Jordanians demand closure of US embassy in Amman

Diverse groups express their anger over US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Jordan protest in front of US embassy in Amman
Protesters shouted 'America is the head of the snake' and 'No US embassy on Jordanian soil' [Faisal Istitiyeh/Al Jazeera]

Hundreds of Jordanians have demonstrated in front of the US embassy in Amman, demanding its closure and the expulsion of the US charge d’affaires from Jordan in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

President Donald Trump issued a statement on Wednesday proclaiming the US decision and preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jordanian parliamentary political blocs, Islamist movements and independents had called for protests on Thursday and Friday across Jordanian cities and in front of the US embassy in Amman in protest of the US decision.

The US embassy in Amman issued a statement on Thursday suspending public services and limiting the public movement of its staff.

The protesters, who braved cold weather and a heavy police presence, came from diverse political backgrounds and comprised Jordanian nationalists, pan-Arabists, Islamists and leftists.

They chanted “America is the head of the snake” and “No US embassy on Jordanian lands” and “No US bases on Jordanian soil”.

Jordanian police fired tear gas at protesters and tried to disperse them. Protesters remained in front of the US embassy all afternoon and evening.

Heavy police presence in front of the US embassy building in Amman [Faisal Istitiyeh/Al Jazeea]
Heavy police presence in front of the US embassy building in Amman [Faisal Istitiyeh/Al Jazeea]

Many of the protesters at the US embassy and elsewhere in Jordan said their anger was driven by Jordanian nationalist feelings, fearing their country was next on the US and Israeli agendas, and by Arab nationalism and Islamist sentiments because of Jerusalem’s significance for them.

Sheikh Mohamad al-Hadid, a well-known political activist who participated in the protest, told Al Jazeera that Jordanians fear that Trump’s decision is part of a larger US-Israeli plan to end the Palestinian cause at the expense of Jordan and its royal family.

“The Americans and the Israelis are trying to create a political environment in the region to make Jordan as the future homeland of the Palestinians, while Palestine is swallowed whole by the Israelis,” Sheikh al-Hadid said.

He said Jerusalem is a “fateful cause for Muslims all over the world”.

Demographic fears

Jordan, a major segment of whose population is of Palestinian origin, stands to suffer the consequences of any future political settlement with Israel that does not consider Jordanian interests or address its demographic fears, according to Jordanian analysts and activists.

Jordanian intellectuals and activists argue that should the US and Israel succeed in eliminating the possibility of a two-state solution where Palestinians would have their independent state, Jordan will be next on their chopping block.

Many members of parliament (MPs) have called on the government to make a strong stand against Israel by withdrawing the Jordanian ambassador from Tel Aviv and cancelling the peace treaty with Israel it signed in 1994.

Palestinians make up a major segment of Jordan's population [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]
Palestinians make up a major segment of Jordan’s population [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Saleh al-Armouti, an MP, said the US decision had practically eliminated any Jordanian role as a custodian of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and emboldened the Israeli government to complete its takeover of Jerusalem.

Al-Armouti said that his 14-member Reform bloc, a majority of whom are Islamist MPs, is proposing a bill in parliament to force the Jordanian government to cancel its peace treaty with Israel. He said the bill has already attracted 40 sponsors.

“Trump has violated all international laws and agreements, including those sponsored by the US itself, like the Oslo agreements, by recognising the Israelis’ claims before reaching any agreement with the Palestinians,” he said.

“In taking this step, the US has made itself the enemy of Arabs and Muslims all over the world.”

However, not everyone in Jordan is on the same page especially some current and former government officials.

Former Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib told Al Jazeera that while Jerusalem is central to Arabs and Muslims, Jordan cannot do anything about Trump’s decision. “What Jordan is supposed to do? We cannot do anything,” he said.

Al-Khatib also downplayed the high emotions in the Jordanian street saying that “Jordanians cannot just pick up and go to the [border] bridge” referring to the Jordan River bridge that connects Jordan to the Israeli occupied West Bank.

But Khaled al-Majali, a political analyst and former intelligence officer, disagrees with al-Khatib and argues that Trump’s decision practically eliminated the two-state solution and that Jordanians can do a lot more to restore Jerusalem to its rightful Palestinian owners.

“Under the American-Israeli plans, the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank will eventually be transferred over to Jordanian control in some kind of political arrangement like a confederation with Jordan over the remaining land pockets in the West Bank,” al-Majali said.

Al-Majali said that Jordan is standing alone against the Israeli-American blitz, abandoned by major Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear to us that Trump’s decision was made with Arab collusion,” said al-Majali, referring to Arab and Israeli media reports suggesting that Trump announced the recognition decision with the agreement of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter @Ali_reports


Source: Al Jazeera