme right wingers” called for establishing immediate sovereignty over Yesha – ahead of the PA bid for statehood at the UN. But too many Israelis dismissed the PA’s attempt and said it would amount to nothing. Well, today’s the day, and we don’t even know how rocky it’s going to get for Israel in the future.

    But we know one thing so far: According to MK Aryeh Eldad, in exchange for its veto at the UN, the White House has extracted a heavy price from Israel already. The US has demanded that Israel do not retaliate against the PA by either withholding funds or by annexing any part of the land. It also wants Israel to lobby Congress to stop two pending pro-Israel resolutions.



    The US government and the Israeli elite are pulling their pro-Arab strings while the Israeli public is left watching how they are being swindled of their land.

    Voters must confront their Likud MKs – who so far have enjoyed undeserved deference from patriotic Israelis. It is astounding how Likud MKs can get away with making speeches supporting Israel’s right to the land one day, and then turn around and go along with policies that completely undermine that principle.

    And nobody calls them to task!


    Also the Israeli government refuses to make the connection between a failed peace treaty with Egypt and its foolish pursuit of yet another “peace treaty” with the “Palestinians”. Again, at the expense of precious Jewish land.

    Even the most ruthless ME regimes are fragile, and Fatah’s control over the PA is due only to the generous life support being provided by the US, EU, and Israel itself!

    The Jordanian regime too has weak foundations and is bound to collapse one way or another.


    Yoel, voters need to go after their MKs and demand answers followed by immediate action consisting of declaring full sovereignty over Yesha. Aren’t forty plus years enough to make up their minds about what to do with their land?

    For readers who are still unaware of this, all Likud MKs either left the Knesset chamber or voted against a National Union bill for annexation on February 23, 2011. The bill had only four NU votes in favor! Even A7 glossed over this issue so as not to embarrass the Likud MKs. Those MKs continue to make nice pro-Judea and Samaria speeches while they bask in the affection of the settlers.

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