Jordan, Hashemite Kingdom of
JORDAN, HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF
JORDAN, HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF (Ar. al-mamlaka al-Urdunniyya al-Hashimiyya ), an independent state in W. Asia, bordering on Israel and the West Bank of the Jordan River in the west, *Saudi Arabia in the south and southeast, *Iraq in the east, and *Syria in the north. Transjordania, the territory east of the Jordan River – including the biblical *Bashan and *Gilead – was an important center of Israelite and Jewish life in biblical times and until well after the destruction of the Second Temple. Under Byzantine rule the Jewish population declined rapidly, and after the Muslim conquest there were only occasional cases of Jews living there, though "the Land of Gilead" played no small part in Zionist dreaming and planning.
Transjordania was included in the area of the British *Mandate for Palestine, but in 1921 *Abdullah, a son of the sharif Hussein of Mecca, who had moved into the territory with a band of Arab guerrillas, was recognized by Winston *Churchill, then British colonial secretary, as emir of Transjordan, and the emirate was later excluded from the applicability of the articles in the Palestine Mandate relating to the Jewish National Home. At the time it had a population of some 200,000, mostly Bedouin. In 1946 Abdullah was crowned king of Transjordan, and its independence was recognized by the British.
In the Arab-Israel war of 1948 and its aftermath, the Jordanian Arab Legion occupied East Jerusalem and the Arabin-habited areas of Judea and Samaria on the west bank of the river, which were finally unified with the east bank under the name of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in April 1950. Israel and most Arab states defined this step as a unilateral act of annexation, though it was recognized by Britain. The influx of Palestinians enormously swelled Jordan's population, which in 1965 totaled some 2,000,000, of whom about 900,000 lived on the West Bank.
In the *Six-Day War of 1967 Israel occupied Judea and Samaria, leaving Jordan in control of the area of the old emirate, apart from adjustments (in 1965) of the frontier with Saudi Arabia. The area of Jordan thereafter was about 34,500 sq. mi. (about 86,000 sq. km.) and its population was estimated at 1,500,000, including a net influx of some 250,000 persons from the West Bank after the 1967 War. *Amman, the capital, has grown within fifty years from an inconsiderable village into a sprawling city of over 400,000 inhabitants. At the turn of the 21st century Jordan's population exceeded five million, over 40% of which lived in the greater Amman-Zarqa area.
The country is divided into three main zones, all running north-south: the Jordan river depression, the hill country, and the arid plateau sloping east toward the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf. The first two zones are cut laterally by steep-walled valleys opening into the Jordan depression, the Dead Sea and the Aravah, making north-south communication difficult except by detours through the desert in the east. Only the second zone is suited by nature to settlement on a considerable scale, possessing a bracing climate, good soil, and relatively abundant winter rain; here a settled, grain-growing population provided the country with its main sources of livelihood until the revolutionary changes from the late 1940s on. The east-west historical and administrative differentiation of these zones is parallel to the geographical division. From the Syrian border (the *Yarmuk River) to the biblical Yabok River (Wadi Zarka): the Ajlun area (biblical *Gilead); from the Yabuk to the *Arnon River (Wadi Mujib): the Amman and Balqa area (biblical *Ammon); from the Arnon to *Zered River (Wadi Hasa): the Karak area (biblical Moab) and from there to the Red Sea: the Ma'an area (biblical *Edom). The population speaks Arabic, except for the elder generation of some 15,000 Circassians, who cling to their Caucasian tongue. Sunni *Islam is the prevailing religion. Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, number 5–10%. There are probably less than 50,000 true nomads or Bedouin, though a far greater number are still tribally organized.
The economy of Jordan has always rested on heavy subsidies from abroad. These were provided in the main by Britain till 1957, then by the United States, and after the Six-Day War by the oil-rich Arab states of Saudi Arabia, *Kuwait, and *Libya. Another important item in the balance of payments is money transfers from Jordanians abroad. Jordan's international trade has always been unbalanced, exports paying in 1966 for only about one-eighth of imports; the picture has grown even darker since, and the tourist trade suffered disastrously after 1967. Main exports are phosphates, Dead Sea minerals, and agricultural produce. Akaba, Jordan's only port, is distant from the center and suffered from the closure of the Suez Canal. The outlet via *Beirut was hampered by the chronic political tension with Syria. The outsized army provided the livelihood of an important sector of the population. In the early 1980s the Jordanian economy showed an impressive recovery, but from the second half of the 1980s it again plummeted, owing to the termination of the Iran-Iraq war (from which Jordan had benefited considerably), the intifada, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In the early 2000s Jordan's economy suffered mainly from an unemployment rate of over 20% and from an external debt of over $7 billion. King Abdallah ii has invested most of his time and energy in economic affairs.
