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Jordan - Government and Politics


IN LATE 1989, KING HUSSEIN ibn Talal ibn Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi remained in firm control of Jordan's political system as the central policymaker and legislative and executive authority. He maintained tight control over key government functions, such as national defense, internal security, justice, and foreign affairs. Crown Prince Hasan, the king's younger brother and heir apparent, complemented the small, Hussein-centered circle of power in his role as the king's right-hand man, especially in the areas of economy and administration.

Hussein's main power base continued to rest on the beduindominated army, which had been loyal to the Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) family for seven decades. Another source of strength was his astute ability to balance sociopolitical interests at home. Equally important, Hussein was Jordan's most accomplished diplomatnegotiator . During the 1980s, Hussein's autocracy also was substantially bolstered by his rapprochement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This significant development greatly reduced the threat to Hussein's rule posed since 1970 by various Palestinian guerrilla groups. Some groups, however, notably the Black September and Abu Nidal factions, continued to seek the overthrow of the entire monarchical structure.

The Transjordanians occupied a dominant place in the existing power structure. Hussein's palace staff and his top civil, judicial, and military officials were mostly Transjordanians. Although there was a Palestinian presence on the periphery of power, the Palestinians' continued exclusion from substantive decision-making positions tended to alienate the Palestinian community and served as a potential source of political instability. Hussein's decision in July 1988 to renounce Jordan's claim to sovereignty over the West Bank and his subsequent recognition of the PLO's declaration of an independent Palestine may further affect the systemic integrity of Jordan because the Palestinians living on the East Bank must choose whether they want Jordanian or Palestinian nationality.

Another source of political instability for Hussein's regime at the close of the 1980s was the continued severe recession that had plagued the economy since the mid-1980s. This economic retrenchment was in sharp contrast to the economic growth experienced during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The combination of high inflation and high unemployment rates contributed to the pervasive sense of dissatisfaction that erupted in major antigovernment riots in several cities and towns in April 1989. Although all Jordanians were adversely affected by rising prices and falling income, the Palestinians living in refugee camps--most of whom were poor before the recession--bore the brunt of the economic decline. Their economic frustrations helped reinforce their political alienation.





The Constitution that was promulgated in 1952 and amended in 1974, 1976, and 1984 remained in force in 1989. It declares Jordan a hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government and defines the people as "the source of all powers." The people are officially stated as being part of "the Arab nation." Islam is the official religion of the state and Arabic the official language. In nearly forty years of experience with the Constitution, adherence to the fundamental law of the land has varied in spirit as well as in practice from time to time, depending upon domestic and external circumstances.

Articles 5 through 23 of the Constitution stipulate the rights and duties of citizens and guarantee a long list of personal freedoms. Citizens are assured freedom from compulsory labor or forced loans, and no one may be discriminated against for reasons of race, religion, or language. Arrest, imprisonment, exile, forced residence, and the expropriation of property without due process of law are forbidden. Freedom of worship, opinion, and the press and the right of peaceful assembly are ensured within the limits of the law. Censorship is allowed in time of martial law or when a state of national emergency exists. The right of petition is guaranteed, and citizens are free to form political parties, trade unions, and associations--provided their objectives are lawful. Political refugees may not be extradited. For grades one through nine, education is compulsory and free in public schools. Every citizen is eligible for appointment to public posts, subject only to the candidate's merit and qualification. The Constitution also outlines various principles of labor legislation and directs the government to promote work and to protect labor.

Martial law was declared in 1967 and remained in force in 1989. The emergency regulations under martial law effectively abridged certain constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. These regulations permitted the martial law authorities and the secret police-- popularly referred to as the Mukhabarat rather than by its formal name of Dairat al Mukhabarat or General Intelligence Department (GID)--to arrest persons suspected of security offenses and to detain them without trial or access to legal counsel for indefinite periods. The emergency regulations also authorized the government to censor the press and other publications, banned political parties, and restricted the rights of citizens to assemble for political meetings and peaceful demonstrations.

The powers and functions of the state organs are elaborated in articles 41 through 110. The Constitution includes sections on finance, enforcement of laws, interpretation of the Constitution, and emergency powers and constitutional amendments. An amendment requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of each legislative house, deliberating separately. When an amendment bill is twice rejected by either house, however, the bill must be deliberated in a joint session of the legislature; in this instance, a two-thirds vote is required for adoption. An amendment bill takes effect only on royal consent. In a move to ensure dynastic stability, the Constitution forbids any amendment concerning the rights of the king and his heirs during a period of regency.

The five amendments to the Constitution that have been approved since 1952 all pertain to the National Assembly. Two amendments were adopted in November 1974. The first permitted the king to dissolve the Senate and to dismiss any individual senator for behavior unbecoming of the office. The second amendment permitted the king to postpone elections for the House of Representatives for one year. In February 1976, a third amendment permitted the king to postpone parliamentary elections indefinitely. The two amendments adopted in 1984 authorized the government to hold parliamentary elections in any part of the country where it was feasible, thus, only in the East Bank. Until late 1988, when Jordan renounced claims to political sovereignty over the West Bank, the House of Representatives was empowered to select deputies to fill vacant seats from the West Bank.




The Constitution divides the powers and functions of the government into executive, legislative, and judicial categories. The Constitution assigns the legislative power to both the bicameral National Assembly and the king, who is also vested with executive power. The king exercises his executive authority with the aid of his cabinet ministers, collectively known as the Council of Ministers. Judicial power is vested in independent courts. The authority and services of the central government are extended to all corners of the kingdom through the eight governorates or provinces.

The King

Under the Constitution, the monarchy is the most important political institution in the country. Articles 28 through 40 of the Constitution enumerate the king's powers. He appoints the prime minister, the president and members of the Senate, judges, and other senior government and military functionaries. He commands the armed forces, approves and promulgates laws, declares war, concludes peace, and signs treaties (which in theory must be approved by the National Assembly). The king convenes, opens, adjourns, suspends, or dissolves the legislature; he also orders, and may postpone, the holding of elections. He has veto power that can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of each house. The Constitution states that the king exercises his jurisdiction by iradah (sing.; pl., iradat--royal decrees), which must be signed by the prime minister and the minister or ministers concerned. As head of state, the king is accountable to no one.

Royal succession devolves by male descent in the Hashimite dynasty. The royal mandate is passed to the eldest son of the reigning king, to the eldest son of the successor king, and by similar process thereafter. Should the king die without a direct heir, the deceased monarch's eldest brother has first claim, followed by the eldest son of the other brothers according to their seniority in age. Should there be no suitable direct heir, the National Assembly selects a successor from among "the descendants of the founder of the Arab Revolt, the late King Hussein ibn Ali".

The heir apparent to the throne must be sane, a male Muslim, the son of Muslim parents, and born of a lawful wife. In addition, he must not have been excluded by a royal decree from the succession "on the ground of unsuitability." In 1965 Hussein (b. 1935) used this rule to exclude from the line of succession his two sons by his Muslim but British second wife Princess Muna. He also issued a royal decree that excluded his next younger brother Muhammad (b. 1945) and designated a second brother, Hasan (b. 1948), as crown prince. In June 1978, Hussein designated Prince Ali (b. 1975), his son from his third wife (Queen Alia, who was killed in a helicopter crash in February 1977) to succeed Hasan as heir apparent on the latter's succession to the throne.

When the throne is inherited by a minor, the powers of the king are exercised by a regent or by a council of regency, both of which may be appointed by a decree of the (previous) reigning king; if the king dies without having made such an appointment, the appointment is made by the Council of Ministers. The king attains majority on his eighteenth birthday based on the Muslim lunar calendar. Should the king be disabled by illness, his powers are exercised by a deputy, by a council of the throne appointed by the king, or by the Council of Ministers if the king is incapable of such appointment. The deputy or the council of the throne may also perform royal duties during the absence of the king from the country. If the absence extends to more than four months, the House of Representatives is empowered to "review" the matter.

The king has full responsibility for all matters pertaining to the royal household. He appoints the chief of the royal court, an official who can play an influential political role through his control of access to the monarch. Although the rank of the chief of the royal court is equivalent to that of a cabinet minister, his office is not part of the executive branch.

<>The Council of Ministers
<>The Legislature
<>The Judiciary
<>Local Administration


Jordan - The Council of Ministers


The cabinet, consisting of the prime minister and the other ministers, is the top executive arm of the state. Its members serve at the pleasure of the king, but the Constitution requires every new cabinet to present its statement of programs and policies to the House of Representatives for approval by a two-thirds vote of the members of that house. If the house passes a vote of no confidence, the cabinet must resign.

