13 years after king booted it out, Hamas leader says his group has reconciled with Jordan
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13 years after king booted it out, Hamas leader says his group has reconciled with Jordan

During second visit to kingdom in under a year, Khaled Mashaal agrees to stay out of internal Jordanian affairs

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Khaled Mashaal in 2009 (photo credit: AP/Nader Daoud)
Khaled Mashaal in 2009 (photo credit: AP/Nader Daoud)

Hamas and Jordan have turned over a new leaf in their relations, Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal told the press Sunday, at the tail end of his 10-day visit to the Hashemite Kingdom.

Mashaal came to Jordan to attend the funeral of Hamas official Kamal Ranaja, assassinated in Damascus in late June. But while in the country, he received VIP treatment from the country’s leadership, including meetings with King Abdullah, Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and director of the General Intelligence Directorate Faisal Shoubaki.

Mashaal admitted the new relations with the Royal Palace became possible following his movement’s commitment to refrain from activity among Jordan’s Palestinian population

The Hamas leadership was expelled from Jordan and its offices shut by King Abdullah in 1999, with the newly nominated king accusing the Palestinian Islamist movement of meddling in Jordan’s sensitive relations with its significant Palestinian population.

On Sunday, Mashaal said the new relations with the Royal Palace became possible following his movement’s commitment to refrain from activity among Jordan’s Palestinian population.

“We have defined the relationship between us and Jordan on four principles,” Mashaal told Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera. “The safety and stability of Jordan; Hamas’s non-intervention in internal Jordanian affairs; Hamas’ non-intervention in affairs concerning the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan; and finally on Palestinian-Jordanian relations.”

Mashaal noted that this visit differed significantly from his last trip to the kingdom in January, under the auspices of Qatari prince Tamim bin Hamad. He told the Arab press that the latest visit “forms the foundation of a new stage in the relations between Jordan and Hamas.”

Hamas leaders have gradually left the movement’s headquarters in Damascus over the past six months, with Ranaja reportedly being one of the last officials to remain in Syria. Mashaal is currently based in Qatar.

Official Jordan justified Mashaal’s visit by claiming that he had become more pragmatic and forthcoming on Palestinian reconciliation.

“Recently, the thinking of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has matured in a manner allowing him to partake in various circles,” wrote Sultan Al-Hattab in the establishment Jordanian daily Al-Rai on July 6. “The man now has deep experience nearing that of the deceased Arafat.”

‘The Jordanian state has reached an absolute understanding that its relations with Hamas are a natural connection with an important part of Palestinian society’

But observers note that Jordan was forced to embrace Mashaal following the Arab Spring, which has turned nascent Islamist movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, into ruling powers.

The seachange in the region put wind in Hamas’s sails, and turned the Islamist group from a rogue party to a legitimate representative of Palestinians, at least on the Arab street.

On Monday, a Jordanian columnist acknowledged the new political credit bestowed on Mashaal, urging the Palestinian leader to use it wisely.

“The mere arrival of Mashaal in Amman for a second visit this year indicates the development of Jordan’s relations with the Islamic Resistance movement Hamas on all levels,” wrote Nabil Ghishan in the independent Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm, urging Mashaal to oppose any attempt to permanently settle Palestinians in Jordan.

“The Jordanian state has reached an absolute understanding that its relations with Hamas are a natural connection with an important part of Palestinian society,” said Ghishan, adding a backhanded compliment to Mashaal at the expense of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The stature of Khaled Mashaal and Hamas before the Arab Spring is different than what it is after it,” added Ghishan. “Today [Hamas] is at the forefront. The future lies ahead of Mashaal to become a historic Palestinian leader, whereas others have begun to lose their bearings and their balance.”

 

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