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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Is Abdullah backing Hamas (and if so, why)?

DEBKAfile is reporting this evening that King Abdullah of Jordan refused to meet with 'moderate' 'Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, because Abu Mazen showed up without 'moderate' 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Ismail Haniyeh in tow:
Abbas was due to report to the king in Amman Monday, Dec. 25, on his Saturday night talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and the steps offered to ease life in the Palestinian territories. When told that he had arrived in Amman without the Hamas PM, Abdullah called the meeting off. Observers report the humiliated Palestinian leader left the Jordanian capital abruptly. He has a date for Tuesday with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.


DEBKAfile’s sources report that the slap in the face to Abbas was directed with greater force at Olmert, who a week earlier visited Amman to report to the king on the benefits he proposed to pledge to Abbas at their forthcoming interview. Abdullah dismissed the package as too little and demanded far more drastic concessions to put the brakes on the Palestinians’ descent into civil war before it spilled over into his kingdom. He then offered to receive Olmert, Abu Mazen and Haniya in Amman and personally mediate their disputes. The Israeli prime minister rejected the offer on the spot. The king made no response.

It transpired later that Abdullah resolved there and then to have nothing to do with the Olmert-Abbas track, which he regards at best as a side-show of the main Palestinian power play. By standing Abbas up, he made this view plain to the Palestinians and the Arab world. He also showed the Israeli prime minister that his steps to consolidate Abbas were a pointless exercise, unless Hamas was simultaneously addressed.
What's Abdullah up to? Abdullah probably has less legitimacy than any ruler in the Middle East. His country was created by the Arab-loving British foreign office for his great grandfather as a consolation prize for having lost out to his cousins in Saudi Arabia:
In 1927, the British installed Abdullah ibn Hussein, another son of the Sherif of Mecca, as emir of the new country called Trans-Jordan, later Jordan. Jordan was confined to the East Bank of the River Jordan and did not include any part of the West Bank.

Why were the sons of the Sherif of Mecca made rulers of these countries?

The British wanted alliances with all the Arab kingdoms. They had shored up support for the Ibn Saud of the Arabian Peninsula, who had fought the Turks alongside them. Ibn Saud got Saudi Arabia.

But when that happened, the British had to pay off the Hussein Sherif of Mecca, who was in charge of the Islamic holy sites. (The Hussein family are Hashemites, the tribe of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, and have been traditionally the keepers of Holy City of Mecca.)

They had to give him and his children some land, so they gave them Iraq and Trans-Jordan -- the land on the East Bank of the River Jordan.
Abdullah has no democratic legitimacy and a population that is mostly 'Palestinian.' His family is not indigenous to the area. He has two goals: avoiding the Islamists so that he can stay in power, and pushing 'Palestinian' nationalist aspirations across to the west side of the Jordan River so that he can stay in power on its east bank. Both goals are threatened if the State of Israel and Abu Mazen push 'Palestinian' Islamists eastward, whether he forces them into Jordan or whether they flee there. If the 'Palestinian' Islamists are unhappy, it will cost Abdullah dearly to keep them out of Jordan - his own 'people' will demand that they be allowed in.

But both goals are served if the 'Palestinian' Islamists dominate the west bank of the Jordan River, so long as Abdullah can keep an airtight border on the River. That's what's behind Abdullah's seeming backing of Hamas. The message to Israel and to Abu Mazen is that if they cannot contain Hamas, he will contain Hamas at their (including our) expense.


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