Traditionally, prime ministers have been recruited from families that have loyally served the Hashimites for many years. Zaid ar Rifai, who was prime minister from 1985 to 1989, is the son of a prominent Transjordanian politician who had served as prime minister to Hussein's grandfather. His successors, Ash Sharif Zaid ibn Shakir (April-November 1989) and Mudar Badran (designated prime minister in November 1989) have each worked with the king in a variety of political capacities. Significantly, both men served as chief minister of the royal court prior to becoming prime minister.

In September 1989, the cabinet included ministers responsible for the following portfolios: agriculture; communications; culture and information; defense; education; energy and mineral resources; finance and customs; foreign affairs; health; higher education; tourism and antiquities; interior; justice; labor and social development; municipal, rural, and environmental affairs; planning; religious affairs and holy places; supply; trade and industry; transportation; and youth. In 1989 the government also was served by a minister of state for prime ministerial affairs.

In 1986 the bureaucracy employed 109,523 Jordanians, making the government the principal employer in society. Selection generally was based upon merit, although patronage and nepotism remained fairly widespread. The government trained civil servants at a school of public administration in Amman, Jordan's capital. A majority of them were Palestinians who had opted for Jordanian citizenship; at the higher levels of the administrative hierarchy, however, Transjordanians probably outnumbered Palestinians. Allegiance to the monarchy and the Constitution remained an important factor in government service. In the aftermath of the Az Zarka affair in 1957 and the civil war of 1970 and 1971, numerous Palestinian civil servants were dismissed because of suspected disloyalty to the throne.

From the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967 until Hussein relinquished Jordan's claim to sovereignty of the territory in July 1988, Amman continued to pay salaries and pensions to serving and retired West Bank municipal government employees. During this period, the West Bank came under the jurisdiction initially of the Bureau of Occupied Homeland Affairs, attached to the prime minister's office and headed by a cabinet-level minister; later this office became the Ministry of Occupied Territories. In addition to paying salaries, it was responsible for channeling Jordan's loans and development funds to Palestinian concerns in the West Bank. Following the decision at the Baghdad Summit meeting in November 1978 to set up a special fund for development and other projects in the Israeli-occupied territories, this ministry worked jointly with the PLO in administering aid funds for Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. By 1988, when Jordan terminated payments, more than 20,000 West Bank Palestinians were estimated to be receiving salaries from the Jordanian government. All of these employees were granted retirement benefits or severance pay according to the number of years they had been municipal employees.


Jordan - The Legislature


Under the Constitution, the bicameral legislature is called the National Assembly and consists of the thirty-member appointed Senate (sometimes called the House of Notables) and the popularly elected House of Representatives (also called the Chamber of Deputies). Prior to July 1988, both houses had an equal number of representatives from each bank of the Jordan River. The Constitution stipulates that the size of the Senate cannot be more than half that of the lower house. Of the two chambers, the Senate is regarded as the more elite; but like the lower chamber, it has had little real influence in the legislative process. Although the House of Representatives was vested with more legislative power than the upper house, both chambers have been overshadowed by the executive side of government.

The senators are appointed by the king for four-year terms, with half the membership retiring every two years at the end of a senate session. A senator may be reappointed. Qualifications for a senator include a minimum age of forty years and prior government or military service in relatively senior positions. Senators have included present and past prime ministers, former members of the House of Representatives who had been elected at least twice, former senior judges and diplomats, and retired officers who have attained the rank of general.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to fouryear terms by secret ballot. Candidates must be Jordanian citizens more than thirty years of age. Individuals representing foreign interests or having material interests in any government contract are disqualified. Also excluded are persons who have been debarred from public office or who have blood ties to the king within a prescribed degree of relationship. Ten of the eighty seats are reserved for minorities including Christians, beduins, and Circassians.

Voters must be at least nineteen years of age. Suffrage has been universal since 1973, when women were enfranchised. All Palestinian refugees who have adopted Jordanian citizenship enjoy equal voting privileges with Transjordanians.

Prior to the November 1989 elections, the last national elections for the House of Representatives had been held in April 1967. In 1970 Hussein cited the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as reason for postponing elections, but he decreed that serving members would continue in office until circumstances permitted the holding of new elections. The 1974 decision by Arab heads of state at a summit meeting in Rabat, Morocco, that the PLO was the sole representative of the Palestinian people raised questions about the political relationship of the West Bank to Jordan. In response to this decision, in November 1974 Hussein dissolved the House of Representatives, half of whose members represented the West Bank. Nevertheless, Hussein was reluctant to sever ties to the Israelioccupied territory, and subsequently he decreed that elections for a new house would be held in March 1976. Whether the elections would include or exclude the West Bank had serious consequences for Jordan's relations with the PLO. Moreover, some Arab states interpreted the Rabat decision to mean that Jordan should renounce its claims to the West Bank--an interpretation to which Hussein did not then subscribe. As the time for the elections drew near, Hussein decided that postponing the elections would be the prudent course to avoid foreclosing future political options. Consequently, in February 1976, he recalled the old house, with its West Bank members. It convened briefly to approve the indefinite suspension of elections for a new House of Representatives, then it adjourned.

In 1978, Hussein issued a royal decree that granted some legislative functions to a newly created sixty-member appointive body, the National Consultative Council (NCC). The NCC, which did not include any members from the West Bank, had a limited mandate to study, debate, and render advice on bills drafted by the Council of Ministers. The NCC possessed no authority, however, to make policy or to approve, amend, or reject any bill. The NCC provided advisory opinions to the Council of Ministers on general state policy when requested by the prime minister. The decree establishing it stated that the NCC would be "lawfully dissolved when the House of Representatives is elected and convened."

In January 1984, Hussein dismissed the NCC and reconvened the suspended National Assembly. He appointed new members to the Senate but called back those members of the House of Representatives who were serving when the lower house last met in 1976. By-elections were held in the East Bank in March to fill eight vacancies in the house that had resulted from the deaths of members since the 1967 elections. In accordance with a January 1984 constitutional amendment, the house also voted to fill seven vacant West Bank seats. In March 1986, the house approved a new electoral law that would increase its membership from 60 to 142; 71 members would be elected from the East Bank, 60 from the West Bank, and 11 from Palestinian refugee camps on the East Bank; this law was never implemented. In 1987 the government began registering Jordanians on the East Bank so that they could vote in parliamentary elections scheduled for 1988; these would have been the first national elections in more than twenty-one years. At the end of 1987, however, registration was halted and the king issued a royal decree that postponed elections for two years.

In July 1988, Hussein renounced Jordan's claims to the West Bank. In light of the new political situation, the king dissolved the House of Representatives. A royal decree issued in October postponed indefinitely elections for a reorganized legislature. A subsequent decree in December abolished the ministerial-level Office of Parliamentary Affairs. Following antigovernment riots in April 1989, however, outgoing Prime Minister Rifai promised that the interim government would concentrate on carrying out the long delayed parliamentary elections. In July Prime Minister Shakir scheduled the elections for November. They were the first national elections for the House of Representatives in more than twenty-two years.


Jordan - The Judiciary


The legal system of Jordan is based on sharia (Islamic law) and laws of European origin. During the nineteenth century, when Jordan was part of the Ottoman Empire, some aspects of European law, especially French commercial law and civil and criminal procedures, were adopted. English common law was introduced in the West Bank between 1917 and 1948, during most of which time the area was incorporated into the British-administered Mandate of Palestine, and introduced in the East Bank during the years 1921 to 1946, when the East Bank comprised the British Mandate of Transjordan. Under the Court Establishment Law of 1951 and the Constitution, the judiciary is independent. There are three kinds of courts: civil courts, religious courts, and special courts. The civil courts adjudicate all civil and criminal cases not expressly reserved to the religious or special courts.

The civil jurisdiction is exercised at four levels: the magistrates' courts, the courts of first instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation (the supreme court of the land). There are fourteen magistrates' courts throughout the country. They exercise jurisdiction in civil cases involving small claims of no more than JD250 (JD or Jordanian dinar) and in criminal cases involving maximum fines of JD100 or maximum prison terms of one year. The seven courts of first instance exercise general jurisdiction in all matters civil and criminal. A panel of three judges sits for all felony trials; two judges sit for misdemeanor and civil cases. The courts of first instance also exercise limited appellate jurisdiction in cases involving judgments or fines under JD20 and JD10 respectively.

