Israel at the center of Jordanian elections

Monday, November 08, 2010 |  Ryan Jones

It’s not only in the US where Israel is an important election issue. In neighboring Jordan, the Jewish state has actually become the primary platform item for just about every candidate vying for a seat in Jordan’s 120-seat parliament in Tuesday’s election.

The problem is that pretty much all of the 763 candidates have the same position regarding Israel, that it is the enemy. The only way to distinguish themselves on the most important election topic is to be more anti-Israel than the other guy.

The Associated Press reported that popular moderate politician Khalil Atiyeh has taken to burning the Israeli flag at his election rallies. The image of him torching the Israeli flag now appears on all of Atiyeh’s campaign posters.

Left-wing liberal politician Khaled Ramadan has made “Israel is the enemy” his official campaign slogan.

Israel is working toward “Jordan’s demise and the obliteration of our national identity,” declared independent candidate Salameh Ghoweiry.

What has them all riled up is a pervasive belief in Jordan that Israel is going to respond to the failure of the land-for-peace process by transferring millions of Palestinian Arabs to Jordan. Palestinian Arabs already make up more than 60 percent of Jordan’s population, and such a transfer would overwhelm the Bedouin minority that rules the country.

As evidence of this purported plot, Jordanians point to the occasional declarations of right-wing Israeli politicians that a Palestinian state already exists in Jordan, and that there is no need to create another Palestinian state on the Jews’ biblical heartland.

Those Israelis point out that all of what is today Jordan and Israel (including the so-called “West Bank”) was originally the British Mandate for Palestine, that portion of the Middle East earmarked for “close Jewish settlement” and the eventual establishment of a reborn Israeli nation-state.

To appease Arab unrest, the British unilaterally decided in 1921 to excise those lands east of the Jordan River and create the Emirate of Transjordan. The bulk of the population living in the area was “Palestinian Arabs,” though control of the government was handed to a Bedouin sheikh from Mecca who had assisted the British in their defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

This was the original “Palestine Partition,” and many Israelis insist there is no need for a second partition. In fact, many Palestinian Arabs were or still are Jordanian citizens, as Jordan occupied and controlled the so-called “West Bank” from 1948-1967. They are indistinguishable culturally, religiously and in language from the majority of Jordan’s population.

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