Jordan's constitution (1952, with later amendments) describes the country's government as "a hereditary monarchy, parliamentary in form." There are two houses: the Senate, appointed by the king, and the Chamber of Deputies, elected on the basis of general (in practice male) franchise. The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies. In reality, however, the king has always exerted much greater influence than the constitution would suggest. Their unpopularity with a majority of their subjects – especially Palestinians – compelled Abdullah first, and later his grandson *Hussein, to set aside "the will of the people" to a considerable extent. Their rule was maintained, despite internal disaffection and calls from *Cairo, *Damascus, and *Baghdad for Hussein's destruction as a "tool of imperialism," by favors proffered and withheld, press supervision, and directed elections, while coercion – from martial law and the suspension of parliament to the wholesale imprisonment and exile of malcontents – played a prominent part. The army, recruited as far as possible from the East Bank and preferably from Bedouin, was considered the main prop of the regime, its senior officers being handpicked for their loyalty. Shortly before the 1967 war, a new press law forced all newspapers to close down, and carefully circumscribed the conditions under which new ones might appear.
Although the Six-Day War improved Hussein's relations with the Arab world, his position within his own country soon started to deteriorate. Numerous organizations for "the liberation of Palestine" succeeded in constituting themselves as "kingdoms in themselves," first in and near the Jordan Valley, and then in mounting measure in the interior. Various agreements to coexist failed, mainly because the Palestinian leaders would not, or could not, coerce their followers. By the summer of 1970 the sovereignty of the state had become nonexistent. In the first half of September, when an attempt on Hussein's life by one of the Palestinian organizations (The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) was followed by a virtual siege laid on Hussein's residence, the king realized the inevitability of armed confrontation. A week's warfare, mainly in and about Amman, went in favor of the army. By July 1971 the Palestinian organizations had been by and large liquidated in Jordan and subsequently moved mostly to *Lebanon.
Jordan sat out the 1973 war with Israel. After Anwar *Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in 1977, Jordan–plo relations improved.
King Hussein's historic decision to give up Jordan's claim to the West Bank of the Jordan River in 1988 and food riots in southern Jordan in 1989 paved the way for a democratization process in Jordan's political life. General elections (the first since 1967) were held in 1989. A new Chamber of Deputies was democratically elected by the inhabitants of the East Bank only. Political parties were formed and political freedoms were restored. The democratic process was somewhat slowed down in the late 1990s, out of fear that more political reforms (as demanded by the opposition, whose backbone was the Islamic movement) might challenge the authority of the monarch.
In 1994 Hussein became the second Arab head of state, after Sadat of Egypt, to sign a peace treaty with Israel. During the *Rabin years relations between the two countries were warm, but cooled off somewhat with the Likud in power under Binyamin *Netanyahu and with the second intifada.
When King Abdullah ii came to the throne in 1999 after the demise of his father, King Hussein, the democratization process had almost completely stopped, as the crosspurposes of democracy and survival of the regime seemed unbridgeable. From 2003 there have been more than a few indications that Abdullah had decided to return to the democratization path.
C. Bailey, The Participation of the Palestinians in the Politics of Jordan (1970); Māḍī & Mūsā, Taʾrīkh al-Urdunn fi al-Qarn al-ʿIshrīn ("History of Jordan in the Twentieth Century," Amman, 1959). F.G. Peake, History of Jordan and its Tribes (1958); B. Shwadran, Jordan, A State of Tension (1959); P.J. Vatikiotis, Politics andthe Military in Jordan (1967). add. bibliography: M. Sulayman, Ta'rikh al-Urdunn fi al Qarn al-Ishrin, al-juz' al-Thani 1958–1995 (Amman, 1995); K. Salibi The Modern History of Jordan (1993).
[Uriel Dann /
Joseph Nevo (2nd ed.)]