There is a three-judge panel Court of Appeal that sits in Amman. Its appellate review extends to judgments of the courts of first instance, the magistrates' courts, and the religious courts. The highest court is the Court of Cassation in Amman; its president, who is appointed by the king, serves as the country's chief justice. All seven judges of the court sit in full panel when important cases are being argued. For most appeals, however, only five judges hear and rule on the cases.

The religious courts are divided into sharia courts for Muslims and ecclesiastical courts for the minority Christian communities. These courts are responsible for disputes over personal status (marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance) and communal endowment among their respective communities. One judge, called a qadi, sits in each sharia court and decides cases on the basis of Islamic law. Three judges, usually members of the clergy, sit in each ecclesiastical court and render judgments based on various aspects of canon law as interpreted by the Greek Orthodox, Melchite, Roman Catholic, and Anglican traditions. Appeals from the judgments of the religious courts are referred to the Court of Appeal sitting in Amman. If any dispute involves members of different religious communities, the civil courts have jurisdiction unless the parties mutually agree to submit to the jurisdiction of one of the religious courts. In case of jurisdictional conflicts between any two religious courts or between a religious court and a civil court, the president of the Court of Cassation appoints a three-judge special tribunal to decide jurisdiction or to hear the case.

Special courts include the High Tribunal (or High Council or Supreme Council), which interprets the Constitution at the request of the prime minister or of either chamber of the National Assembly; the Special Council, which may be called on by the prime minister to interpret any law that has not been interpreted by the courts of law; and the High Court of Justice, which is to be constituted when necessary by the Court of Cassation. The High Court of Justice hears habeas corpus and mandamus petitions and may issue injunctions involving public servants charged with irregularities; it is also empowered to try cabinet ministers charged with offenses. There is also a special court known as the Land Settlement Court. After 1976 when tribal law was abolished, tribal matters came under the formal jurisdiction of the regular courts, but adjudication apparently was still handled informally in traditional ways by local intermediaries or tribal authorities.


Jordan - Local Administration


In 1989 local government authorities were essentially an extension of the central government seated in Amman. Under the general supervision and control of the Ministry of Interior, the local units operated at the governorate (sing., Liwaa; pl., alwiyah), municipality, township and village (or town) levels. The East Bank was divided into the eight governorates of Amman, Al Balqa, Irbid, Az Zarqa, Al Mafraq, Al Karak, At Tafilah, and Maan. Each governorate was subdivided into districts (sing., qada) and subdistricts (sing., nahiya). The subdistricts comprised towns, villages, and rural areas. Each of the eight governorates was headed by an appointed commissioner. These commissioners were the principal agents of the king and supervised and coordinated the activities of various central government functions within their respective administrative divisions.

The basic administrative unit was the village or town. The towns and larger villages had municipal councils elected by popular vote. The normal practice was for the minister of municipal, rural, and environmental affairs to confirm as mayor the council member who received the highest number of votes in each municipal election. Smaller villages continued to be governed by traditional headmen known as mukhtars. The village and town authorities had limited responsibilities for administration of markets, law and order, sanitation, and other community activities.

The central government provided for local-level social services such as education, health, welfare, and public works. The multiplication and extension of government services during the 1970s and 1980s increased the influence of central authorities throughout the country. The elimination of tribal law in 1976 attested to the all-pervasiveness of central government penetration even in rural areas where tribal leaders traditionally had provided security and limited welfare services.




In 1989 the Jordanian political system continued to revolve around Hussein, who ruled firmly and tolerated no opposition. He had acceded to the throne in 1953, and the longevity of his tenure has been almost unparalleled in the contemporary Middle East. His reign, however, has been marked by numerous political crises: abortive coups, assassination attempts, and the disastrous consequences of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Undoubtedly the most serious threat to his rule was the civil war with the PLO guerrillas in 1970 and 1971. Hussein's ability to remain in power for nearly four decades can be attributed to his own political acumen and a fortuitous combination of domestic and external situations. Nevertheless, the continued absence of institutions through which citizens could participate in the political process raised questions about the ultimate stability of his regime.

<>The Political Elite
<>Political Dissent and Repression
<>The Palestinians and the PLO


Jordan - The Political Elite


In 1989 Hussein remained the single most important person in Jordan's politics. His political preeminence derived in part from his skill in dealing with various domestic and external problems. He has traveled frequently to keep in touch with cross sections of the population and to establish rapport with his troops, with university students, and with members of tribes. Hussein's personalized approach has tended to counterbalance the virtual lack of independent, institutionalized channels that could serve as barometers of popular sentiments and attitudes toward the government. Also, Hussein's frequent visits to foreign capitals have enabled him to keep abreast of external developments and to obtain needed financial and technical assistance for his kingdom. His ability to maintain generally cordial relations with foreign states has been a critical asset for Jordan, in view of the country's heavy dependence on external aid.

Hussein has relied upon various political options to consolidate his power. He has used his constitutional authority to appoint principal government officials as a critical lever with which to reward loyalty and performance, neutralize detractors, and weed out incompetent elements. The Hussein-centered power structure comprised the cabinet ministers, members of the royal family, the palace staff, senior army officers, tribal shaykhs, and ranking civil servants. King Hussein has filled most of the sensitive government posts with loyal Transjordanians. Since the early 1950s, he also has appointed to responsible positions Palestinians supportive of the Hashimites. Beginning in the 1970s, he permitted an increasing number of Palestinians from families not traditionally aligned with the Hashimites to be co-opted into government service.

The Hashimites, the royal family headed by Hussein, form an extended kinship group related through marriage to several prominent Transjordanian families. The Hashimite family traces its ancestry back to the family of the Prophet, and for centuries it had been politically prominent in what is now Saudi Arabia. Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi (1882-1951), a son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca (1851-1931), established the Jordanian branch of the family in 1921 after Britain had created the Mandate of Transjordan and confirmed him as amir. London also permitted Abdullah's younger brother, Faisal (1885-1933), to assume the kingship of Iraq, another future state set up after World War I as a British-administered mandate. Abdullah changed his title from amir to king in 1946, when Transjordan was granted independence. Following his assassination in 1951, Abdullah's son Talal (1909- 1972) ruled briefly.

Hussein was Talal's oldest son. Before succeeding his father as king in 1953, Hussein was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt and at Harrow School and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, both in Britain. In 1955, Hussein married his first wife, Dina Abdul Hamid al Aun, an Egyptian of Hashimite ancestry. They had one daughter before their marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Antoinette Gardiner of Britain, converted to Islam and took the name Muna al Hussein. She and Hussein had four children, two sons and twin daughters. Hussein divorced Princess Muna in 1973 and married his third wife, Palestinian Alia Tukan. Hussein and Queen Alia had one daughter and one son before her February 1977 death in a helicopter crash. In June 1978 Hussein married his fourth wife, Elizabeth Halaby, an American of Arab and Swiss descent. He proclaimed her Queen Nur al Hussein (light of Hussein). Hussein and Queen Nur have four children, two sons and two daughters. Throughout the 1980s, Queen Nur had a visible and active role promoting educational, cultural, social welfare, architectural, and urban planning projects in Jordan.

Hussein has two younger brothers and one sister. His brothers Muhammad and Hasan had significant political roles in 1989. The most important Hashimite after Hussein was Hasan, whom the king had designated as crown prince through royal decree in 1965. Muhammad was a businessman and was active politically behind the scenes. Families that were related to the Hashimites included the politically prominent Sharaf and Shakir families. Hussein's cousin, Sharif Abdul Hamid Sharaf, was a close political adviser throughout the 1970s and served briefly as prime minister before his death in 1980. Another member of the family, Layla Sharaf, was Jordan's first woman cabinet officer, serving as minister of culture and information in 1984-85. A third cousin, Field Marshal Ash Sharif Zaid ibn Shakir, was a longtime political confidant who served the king in many sensitive positions. In December 1988, Hussein appointed Shakir chief of the royal court and director of the secret police (Mukhabarat); beginning in late April 1989 he served for seven months as prime minister.

Hussein has been supported throughout his reign by the original Transjordanian population, particularly the beduin tribes who revered him as a descendant of the family of the Prophet Muhammad and as a ruler imbued with those qualities of leadership they valued most--courage, self-reliance, valor, and honesty. The beduin have formed a prominent segment within the army, especially among the senior ranks of the officer corps. Their loyalty helped Hussein survive a number of crises and thereby served as a stabilizing force within the country. Nevertheless, since the mid-1980s there has been evidence of erosion of beduin and Transjordanian support for Hussein's regime. Significantly, it was primarily East Bankers, rather than Palestinians, who participated in widespread antigovernment riots that swept several towns of Jordan in 1989.

