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As Morsi ousted in Egypt and Syria in turmoil, Jordanian model must be preserved

By Ben Cohen/

Click photo to download. Caption: King Abdullah of Jordan, who has remained in power for 14 years—13 years longer than Mohamed Morsi’s tenure as president of Egypt. Credit: Chatham House.

the ugly battle between the Egyptian military and Muslim Brotherhood President
Mohamed Morsi, resulting in Morsi’s ouster on July 3, as well as the ongoing bloodbath
in Syria, the arguments for the preservation of the Jordanian model—politically
moderate, more democratic than its neighbors, and proudly Islamic yet amenable
to good relations with western nations and with Israel—are self-evident.

When King Hussein of Jordan died in early 1999, Israel mourned him, as
the veteran journalist Eric Silver pointed out at the time, “as one of its
own.” Flags on public buildings flew at half-mast, memorial candles glimmered
in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, and newspapers carried headlines like “Shalom,
King.” At the King’s funeral, an Israeli delegation that included Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the then Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, mingled
openly and cordially with Arab leaders.

In that short moment of remembrance, the Middle East was provided with a
brief glimpse of what life would be like should a genuine peace with Israel be
achieved—not a mere cessation of hostilities, but the type of friendly,
cooperative peace that prevails among the countries of Europe and North
America. Yet Silver—one of the most perceptive reporters to ever cover the
region, who is sadly no longer with us—also observed, “Anxiety sits on the shoulder
of Israel’s grief. Is it all too good to be true now that Hussein has gone, and
his 37-year-old son, Abdullah, an unknown quantity, has succeeded to the

Fourteen years later, King Abdullah remains on his throne. Only the most
churlish would deny that this in itself is an achievement, given Jordan’s
history of surviving, against the odds, as a sovereign state. For this small
desert kingdom carved out by the British has been forced to contend with many
enemies, internal and external, throughout its short existence. From the
Egyptian dictator Nasser in the 1960s, through the radical Palestinian
terrorist factions in the 1970s, to the Syrian butcher Bashar al-Assad now,
Jordan and its ruling Hashemite monarchy has faced its fair share of close

And while the goodwill that prevailed between Israel and Jordan at the
time of King Hussein’s death has dissipated somewhat, Israel’s strategic
interest in stability and continuity on the East Bank has remained solid. What
has changed, though, is the nature of the threat.

The belief that Jordan would be undone by the Palestinians was once a
commonplace, which partly explains why “Jordan is Palestine” used to be a
popular slogan on the Israeli right. Today, the Palestinians are far from being
the main challenge to Jordan’s survival, so much so that even the achievement
of that elusive final agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority
would still leave Jordan painfully vulnerable to other dangers.

The country’s economy is in an awful state. Unlike many of its Arab
neighbors, Jordan does not sit on huge oil reserves, and is completely
dependent on imports to meet its energy needs. Recent cuts in food, fuel and
electricity subsidies resulted in angry protests on the streets of the capital,
Amman, and in other cities too. Inflation …read more

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Posted by on July 8, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.