The March 10 killing of Jordanian judge Raed Zuaiter by an Israeli soldier at a West Bank border crossing strained Israeli-Jordanian relations, and now a third party has entered into the crisis between Amman and Tel Aviv: Hamas. Osama Hamdan, Hamas' head of international relations, condemned the killing and expressed his "deep appreciation for the popular movement in Jordan that is raising the issue of reopening Hamas offices in Amman in response to the incident."
The reconciliation file
Ahmed Youssef, the former political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, announced that the movement "is looking to transfer its political bureau to Jordan, as it is keen to have a presence in the country. Jordan is the best location for [this office], considering it is an open arena and close to Palestine. Given the special and reliable relations that link the Palestinian and Jordanian peoples, it is an option the movement is inclined to choose."
This statement came in response to a March 12 request by Jordanian parliament member Musa Abu Sweilem, who called on the government to reopen Hamas offices in Amman. Sweilem also expressed his readiness to mediate a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
A rapprochement between the Hamas and Jordan was further encouraged by Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran, who currently resides in Qatar. Badran told Al-Monitor that he doesn't "mind Jordan taking on the role of mediator for a reconciliation in principle." At the same time, however, he said that "Hamas has [not] received an official invitation regarding this topic." He further noted, "Withdrawing this file from Egypt to Jordan requires a decision from Fatah and Hamas."
Meanwhile, a Jordanian official who previously worked on the mediation file between Amman and Hamas told Al-Monitor in a phone conversation, "The relations between [Amman and Hamas], in terms of the role and mutual needs, are not new, in light of political, geographic and demographic reasons. Jordan is concerned with the rights of the Palestinian people — first and foremost, the right of return. It is also interested in internal Palestinian stability in order to prevent a collapse of the situation, and the resulting spillover, and dissociating itself from the internal Palestinian conflict."
The official added that on the other hand, Hamas "is interested in the Arab and Islamic dimension, beginning with neighboring states, first and foremost Jordan. This is because the two sides have many common interests relating to security, stability and demographics, and to face the repercussions of Israel's recent demands aimed at making Jordan an alternative homeland for the Palestinians."
Jordanian chill in relations with Abbas
Talk of a rapprochement between Hamas and Jordan coincided with a chill in relations between the latter and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has expressed his concern about the "presence of secret negotiating channels, of which Amman is not aware, between Tel Aviv and Ramallah. This is in agreement with [statements made by] former Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit, who said that he feared the existence of secret arrangements for an 'Oslo II' between the PA and Israel that would come at the expense of Jordan."
The same Jordanian official, who preferred to remain anonymous, commented on this to Al-Monitor. He said, "Increasing talk about Amman's fears regarding the PA could open the door for a rapprochement in relations with Hamas. The 'alternate homeland' option proposed by Israel in order to get out of the bottleneck in negotiations with the Palestinians is rejected by Hamas and Jordan more than by the PA. This means an increasing intersection of interests between the two, and is pushing toward the establishment of a strategic relationship."
Thus, political circles in Amman heard private objections from the PA about a possible rapprochement with Hamas in the near future, despite assurances from the royal palace. The latter said that Jordan has no intention of making any substitutions in its map of allies and that the issue does not go beyond responding to the developments of the current stage and for purely tactical purposes.
Of interest, talk about Hamas' possible return to Jordan coincided with the almost complete break in the movement's relations with Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan condemned Egypt’s decision to ban Hamas, calling it a "serious turnaround in Egypt's role in supporting the Palestinian cause and a frank expression of [Cairo's] alliance and identification with Israel. This was done to alleviate the predicament of the coup and internal problems and to work to appease [Israel] in order to gain more international support."
It would apear that relations between Hamas and Jordan are strengthened by Amman not banning the Brotherhood like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have done. Jordan's internal equation does not allow for this dangerous scenario, which would harm its position with the Brotherhood and make this sensitive stage even more difficult.
Hamas is well aware that Jordan's goal in improving relations with the movement isn't necessarily to provide Amman new horizons in the region. Rather, the goal is more internal, aimed at helping to absorb the Muslim Brotherhood, which is influential and seeks real reform and the trial of figures involved in corruption in the Hashemite kingdom. Coming to an understanding with Hamas is considered a gesture of good faith toward the Brotherhood, whose influence in the street is a source of concern among decision-making circles.
A senior official in Hamas residing outside Palestine and speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor that the movement informed Jordan that it does not intend to use the kingdom as its primary arena for organizational work and came to an understanding regarding the limits on its relationship with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. The movement is aware that any new relationship with Jordan will be restricted to a minimum and will depend on its relations with the PA. Moreover, these ties would not affect Jordan's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel nor its excellent ties with the United States, according to the official.
Despite the above steps and declarations, Al-Monitor has learned in a phone interview with a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan that Amman has yet to approve a visit to the kingdome by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. His trip has been postponed several times in recent months for various reasons amid silence on both sides.
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