Other politically influential individuals were affiliated with the old East Bank families. For example, Zaid ar Rifai, appointed prime minister in 1985, was the son of Samir ar Rifai, a politician who had served several terms as prime minister under the rule of Abdullah during the 1930s and 1940s and subsequently was a prime minister for Hussein. Many members of the Abdul Huda, Majali, Badran, Hashim, Tal, and Qassim families also served the Hashimites loyally.

Another element of the political elite were the non-Arab Circassians, the descendants of Muslim immigrants who came from the Caucasus Mountains in the late nineteenth century and settled in Amman and its environs. The Circassians allied with the Hashimites in the 1920s, and since that time leading Circassian politicians have held important and sensitive positions in the government and military. The Al Mufti family has been one of the most politically prominent Circassian families, and one of its members, Said al Mufti, served as prime minister.

In the 1980s, the influential scions of traditional and aristocratic Palestinian families known for their Hashimite sympathies were outnumbered by Transjordanians in almost all top government posts. The distinction between Transjordanians and Palestinians tended to be played down, however, because officially the Palestinians of the East Bank have been accepted as Jordanian citizens. Palestinians continued to hold an important place in society as leading merchants, financiers, professionals, educators, and technocrats.


Jordan - Political Dissent and Repression


All political parties were banned in 1957 and have been illegal since the establishment of martial law in 1967. In addition, Marxist-oriented parties were forbidden under the Anti-Communist Law of 1953. Evidence of illegal political activity is monitored by the Mukhabarat, or secret police. Persons suspected of engaging in political activities are arrested by the Mukhabarat and may be detained without charges for prolonged periods. In 1989 several Jordanian political parties existed in exile and were believed to have many secret sympathizers and underground cells operating in Jordan. These parties included the Arab Constitutionalist Party, the Communist Party of Jordan, the Palestine Communist Party, the Islamic Liberation Party, the National Jordanian Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Unionist Democratic Association. In addition, the various Palestinian guerrilla organizations clandestinely recruited in the refugee camps.

Up to mid-1989, observers concluded that the Mukhabarat continued to be generally effective in discouraging the expression of political dissent or political activities within Jordan. It remained unclear how extensive the political liberalization inaugurated in the summer of 1989 would become and what role the Mukhabarat would have. It was also uncertain how greater tolerance of dissident views would affect political groups outside the country. As late as 1988, several Jordanian and Palestinian political groups engaged in terrorism directed against Jordanian officials and government offices. The Black September group, formed by Palestinians to avenge the Jordanian army attack on Palestinian guerrilla bases in Jordan in September 1970, remained committed to the overthrow of the Hashimite monarchy. Throughout the 1980s, it claimed responsibility for assassinations of Jordanian diplomats in various cities of Asia and Western Europe; in 1988 it claimed responsibility for several bombings that took place in Amman.

Although the government did not officially permit the banned political parties to participate in the fall campaign for the November 1989 House of Representatives elections, it ignored the claims of many candidates that they actually represented such parties. The campaign for the eighty contested seats was relatively free of voter intimidation, with the Mukhabarat keeping an uncharacteristically low profile. A total of 647 candidates took part, including several former political prisoners who were released from detention in the summer. The Muslim Brotherhood supported twenty-six candidates, of whom twenty actually won seats. Candidates affiliated with other Islamist groups won an additional fourteen seats. Thus, Islamists emerged as the largest bloc in Parliament, controlling more than 42 percent of the seats. Candidates representing various secular parties opposed to the government won a total of ten seats. As a result, the House of Representatives convened with a majority of forty-four members upon whom the government could not count for support, thirty-three government supporters, and three seats to be determined.


Jordan - The Palestinians and the PLO


Palestinians have been a complicating factor in the Jordanian political process since the annexation of the West Bank in 1950. Transjordanians tended to fear that the numerically preponderant Palestinians could emerge as a dominant force if competitive politics were permitted to resume. For years many Palestinians openly opposed Hussein's monarchical absolutism and demanded equality and proportional participation in the political process. Their frustrations under Hussein's rule, at least through the 1960s and early 1970s, provided a fertile ground for their empathy and support for the PLO. Since 1971, when the PLO guerrilla forces were crushed and driven out of Jordan, Palestinians generally have been politically dormant. Given the authorities' effective discouragement of political expression critical of the regime, it was difficult in 1989 to ascertain what the political aspirations or preferences of the Palestinians in Jordan might be.

The Palestinian equation became further complicated after October 1974 as external pressures were brought to bear on Jordan. The catalyst was the unanimous decision of the Arab states meeting in Rabat to recognize the PLO as the sole authorized representative of the Palestinian people. Strongly prodded by Egypt, Syria, and other Arab states, Hussein was obliged to assent to the Rabat decision although he still claimed the West Bank as Jordanian territory until 1988. This development has portended uncertain implications for Jordan's domestic politics and its relationship with the West Bank.

Following the Rabat Summit, Hussein and PLO leader Yasir Arafat met to reconcile relations, strained since the 1970-71 civil war. Their discussions resulted in the decision in early 1975 for Jordan and the PLO to cease mutual recriminations. Hussein rejected, however, a PLO demand that it be permitted to reestablish its military and political presence in the East Bank. After 1974 there was a noticeable resurgence of Palestinian empathy for and identification with the PLO in many parts of the world. This sentiment was nowhere more evident than in the West Bank. There, in the municipal elections that Israel permitted to be held in April 1976, candidates supporting the PLO defeated most of the candidates identified with Hussein. The outcome was a reversal of the municipal elections held in 1972, when pro-Hussein candidates handily won over pro-PLO candidates.

The process of reconciliation also was complicated by the linkage of the Jordanian-PLO equation to the broader configuration of Middle East problems. In March 1977, Hussein and Arafat met in Cairo as part of the Egyptian-Syrian efforts to prepare for an upcoming Geneva peace conference on the Middle East. The two leaders addressed, inter alia, the question of future relations between Jordan and a proposed Palestinian state on the West Bank. Their discussions focused on whether the PLO should be represented as an independent delegation at the conference in Geneva or as part of Jordan's delegation. The latter course was preferred by Hussein.

The Hussein-Arafat contact became more frequent in the wake of Egyptian president Anwar as Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 and his signing of the United States-mediated Camp David Accords in 1978 and the Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel in 1979. Nevertheless, Arafat and other PLO leaders were suspicious of Hussein's ultimate intentions vis--vis the Camp David Accords. Although Jordan had no part in the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations, it was directly linked to the process for settling the future of the West Bank. The first agreement, called "A Framework for Peace in the Middle East," stipulated that Egypt and Israel would negotiate with Jordan and Palestinian representatives for a transitional self-governing authority to administer the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a noncontiguous Palestinian enclave on the Mediterranean Sea that also was occupied by Israel. Jordan declared it was neither legally nor morally obligated to this agreement and refused to participate in the negotiations, which consequently made no progress. Hussein's decision to maintain a dialogue with the United States, however, fueled the fears of some Palestinians that the monarch tacitly supported the Camp David Accords and was seeking ways to preclude the PLO from gaining control of the West Bank.

The expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon in the wake of Israel's 1982 invasion of that country brought the contradictory Jordanian and PLO objectives into open conflict. Initially, relations improved because Hussein agreed to accept a small contingent of expelled fighters and to permit the reopening of PLO political offices for the first time since the 1970-71 civil war. In several face-to-face meetings held between September 1982 and April 1983, Hussein and Arafat discussed Jordan's role in future negotiations over the fate of the West Bank. Because neither the United States nor Israel was willing to talk with the PLO at this time, Hussein tried to obtain Arafat's endorsement for Jordan to serve as spokesman for the Palestinians. More extreme Palestinian guerrilla leaders--often called "rejectionists" because they rejected any compromises that would circumscribe their goal of an independent Palestinian state that included all of pre-1948 Palestine-- distrusted Hussein and would not be assuaged by Arafat's reassurances. Without a broad-based consensus within the PLO, Arafat apparently felt he could not agree to a common negotiating strategy with Hussein. Consequently, Hussein broke off the talks in April 1983; for the remainder of the year, Jordan's relations with the PLO were strained.

