RAMALLAH, May 10 (JMCC) - On the first Friday after West Bank military order 1650 became public, the road outside the Hussein mosque in downtown Amman was transformed into a human carpet -- thousands bowed on cardboard mats.
Before the prayer, whispers of protest against the Israeli order circulated among the street vendors as Jordanian armed forces looked on.
“We are peaceful people in Jordan, but no one would stand by and let their friend’s children die and families be sent away,” said one worshiper.
Today, one month after military order 1650 went into effect, it continues to play into Jordan’s fragile political and social infrastructure.
Rohile Gharaibeh, former Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, calls the order “a declaration of war on Palestine and Jordan.”
“If expulsion happens,” he says, Jordan “should close the borders and stop all kinds of naturalization.”
Military order 1650 revises previous military regulations, making it possible for Israel
to expel anyone present in the West Bank
without the proper military permit. Israel has deported several Palestinians under the order, including expelling to Jordan 27-year-old Murad Zahdeh from Hebron
“The country that is most likely to get the 75,000 Palestinians that Israel wants to deport is Jordan,” explains political analyst and columnist Hassan al-Barari. The effect of this, argues Barari, is to weaken Jordanian Palestinian’s push for greater political rights.
Unofficial polls put the number of Palestinians in Jordan between 40 percent and 60 percent of the population. Concerned by the potential for ethnic conflict, the government controls conversation on this topic very tightly, says columnist Ibrahim Gharaibeh, former member of the IAF.
It is believed, however, that of these Palestinians fewer than 36 percent have the right to vote in Jordan.
Jordan will soon announce reforms to its elections law, and some sources suggest it will assign four more parliamentary seats to Amman, Zarqa and Irbid, considered Palestinian heartlands. Others view this as a minor adjustment.
“The electoral law has been designed to give Trans-Jordanians the upper hand in parliament,” explains Barari, referring to native Jordanians.
As conditions worsen in the neighboring occupied West Bank, however, Palestinian voting rights are unlikely to improve.
“The Israeli decision to introduce West Bank military orders has scared the Jordanians,” says Barari. “Its effect has been to put pressure on the Palestinians’ claims for greater political rights in Jordan.” The argument goes, he says, “that improving rights for Palestinians in Jordan will distract from the focus of restoring rights in their natural homeland of Palestine.”
He explains that were Jordan to provide equal representation to Palestinian residents, Israel might press for Jordan to become the Palestinian state.
DECLARATION OF WAR
While many Jordanians understand Israel’s new military order to be a direct attack on Jordan, few believe it will fully materialize. Barari argues that it would be a politically disastrous move for Israel.
“You can’t deport 75,000 Palestinians without declaring war on Jordan,” he says. “Once war is declared, you shoot yourself in the foot, as you will never muster international support for attacking the Middle East’s most notoriously peace-loving nation.”
For Ibrahim Gharaibeh, the real danger in Jordanian society is the problem of identity. “Palestinians in Jordan feel that they do not have equal representation in political life whilst Jordanians feel that Palestinians control the private sector. There is not one identity,” he goes on.
Israeli actions force some Palestinians to remain in Jordan, he says. “They want to achieve equal rights but remain Palestinian in identity.” This, he argues, is a poor basis for internal stability.
Jordan needs to “blur ethnic identities, to create an Amman for Ammanians,” says Ibrahim. It becomes more difficult to do this, however, as long as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict persists.