Jordan’s Political Positions Have Cost Kingdom Economically
The country’s officials blame its deteriorating economy on pressure over Amman’s solid stands on regional matters
Jordan is being targeted economically due to its political stands on issues affecting Arab states, the country’s leaders say.
Jordanian lawmaker Yanal Fraihat said Tuesday that Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh told parliament that “Jordan has been subjected to an economic blockade during the past three years because of its political positions,” during discussion about the political situation of the kingdom in a heated session.
In 2019, King Abdullah II said that crises in the region have cast a shadow over Jordan, and Amman has paid the price for its positions, during his Speech from the Throne at the opening of the Fourth Ordinary Session of the 18th Parliament.
Oraib Rantawi, a Jordanian analyst and writer who is the founder and director general of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies, told The Media Line that Jordan was not blockaded economically by the United States, even though the kingdom had a political difference with the administration of the US President Donald Trump related to the so-called Deal of the Century, which marginalized the Jordanian role in terms of working on a solution for the Palestinians.
“American aid to Jordan has increased in the Trump era. We have signed an agreement for five years, worth $1.25 billion dollars in aid money for Jordan annually,” Rantawi said. He added that even the European Union assistance to Amman has increased in a variety of sectors.
Rantawi explained that an economic blockade has been an issue with some Gulf states, such as during the crisis with Qatar, because Jordan didn’t echo Saudi Arabia and the Emirates stand against Doha, though relations between Jordan and Qatar were weakened. “Jordan recalled its ambassador from Qatar, and decreased its diplomatic representation, and naturally, our ability to export and import with Qatar became very limited, due to the blockade on Doha,” he said.
Regarding the war in Yemen, Rantawi said that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi expected Amman to play a bigger role, such as sending troops on the ground. “And when Jordan settled for political, moral and symbolic participation in the war, those countries’ interest in helping Amman financially diminished, especially in terms of trade and employment.”
Throughout the years, Amman has been receiving annual economic assistance from the Sunni Gulf monarchies; however, in 2018, the Gulf Cooperation Council – which is made up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman, as well as Qatar, did not renew its annual aid to Jordan, worth $3.6 billion.
Rantawi said that after the unveiling of the deal of the century, there was enthusiasm on the part of the Gulf states “at a time when Jordan considered the deal a threat to its security, stability and national identity. This created a second division.”
He said that the Arab Gulf states are suffering their own financial crises, including “astronomical budget deficits,” and will not be able to return to the time when they gave large donations, aid money and loans to other countries. This, Rantawi says, is not political but rather practical “and Jordan has to adapt to that, and to the post-oil period, whose features have begun to appear, such as the huge decrease in oil prices, revenues.”
He added that some of these Gulf states can barely pay their own government employees, whereas Amman welcomed the new year by lifting government subsidies on water and electricity. “No one will subsidize the electricity in Jordan, when they have their own gaps to cover,” he said.
Salman al-Ansari, founder and president of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, told The Media Line that any questioning of the strength of the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan contradict reality and logic.
“The two countries have great ties, and Riyadh is keen on the stability and prosperity of Amman,” Ansari said.
He added that Saudi Arabia hosted Jordan at the G20 summit several months ago, calling it “the biggest proof” of their good relations. Ansari confirmed that there are many councils and joint bilateral agreements between the two countries, “especially in the economic and security fields.”
King Abdullah II underscored his country’s commitment to the Palestinian cause, and said that Jordan’s support for the Palestinian people’s aspiration to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital, and for the protection of Muslim and Christian holy sites there “will remain unchanging and uncompromising.”
In 2018, King Abdullah affirmed receiving messages offering an easing of the economic pressure on Jordan in return for the country changing its position on Jerusalem, while linking Amman’s challenging financial situation with the Kingdom’s political stands. He made the remarks during a conversation with students from the University of Jordan, excerpts of which were published by the Royal Court on its social media accounts.
Mahmoud Kharabsheh, a lawyer and a former member of the Jordanian parliament, told The Media Line that Jordan has paid an economic price in the region due to its leadership’s position that supports the Palestinian cause, and has defended it in religious and international forums. “There is pressure to have Amman change its stands,” he said.
Kharabsheh pointed out that King Abdullah II is the only Arab leader who has consistently called for establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital, according to international decisions, and within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative. “Therefore, Jordan, with its Hashemite leadership, is almost the only Arab state that still holds on to international resolutions,” he said.
Additionally, he said that the Hashemite protection of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem is another Jordanian position that causes pressure.
“Jordan’s position on terror in the region, and other events as well, in addition to it rejecting the deal of the century, which King Abdullah with all Jordanians behind him was solid on, made the kingdom pay economic prices after being pressured.” Kharabsheh said. “The attempt to blockade Amman was to try to force certain circumstances and events on the kingdom, but (Jordan’s) insistence on its positions caused economic losses.”
He said that grants and aid to Jordan have been decreased or minimized.