Violent factional feuding engulfed the PLO beginning in May 1983, inducing the moderate elements (who generally coalesced around Arafat) to revive contacts with Hussein. By this time, Jordan had decided to assert its influence in the West Bank more aggressively, albeit within the limits tolerated by the Israeli occupation authorities. The National Assembly, dissolved following the Rabat decision in 1974, was recalled in January 1984 and deputies were appointed to fill vacant West Bank seats in the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, Hussein seemed to welcome the rapprochement with the moderate faction of the PLO and gave his blessing to the holding of a Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in Amman in November 1984. The PNC meeting was an historic event that was broadcast on Jordanian television and picked up by viewers in the West Bank. The meeting strengthened Arafat's authority as leader of the PLO and enabled him to negotiate with Hussein without fear of the inevitable recriminations from extremist factions who had boycotted the Amman meeting.

Hussein and Arafat continued to cooperate after the PNC meeting, both leaders speaking of the need for Jordan and a Palestinian state to maintain a special relationship. In February 1985, they announced a joint Jordanian-Palestinian agreement on a peace framework. This agreement called for the convening of an international peace conference whose participants would include the five permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although the PLO would represent Palestinians, its PLO delegates would not attend the conference separately but rather as part of a joint Jordanian- Palestinian contingent. The agreement stipulated that the Palestinian people would have the right to exercise national self- determination within the context of a proposed confederated state of Jordanians and Palestinians.

Following his agreement with Arafat, Hussein pursued two policies simultaneously. While trying to serve as a spokesman for the Palestinians in talks with the United States, and eventually even with Israeli politicians, Hussein also tried to persuade Arafat to make a public declaration of PLO support for UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, both of which implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist. Arafat, who still felt he had to be wary of the influence of the more extreme factions in the PLO, was unwilling to be pushed as far toward moderation as Hussein had hoped. The extremist guerrilla groups criticized Arafat for the agreement, claiming that it would deny Palestinians the right to establish a sovereign state within the pre-1948 boundaries of Palestine. Some of the extremists demonstrated their potential for undermining any possible compromise solutions by carrying out sensational terrorist acts in September and October of 1985. The international response to these incidents, especially the Israeli aerial bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunisia, increased Arafat's reluctance to make the political concessions that Hussein believed were required to obtain United States support for an international conference.

Hussein's disappointment in Arafat contributed to an erosion of their political relationship. In February 1986, Hussein announced that he was terminating the year-old Jordan-PLO agreement. Tensions with the PLO were exacerbated in May by the student demonstrations at Yarmuk University in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid. In July Hussein ordered the offices of Arafat's Al Fatah organization closed following criticisms of the harsh manner in which Jordanian security forces had put down the Yarmuk demonstrations.

During 1986 both Hussein and Arafat intensified their competition for influence in the West Bank. The king appeared to have the upper hand in this contest because Jordan's banking system controlled the disbursement of pan-Arab funds earmarked for West Bank (and also Gaza Strip) development projects. However, the Palestinian uprising, the intifadah, which began in December 1987, exposed the fragility of Hussein's influence in the occupied territories. It became obvious during the first half of 1988 that, compared with the PLO, pro-Hashimite sympathizers had little support. Hussein decided that political circumstances required a bold move that would preserve Jordan's interests. Thus, in July he renounced all claims to sovereignty over the West Bank. By doing so, Hussein apparently hoped to enhance the Jordanian position in a post-intifadah era. If the PLO succeeded in consolidating its influence in the occupied territories and in winning international support for its claim to rule the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, then Hussein's abdication of responsibility would stand Jordan in good stead. It would enable Jordan to forge political and economic links with a new state, which, because of its small area and lack of natural resources, would be dependent in various ways on its only neighbor to the east. If the PLO failed to deliver on the political aspirations being expressed by the intifadah, then Hussein would be ready to offer Jordan's services as negotiator in terminating the Israeli occupation.

The PLO accepted Hussein's challenge. Arafat met with the king during the late summer and early fall to discuss strategy. Among the practical measures agreed to was a scheme for the PLO to assume responsibility for payment of the salaries of West Bank and Gaza Strip municipal employees through Jordanian financial institutions. Subsequently, at an historic PNC meeting in Algiers in November 1988 at which all major factions were represented, the PNC declared the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be the independent state of Palestine. The PNC also renounced the use of terrorism, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 (both of which recognized the existence of Israel), and declared its willingness to negotiate the end of the occupation. Jordan was one of the first nations to recognize the new state and announced its readiness to discuss how the two countries could maintain a special relationship.

In 1989 the PLO remained essentially an umbrella organization of numerous civilian and military groups. It was originally founded in 1964 as a political organization to represent the interests of Palestinians. The various Palestinian guerrilla groups were formed independently of the PLO, and they initially were critical of the PLO's objectives and policies. In 1968-69, however, most of the guerrilla groups joined the PLO, and their leaders assumed dominant roles in the organization. Although the PLO has greatly expanded its various service functions in the cultural, diplomatic, economic, educational, health, humanitarian, political, social, and welfare fields since 1969, for most Western observers these functions have been overshadowed by the military and terrorist activities associated with the guerrilla groups.

The PLO guerrilla groups recruited most of their fighters from the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Although some of these camps were established as early as 1948 and all have long since been transformed into permanent villages or urban neighborhoods, high levels of poverty and unemployment remain dominant characteristics. Many young men raised in these camps found the guerrillas' idealization of Palestinian nationalism and politico-military organization appealing alternatives to the despair fostered by routine idleness and lack of opportunity. Joining one of the guerrilla groups enabled such men to assert their identity and channel their energies. Although the various guerrilla organizations differed in temperament, ideology, and tactics, they all shared the objective of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

The oldest, largest, and best equipped of the PLO guerrilla groups was Al Fatah--the Palestine National Liberation Movement as the group was officially known. Arafat (also called Abu Ammar) has led Al Fatah since its formation in 1957. Since 1969, Arafat has also been chairman of the PNC's fifteen-member Executive Committee- -and hence the dominant figure of the PLO leadership. For more than thirty years, Al Fatah has been a coalition of moderate, conservative, and radical nationalists who accepted the tactical necessity of cooperating with Arab governments, including those they regarded as reactionary, to help achieve their goals. Predominantly Muslim in membership, Al Fatah generally has eschewed commitment to radical ideologies such as Islamic revolution or Marxism and refrained from interference in the internal affairs of Arab states.

The progressive moderation of Al Fatah's goals after 1973 led to major splits within the organization. The original objective to liberate all of pre-1948 Palestine was replaced in 1974 with the aim of establishing a transitional state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sabri Khalil al Banna, known by his code name of Abu Nidal, vehemently opposed this change. Abu Nidal and a small group of his supporters defected from Al Fatah and formed the Al Fatah Revolutionary Council. A more serious split occurred in 1983 when Said Musa Muragha (also known as Abu Musa) organized Al Fatah fighters in Lebanon who feared Arafat's reconciliation with Egypt would lead eventually to recognition of Israel. The supporters of Arafat and Abu Musa fought each other for control of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon during 1983 and 1984, with heavy casualties on both sides. The anti-Arafat forces received support from Syria that helped them expel Arafat loyalists from camps in areas occupied by the Syrian army. Abu Musa and the Al Fatah dissidents eventually formed a new group called Al Fatah Uprising.

From a tactical and ideological standpoint, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was the principal counterpoint to Al Fatah. George Habash and Ahmad Jibril founded the PFLP after the June 1967 War. The PFLP was a consciously Marxist-Leninist organization. It defined as enemies not just Israel and Zionism, but also imperialism and the Arab regimes that cooperated with the United States, the country it proclaimed to be the main imperialist power. It called such Arab regimes reactionary, advocated their overthrow, and the establishment of progressive, democratic, and secular governments in all Arab states, including Palestine. Habash and the other PFLP leaders soon were divided, however, on the issue of whether armed struggle or political considerations should take precedence in achieving their objectives. Jibril broke with Habash in 1968 and formed a rival organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command (PFLP-GC), which placed primary emphasis on armed struggle. The following year Nayif Hawatmah, who was an East Bank Jordanian, also split from the PFLP and organized the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Hawatmah's DFLP tended to stress exploring political options before resorting to armed struggle.

