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11 January 2018

Jerusalem and Amman

By: Daoud Kuttab
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The longest running protests against the US president’s declaration on Jerusalem has been taking place in Amman. Protesters have gathered every night since that decision was declared on December 6 despite the cold weather to state displeasure at the US move and to show that the protesters are not stopping just after the first or second week as some had expected.
 
Jordanian protesters received a boost Tuesday night (January 9) when a new group joined them. Led by Palestinian non-violent activist Fadi Quran, the new protesters were part of the online Avaaz petition site which has been calling on Arab leaders to speak out and carry out concrete steps against the US including recalling their ambassadors from Washington and or kicking out US ambassadors from their countries. Interestingly, there is no US ambassador in Jordan since Ambassador Alice G. Wells left hurriedly last March two months after Trump’s inauguration.
 
Quran, the Avaaz Middle East editor, told protesters that Arab leaders had nixed an attempt by Jordan and Palestine during last Sunday’s foreign ministers follow-up meeting from holding an emergency Arab summit. At a press conference held after the meeting in Amman, the Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had talked about the issue saying that since the regular Arab summit is due to take place in March, there was no reason to hold a summit before that.
 
Wearing masks of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the senior Avaaz campaigner said that they plan to make similar protests in a number of Arab cities including Egypt, Morocco and possibly some Gulf countries.
 
The Amman protests are a reflection of an unprecedented new bonding that has been seen between Jordanians and Palestinians. The issue of Jerusalem (rather than the Palestine issue) appears to have brought all sectors of Jordanian society together. Jordanians of Palestinian origin as well as East Bank Jordanians have shown unity of purpose and goal. The fact that His Majesty King Abdullah and the Jordanian people have taken on the case of Jerusalem by means of the Hashemite custodianship of the holy places in Jerusalem seems to have been the key element that has cemented relations within Jordan and between Jordan and Palestine.
 
Jerusalem has also brought together right-wing Islamists with left-wing secularists in Jordan in a show of support to the holy city and in opposition to the US led anti-Palestinian moves.
 
The Jerusalem decision has put Jordan in a difficult position. Attempts by Washington to financially blackmail countries that oppose the US has failed miserably despite the fact that Jordan depends to a large degree on the generosity of the American people. Pundits explain that the bipartisan American support to Jordan  is basically a congressional effort and not directly coming from the White House even though the US president must sign all foreign aid proposals coming from Congress. In the past months, congressional leaders were seen as increasing the amounts earmarked to Jordan, surpassing the suggested amounts coming from the White House.
 
Jordanian-Palestinian cooperation and unity of purpose and goal is crucial in the coming weeks as the issue of the peace process will certainly be the major point of discussion when US Vice President Mike Pence makes his twice-delayed visit to the region. Amman will be one of the three country stops in Pence’s visit to Israel, Egypt and Jordan.
 
King Abdullah called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on Tuesday in order to coordinate Arab positions in anticipation of the visit by Pence. In his meeting with Jordanian deputies, the King explained that it is incumbent on Jordan to influence US decision-making process.
 
Pence is due to start a visit to Jordan on January 21, during which he will meet with King Abdullah, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. Agence France-Presse reported that Pence will arrive in Cairo on January 20 for a meeting with Sisi, heading the following day to Amman for a one-on-one with King Abdullah and the trip will be concluded with a two-day visit to Israel.
 
Palestine will not be part of the visit since Palestinian leaders have decided to boycott any meetings with US officials whether they be the US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt or the vice president.
 
The nightly vigil and demonstrations outside the US embassy in Amman will most likely continue and possibly intensify during the upcoming visit of the US vice president.
 
The effect of this and other protests will hopefully ensure that both the US and Israel understand that Jerusalem and its destiny will not be forgotten by any unilateral declaration made in Washington.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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