LONDON — Rumors of the demise of the Jordanian monarchy have been “greatly exaggerated for decades,” the country’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal told a gathering of British Jews on Wednesday night.
Jordan has recently been rocked by extensive rioting, sparked by hikes in fuel prices, in which protestors demanded serious political reforms.
King Abdullah II was originally scheduled to headline the fundraising dinner for the Board of Deputies, the main representative organization for Britain’s Jews, but he cancelled last week without an official explanation after the local riots broke out, and after fighting erupted between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
In his speech, Prince Hassan claimed to have encountered at least one Jordanian protestor who was paid 200 dinars ($282) to demonstrate.
Foreign ambassadors, he said, were “asking demonstrators which way Jordan will jump when the regime is overturned.”
But the monarchy will survive, he said, because “we are not in it for prestige. I genuinely feel we are there for the sake of human dignity.”
A Jordanian royal avoids controversy at a fundraiser for British Jewry
The speech largely avoided detailed discussion of the most pressing challenges facing Hassan’s own country, as well as the violence that erupted last week between Israel and Hamas, and the ongoing revolution in Jordan’s neighbor to the north, Syria. After completing his prepared remarks, the prince left without taking questions.
In his speech, Hassan outlined a general vision for a peace settlement that addresses all refugees and displaced people in the region, not just Palestinians.
There are currently about 230,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.
However, he seemed to rebuke Israelis for not pursuing peace talks more aggressively, telling those who came from Israel to attend his talk,
“I haven’t seen much of you for the past seven years. It took the British to get us together.”
He also said he hoped that Israel did not see the Arab Spring as a threat to its position as the only democracy in the Middle East.
Israel does not have a monopoly, or “an exclusive right to be democratic,” he said. “Inclusion is the way to go.”
The event was also attended by the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, who spoke after the Jordanian prince had left. Other guests included the British secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, who is considered a particular friend of the Jewish community; the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, who chairs the Council of Christians and Jews; and, more unusually, Albert Roux, the famous London chef.