The PFLP, PFLP-GC, and DFLP held attitudes toward reactionary Arab regimes that precluded cooperation with Hussein, whose government they regarded as a prime candidate for revolutionary overthrow. Their openly professed ideology and maintenance of armed bases within Jordan's Palestinian refugee camps were major factors in precipitating the 1970 conflict between the guerrillas and the Jordanian army. After the guerrillas were suppressed, Habash, Hawatmah, and Jibril remained hostile and unforgiving toward Hussein. When Arafat began the process of reconciliation with Hussein in 1973, they opposed any PLO ties or even dialogue with Jordan and publicly called for Hussein's overthrow. Habash and Jibril were the principal organizers in 1974 of the rejectionist front of guerrilla groups, which refused to accept the PLO decision to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The rejectionists were those groups that rejected any negotiations or compromises with Israel and insisted on using armed struggle to liberate all of historic Palestine. In 1983 Jibril supported Abu Musa and the Al Fatah dissidents, joining with them to form the National Alliance, which opposed any diplomatic initiatives or cooperation with Hussein.

In addition to Al Fatah and the Marxist groups, several smaller guerrilla organizations were active in 1989. The most important of these were As Saiqa, the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), the Popular Struggle Front (PSF), and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF). As Saiqa was formed in 1968 in Damascus and has continued to be politically and financially dependent upon Syria. Palestinians who lived outside of Syria generally perceived As Saiqa as a tool of the Syrian government. As Saiqa's counterpart was the ALF, formed in Baghdad in 1969. In the 1970s, the ALF supported the rejectionist front, as did Iraq. In the 1980s, however, the ALF aligned itself with Arafat's Al Fatah, a position consistent with that of Iraq. The PSF has consistently advocated armed struggle since it was founded in 1967. Prior to 1980, the PSF was supported by Iraq, but since 1980 Syria has been its principal backer. The PLF was formed in 1977 as a result of a split within the PFLP-GC. Originally part of the rejectionist front, since 1983 it has been one of the groups trying to effect a reconciliation between Arafat and Abu Musa.

The PLO's organizational equivalent to a parliament was the Palestine National Council (PNC), in 1989 based in Algiers. The PNC's 301 deputies represented the Palestinian diaspora. Included among them were representatives of the Palestinian parties (the political wings of the various guerrilla groups); the six guerrilla groups which accept the policies of the PLO (Al Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, ALF, PLF, and the Palestine Communist Party); student and educational groups; youth and women's groups; professional associations; labor unions; and the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In addition, the Palestinian communities in various Arab and non- Arab countries were represented.

The PNC was supposed to meet once a year, but political complications often forced the postponement of annual gatherings. The factional strife that plagued the PLO following the sixteenth PNC conclave in February 1983 prevented convening a full session for four years. Although a PNC meeting was held in Amman in November 1984, its legitimacy was questioned because several of the guerrilla leaders, including Habash of the PFLP and Hawatmah of the DFLP, refused to attend. The eighteenth PNC, which met in Algiers in April 1987, represented the first effort to heal the rift in the PLO and achieve a consensus on policy. Although the PFLP-GC, As Saiqa, the PSF, and the Abu Musa faction did not participate, the PFLP, DFLP, and the Palestine Communist Party--the three guerrilla groups that, like Al Fatah, had a reputation for independence of Arab governments--did attend and agreed to accept PNC decisions. Abu Nidal also attended the eighteenth PNC. However, the other leaders voted not to grant his group representation on the PNC because they believed his reputation as a notorious terrorist would tarnish the PLO's image at a time when the organization was seeking diplomatic support for an international peace conference.

The 1987 PNC meeting adopted several significant resolutions pertaining to the PLO's conflict with Israel. It voted to endorse an international peace conference on the basis of UN General Assembly resolutions that recognized the PLO and the right of the Palestinians to self-determination; it called for PLO participation in such a conference as a full partner, and not as part of a Jordanian delegation; it abrogated the PLO-Jordan accord of 1985, but also advocated maintaining "special" ties between Jordanians and Palestinians; and it authorized the PLO to develop relations with groups in Israel that supported Palestinian self- determination. These decisions were a prelude to the even more significant resolutions that were passed at the historic nineteenth PNC meeting in Algiers in November 1988.

Between PNC congresses, the Palestine Central Committee (PCC), created in 1973, set policies and carried out specific programs and actions undertaken by the PLO's cabinet, the fifteen-member Executive Committee. The PCC's actual function, however, was limited to a consultative role; its sixty members, appointed by the PNC based on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, included representatives from the Executive Committee and the major guerrilla groups. The PNC's speaker or chairman presided over PCC meetings. The legislative and executive functions of these top PLO bodies were in accordance with the principles and policies contained in three key documents: the Palestinian National Charter; the Fifteen-Point Political Program; and the National Unity Program.

Although the PNC was officially described as the highest policymaking body and supreme organ of the PLO, the real center of power was the fifteen-member Executive Committee. The committee's members were elected by and collectively responsible to the PNC. The manner of their election ensured representation of the major guerrilla and political groups on the committee. Arafat was re- elected chairman of the Executive Committee in 1988, a position he has held since 1969. Al Fatah had three seats on the committee; in addition, Arafat generally obtained the support of the seven "independents," the committee members who were not affiliated with any of the guerrilla groups.

The administration of the PLO was grouped under nine main functions that were carried out in different countries depending on local Palestinian needs. These were supported by funds collected and distributed by the PLO's treasury and financial arm, the Palestine National Fund. The fund obtained its revenues from payments made by Arab governments in accordance with agreements made at the summit level (i.e., the Baghdad Summit of 1978); from voluntary contributions by Palestinians; from the 3 to 6 percent income tax levied by some Arab states on the salaries of resident Palestinian workers; and from loans and grants by Arab as well as non-Arab countries. Iraq and Syria provided financial aid directly to particular guerrilla groups despite persistent efforts by the PLO to terminate this practice and to centralize fund-raising and fund-distributing procedures.

In 1989 the PLO maintained "diplomatic" missions in more than 120 countries that recognized it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Although the PLO had not proclaimed a government-in-exile for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, more than twenty-five countries recognized it as the de jure government of the independent state of Palestine, declared at the 1988 PNC meeting in Algiers. The PLO has maintained a mission at UN headquarters in New York since being granted observer status in 1974. The PLO also operated numerous "information offices" in the major cities of the world. In 1988 the United States government ordered the closure of PLO's information office in Washington.

The PLO's nearest equivalent to a Red Cross Society was called the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). The PRCS supported hospitals and clinics for Palestinians in Arab countries as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the PRCS operated ten major hospitals and eleven clinics in that country. These facilities provided a broad- range of medical services to Palestinian refugees at no cost or for nominal fees. The hospitals and clinics were severely damaged during the occupation of south Lebanon and the siege of Beirut. Since 1983, the periodic fighting in Lebanon has seriously impeded the PRCS's efforts to reconstruct medical centers and provide health services.

The PLO also sponsored numerous educational and cultural projects and operated an economic enterprise called the Palestine Martyrs' Works Society, better known by its Arab acronym SAMED, which ran small factories. SAMED's workshops produced such items as blankets, tents, uniforms, civilian clothes, shoes, handicrafts, furniture, and toys. SAMED was originally established in 1970 to provide vocational training for the children of Palestinian men and women killed in service to the Palestinian national cause. After 1976 SAMED decided to accept any Palestinian needing employment if work were available. Most SAMED workshops were in the refugee camps in northern Lebanon and thus were not affected by the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 1982. SAMED workshops and activities were disrupted, however, during the 1983-84 fighting between Arafat loyalists and dissidents in Palestinian camps in northern Lebanon.

The military function of the PLO was under the supreme command of the chairman of the Executive Committee. The PLO's regular military arm was called the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA). Its units were stationed in various Arab countries where they coordinated their activities with those of Arab armies. The coordination was centrally handled by the Palestinian Armed Struggle Command, which also was responsible for law and order among Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.




Jordan's foreign policy has been a function mainly of its response to developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its generally moderate and carefully measured response has been based on its appraisal that effective Arab unity is a precondition for substantive peace negotiations with Israel. The persistence of intra-Arab differences over the form and substance of pan-Arab cooperation has constrained Jordan to steer a flexible and prudent course. In addition, the scarcity of domestic resources and the consequent heavy dependence on outside powers for economic and military support have contributed to Jordan's caution in foreign policy. Moreover, the PLO's enhanced stature since the mid-1970s as a key factor in the processes of Middle East reconciliation and peace has been a further compelling reason for Jordan's generally pragmatic responses to an uncertain foreign policy milieu.

