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Jordanian ‘liberals’ and Israel

Feb 25,2019 - Last updated at Feb 25,2019

On the whole, self-proclaimed liberals in Jordan support peace with Israel with gusto. Some of them try to push Jordan to be susceptible to Israel’s agenda with regard to the settlement of refugees in Jordan. For this reason, they have failed to convince the public of their national credentials. Polls show that their ideas do not resonate well with the wider public.

The overwhelming majority of Jordanians see Israel as the most singular source of threat for the survival of Jordan as we know it. Its relentless attempts to change the status quo across the Jordan chips away at the prospect of a two-state solution. Indeed, the failure of the two-state solution will have grave consequences for Jordan in the long run.

Liberals do not pay attention to this unfolding reality. On the contrary, they push for a domestic agenda that is in line with Israel’s thinking of what Jordan should be in the future. They seek to deconstruct the country to be something different. Ironically, some of their most prominent figures are not known as democrats. They sat in autocratic governments for years and they never voiced one position that was different from the government. They endorsed the majority of the unconstitutional temporary laws in the period between 2000-2003. Interestingly, liberals in Jordan who preach democracy do not run for elections!

And yet, they adopt a misleading discourse. They claim that conservatives are behind the deteriorating economic situation. Let us set the record straight. We never had a conservative current. Indeed, conservatism is a well-respected trend in Britain for example. It has helped Britain in times of war and peace. But in Jordan, we never had a school of thought like that.

But for the sake of argument, let us assume that those who have run the country for the first several decades are conservatives. They built institutions, rescued the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the otherwise inevitable Israeli occupation and helped consolidate the country. On the other hand, the liberal recipe for the economy has wreaked havoc on the Jordanian society as a whole. The levels of unemployment, poverty and corruption are unprecedented in the modern history of Jordan.

The majority of liberals have no stomach for anything but working on their agenda to change Jordan from within. While a change is badly-needed, the form and content of such a change is contested. The only way to settle this debate is through democracy. Therefore, it is confusing that the liberals do not run for elections.

Finally, one should not be oblivious to the fact that foreign funds are behind much of the work of liberals, especially the NGO sector. I suspect that Israel does not support the liberals financially, but donors close to Israel do. Thus far, liberals have failed to be seen as defending Jordan in the face of Israel’s policies against Jordan. Worse, Israel’s position on the issues of democracy and demography in Jordan is embraced uncritically by the self-proclaimed liberals.

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