<>Relations with Israel
<>Relations with the Arab States
<>Relations with the United States


Jordan - Relations with Israel


In 1989 Jordan still refrained from establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. The absence of formal relations notwithstanding, the two countries had cooperated directly or indirectly since 1967 in a multiplicity of matters pertaining to the West Bank, the Israeli-occupied territory whose Palestinian population retained Jordanian citizenship until 1988. Hussein's aim was to maintain influence and eventually regain control of the West Bank, a goal that had not been realized by 1988, when he renounced Jordan's claim to sovereignty of the area. Hussein's ambitions were frustrated by Israel's unwillingness to negotiate seriously any withdrawal from the West Bank and by the increasing popularity of the PLO. As early as 1974, Israel's refusal to consider a United States-mediated disengagement agreement with Jordan, similar to the ones that had then been concluded with Egypt and Syria, weakened Hussein's image as a leader who could recover occupied Arab land. Israel's refusal also helped to strengthen pan-Arab support for the PLO's claim to represent West Bank Palestinians. Later that year, Arab heads of state meeting in a summit conference in Rabat, Morocco, agreed to recognize the PLO's right to establish an independent state in the West Bank once the latter was liberated from Israel.

Although Hussein paid lip service to the 1974 Rabat decision, he continued to hope Jordan would recover the West Bank. His hopes were nurtured by Israel's refusal to deal with the PLO. To maximize Jordan's political leverage from the new situation, Hussein pursued simultaneously a highly visible policy of reconciliation with the PLO and a less perceptible policy of cultivating pro-Hashimite politicians in the West Bank. The measures intended to preserve Jordan's traditional links to the West Bank actually were undertaken with the tacit approval of Israel. These measures included authorizing the continuation of the long-standing economic and family ties between the East and West banks under the "open bridges" policy; continuing payment (until 1988) of salaries to Palestinian officials on the government payroll before and since 1967; strengthening economic links by increased imports from the West Bank and by continued extension of development grants and loans to Palestinian firms in the West Bank; and providing government guarantees for private Jordanian loans to West Bank municipalities.

After 1977, when Egypt's President Anwar as Sadat initiated direct negotiations with Israel that led to a separate peace agreement (and Egypt's temporary ostracism from the Arab world), Hussein was unwilling to follow Sadat's lead without prior pan-Arab acquiescence. Hussein apparently believed that in the absence of broad Arab support to legitimize any political talks with Israel, his own rule in the East Bank could be threatened. Consequently, he refused to participate in the Camp David process and was skeptical of President Reagan's 1982 proposal for a West Bank "entity" in association with Jordan. Israel's rejection of the Reagan Plan provided Hussein the boon of not needing to respond to an initiative that the Palestinians claimed would deny them genuine self-determination. Two years later, when Shimon Peres became prime minister of Israel, in September 1984, he offered to negotiate directly with Jordan without the participation of the PLO. Hussein decided the state of pan-Arab politics precluded his consideration of a "Jordanian option" at that time. Instead, he called for an international peace conference that would include a joint JordanPLO delegation. Hussein perceived an international forum that brought together both the United States and the Soviet Union as well as the principal Arab states and Israel as a protective umbrella under which he could enter into negotiations with the Israelis.

Peres, whose Labor Party was willing to consider Israeli withdrawal from at least part of the West Bank, endorsed Hussein's idea of an international peace conference in an October 1985 speech before the United Nations. Subsequently, he initiated secret meetings with Hussein to discuss procedures for convening such a conference and ways to finesse the issue of PLO participation. Peres opposed the presence of the PLO at a possible conference, but did not object to non-PLO representatives of Palestinians attending. Hussein was not able to obtain firm Israeli commitments, however, because Peres's coalition partner, Likud Bloc leader Yitzhak Shamir, opposed the convening of an international conference and prevented the government from achieving consensus on the issue. After Shamir became prime minister in late 1986, Peres, as foreign minister, continued his diplomatic efforts on behalf of an international conference. Peres had at least one publicized meeting with Hussein in London, but he lacked support from his own government. Hussein, who believed that Peres was interested in substantive negotiations over the West Bank while Shamir was not, took the unprecedented step during the Israeli elections of 1988 of announcing that a Labor Party victory would be better for the peace process.


Jordan - Relations with the Arab States


In 1989 Jordan maintained relatively cordial relations with most other Arab states. Jordan's closest ties were with Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. King Hussein made frequent trips to these countries to confer with their leaders on regional and international strategy. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Arab oilproducers provided Jordan with financial aid in accordance with guidelines originally agreed on at the November 1978 Baghdad Summit. The total amount of these grants had declined dramatically by 1984 because of the budgetary problems that depressed oil prices caused in petroleum-producing countries. Nonetheless, they remained an important source of total government revenue for Jordan.

Jordan's close relations with Iraq developed as a result of Hussein's strong support for President Saddam Husayn during the latter's eight-year war with Iran (1980-88). The monarch's ardent backing of Saddam was attributable at least in part to his fears that a collapse of the Iraqi regime could result in Jordan's eastern neighbor being ruled by a radicalized Shia religious government allied to Iran. The relationship also benefited Jordan in various ways. For example, Jordan's only port, Al Aqabah, served throughout the war as a major transshipment center for Iraqi imports. Goods off-loaded at Al Aqabah were trucked overland to Iraq by Jordanian transportation companies, in the process generating local employment, handling fees, and profitable business. Jordan also exported a variety of light consumer goods to Iraq, although the value and volume of this trade fluctuated in accordance with Iraqi foreign exchange problems. Both during and after the war, Iraq, whose army used primarily Soviet-made equipment, periodically gave to Jordan United States- and Britishmade military hardware captured from Iran, including at least sixty United States-manufactured M-47 tanks.

In 1984 Jordan became the first Arab state to reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt. Hussein had begun advocating Egypt's reintegration into the Arab community of nations as early as 1981. The king perceived Egypt as an effective bulwark against the spread of radical Islamic political movements that he believed were being engendered by the Iran-Iraq War. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the expulsion of the PLO from that country, unofficial consultations with Egypt on regional security issues became routine. PLO chief Arafat's trip to Egypt in December 1983--the first by an Arab leader since the Baghdad Summit of November 1978--paved the way for Jordan's resumption of official relations without fear of being branded a traitor to Arab nationalism.

Following the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, Jordan and Egypt became extremely close allies. Hussein frequently praised Egyptian president Husni Mubarak as one of the Arab world's great leaders. Mubarak supported Hussein's pro-Iraq policy, his efforts to involve moderate Palestinians in the peace process, and his call for an international peace conference. Hussein and Arafat met several times on "neutral" Egyptian territory; when their personal relations were tense, such as in 1986-87, Mubarak mediated and kept them on civil terms. Hussein reciprocated Mubarak's diplomatic support by trying to persuade other Arab heads of state that Egypt should be readmitted to the League of Arab States (Arab League). In February 1989 Egypt and Jordan joined with Iraq and the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) to form a new Arab Cooperation Council, a regional organization modeled after the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jordan's relations with Syria were correct in 1989, although there had been considerable strain between them during most of the previous two decades. In September 1970, a Syrian military unit had crossed into Jordan to aid the Palestinian guerrillas who were fighting the Jordanian army. The Syrian force was repulsed, but relations remained tense and were severed in July 1971. Relations with Syria improved briefly following the October 1973 War, but deteriorated again by the late 1970s. Syria apparently feared Hussein's close ties with Washington would involve Jordan in the Camp David process. When religiously inspired disturbances broke out in Aleppo and other Syrian cities during the winter of 1979-80, the government immediately suspected--and accused--Jordan of complicity. In addition, Syria had a bitter rivalry with Iraq. Damascus perceived Amman's support of Iraq in that country's war with Iran (initiated by an Iraqi invasion of Iran in September 1980) as confirmation of conspiracy theories about Baghdad trying to encircle Syria. By the end of 1980, relations between Jordan and Syria had deteriorated to such an extent that military clashes appeared possible along the common border where both countries had massed troops. The escalating tension eventually was defused by Saudi Arabian diplomatic intervention, although relations remained strained.

Jordan broke diplomatic relations with Syria in 1981, charging Damascus with plotting to assassinate its prime minister and kidnapping its ambassador to Lebanon. For the next five years, the two neighbors were estranged. Amman accused Syria of assisting radical Palestinian groups who carried out several political killings of Jordanian diplomats in Europe and the Middle East. Tentative efforts to improve relations in 1983-84 were aborted by Syrian denunciation of Jordan's resumption of relations with Egypt. Finally, in the fall and winter of 1985-86, Saudi Arabia mediated reconciliation talks that led to a restoration of diplomatic ties. In May 1986, the Jordanian prime minister became the first highranking official from Amman to visit Syria since 1977. Relations between Jordan and Syria gradually improved since then.

Jordan maintained cordial relations with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf in 1989. These countries--Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates--were collectively Jordan's most important source of foreign financial aid. The level of their assistance, especially that from Kuwait, has fallen, however, since 1981. Thousands of Jordanians and Palestinians holding Jordanian passports continued to work in the Persian Gulf in business, government, education, and engineering. The remittances they sent to their families in Jordan, especially those living in the refugee camps, represented a significant proportion of Jordan's foreign exchange earnings. The Persian Gulf countries also were markets for Jordanian agricultural and consumer exports.

Jordan's relations with the other Arab states--excepting Libya- -were generally good in 1989. Tensions existed over economic policy between Jordan and Morocco, however, as both countries exported phosphates. The amount of Jordan's reserves of these minerals and the value of its exports were significantly less than those of Morocco, a major international producer. Jordan, which traditionally exported its phosphates to Southeast Asia, complained that Morocco had stolen its Asian markets between 1985 and 1987 by deliberately selling its phosphates at prices lower than it cost Jordan to mine and transport the minerals.

Jordan had a history of tense relations with Libya, deriving from Libyan support since 1970 for Palestinian guerrilla groups opposed to Hussein. The most serious incident between the two countries occurred in February 1984, when the Jordanian embassy in Tripoli was destroyed during demonstrations organized by the Libyan government to protest Hussein's support of Arafat and his call for reconciliation with Egypt. Jordan broke diplomatic relations following this episode. In 1988 Jordan received a Libyan delegation sent to Amman to discuss normalizing relations between the two countries.


Jordan - Relations with the United States


Although Amman established diplomatic relations with Washington in 1949, the United States did not become actively involved in Jordan until 1957, when it replaced Britain as the Hashimite Kingdom's principal Western source of foreign aid and political support. Jordan and the United States never entered into treaty commitments, but Washington's policy was to ensure Jordan's continued independence and stability. Thus, the United States assisted Jordan in equipping and training its military forces. During the civil war of 1970-71, the United States firmly supported Hussein, although it did not become directly involved in the conflict. After Jordan's army had defeated the PLO guerrillas, Washington extended substantial budgetary and military aid to the Hashimite Kingdom. This aid contributed significantly toward Jordanian recovery from the damages suffered not only in the civil war but also in the June 1967 War and during the intensive Israeli shelling of the Jordan valley between 1968 and 1970. Hussein's close alignment with the United States before and after the civil war predictably aroused strong anti-American sentiment among Palestinians in Jordan and elsewhere.

The October 1973 War, in which Jordan was not a direct participant, brought Jordan and the United States much closer in the peace process that began after the conflict. Jordan joined with the United States in support of UN Security Council Resolution 338. This resolution called on the parties involved in the October 1973 War to cease their hostilities and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 providing for a peace based on Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. Hussein hoped to obtain American backing for a return of the West Bank to Jordanian control. His expectations were buoyed by Washington's success in negotiating disengagement and limited withdrawal of forces agreements between Egypt and Israel and Syria and Israel.

The failure of the United States during 1974 to persuade Israel to pull back its forces from part of the West Bank as an initial step toward a peace agreement with Jordan disillusioned Hussein with respect to the ability of the Americans to pressure Israel on the issue of withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories. Although he continued to value Washington's reaffirmations of support for Jordan's security and economic progress, Hussein became increasingly skeptical of American assurances that the West Bank would be reunited with the East Bank. Consequently, he refrained from participation in the Camp David process, which he was convinced would be used by Israel to perpetuate its control of the West Bank. After Egyptian and Israeli negotiations on the autonomy plan had stalled, Hussein tried to rekindle United States interest in an international conference to deal with territory for the Palestinians.

Throughout the 1980s, the United States continued to assign Jordan a key role in a resolution of the status of the West Bank. Hussein believed, however, that Washington did not understand how essential it was for the stability of his regime to regain full control over all of the West Bank and how politically dangerous it would be for him to agree to any partial measures. For example, Hussein did not publicly criticize President Reagan's September 1982 proposal for Middle East peace: but since this plan restricted self-determination for Palestinians on the West Bank to an "autonomous authority" in association with Jordan, he regarded American expectation of his endorsement as unrealistic. Hussein accepted that political developments since 1974 made it impossible to ignore the PLO in any peace negotiations. Thus, one of his policy aims vis--vis the United States became to convince Washington to deal--at least unofficially--with the PLO. From the end of 1982 until the end of 1988, Hussein served as an intermediary between the United States and the PLO, attempting to get both parties to make the kind of political concessions that were necessary before a dialogue could be initiated.

During the early 1980s, Hussein seriously considered expanding Jordan's military relations with the United States. He gave tentative approval for the creation of an unpublicized 8,000-strong Jordanian strike force that would respond to requests for assistance from Arab countries within a 2,400-kilometer radius of Jordan. The intended target of this special force was to be the Persian Gulf, where the traditional allies of both Jordan and the United States feared the potentially destabilizing consequences of the Iran-Iraq War. The United States agreed to provide the special Jordanian unit with weapons and other military equipment. In an apparent effort to obtain approval of the United States Congress for the extra funding needed to arm the strike force, in early 1984 the Reagan administration disclosed its formation. This unexpected disclosure caused consternation in Amman, and news of the Jordanian strike force provoked harsh criticism from Syria and from Palestinian guerrilla groups opposed to Hussein. In order to minimize negative repercussions, Hussein tried to distance his country from the strike force by portraying it as a United States initiative in which Jordan had no real interest or substantive involvement. Congress did not approve the requested funds, and the plan was subsequently abandoned.

Hussein's disappointment with American policy increased when Congress later refused to authorize selling weapons to Jordan and voted to reduce the amount of aid the administration requested as punishment for its perception that Amman had failed to cooperate with Israel. Hussein resented these measures because he believed he had exerted great efforts in persuading Palestinian and other Arab leaders to adopt more moderate and flexible positions and had himself agreed to several private meetings with Peres. In 1989 Jordan's relations with the United States remained friendly and cooperative in economic and military matters but were clouded by Hussein's lack of confidence in Washington's policy toward Israel and the occupied territories.


Jordan - MEDIA


In 1989 Jordan had four daily newspapers, all published in Amman. One, The Jordan Times, was printed in English. The three Arabic dailies were Sawt ash Shab (Voice of the People), Ar Rai (Opinion), and Ad Dustur (The Constitution). The press was mostly privately owned and subject to censorship. The Arabic-language papers had been suspended at various times throughout the 1980s for publishing articles that the government considered objectionable. In 1988 the government ordered the dissolution of the board of directors of all three Arabic papers. The Ministry of Culture and Information was responsible for most press censorship on a daily basis and frequently provided editors with guidance on how to report on sensitive foreign policy and security matters. In practice, editors generally exercised self-censorship to minimize conflicts with the authorities.

The government also tried to control individual journalists by rewarding those deemed cooperative and by punishing those whose stories it considered critical. The most common punishment was the withdrawal of government-issued press credentials, which all writers were required to have in order to work for a newspaper or news agency. This procedure was used to prevent several journalists (including a principal writer for The Jordan Times) from publishing during 1987 and 1988. Journalists also have been subjected to house arrest. In June 1987, the government dissolved the Writers' Association, a professional organization of journalists, charging that it had become a political group and had contacts with illegal parties. The Ministry of Culture and Information subsequently sponsored an official union, the Journalists' Association, and required all writers to join it.

The government attempted to discourage the Arabic press of East Jerusalem from publishing critical stories, especially about Hussein's relations with the PLO, by such means as banning single issues of papers and magazines, refusing to renew the passports of West Bank journalists, and sending messages through discreet channels that certain writers or editors would be arrested if they entered Jordan. Foreign publications and journalists also were banned when their articles criticized Jordan. In 1986 Western correspondents expressed concern about the government's interference with press freedom during and after the disturbances at Yarmuk University. In 1988 the government expelled an American correspondent for National Broadcasting Company (NBC) because he had reported on political repression in Jordan.

The government operated an official news agency known as PETRA. Several international news services maintained offices in Amman, including Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, and TASS. Radio and television broadcasting were controlled by the government. Jordan Radio and Television had twenty hours of Arabic radio programs daily, and fifteen hours in English. There were an estimated 550,000 privately owned radio receivers in 1985, the latest year for which statistics were available. Jordan Radio and Television also broadcast ninety hours weekly of television programs in Arabic and English. In 1985 there were an estimated 280,000 television sets in the country. Both radio and television accepted advertisements.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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