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Jordan Modern History

Only 16 years old, Hussein became king of Jordan in 1952; for a whole 47 years he was then in power. He governed domestic politics with an iron hand. He supported foreign policy in the West, primarily the United States. He opposed a Palestinian state, which made him unfriendly to other Arab countries, but relations gradually improved. After several wars, with large Palestinian refugee flows to Jordan as a result, a peace agreement with Israel was also concluded in 1994. Elder son Abdullah took over the kingdom at Hussein's death in 1999.

When Israel proclaimed independence in 1948, Transjordan and other Arab countries attacked the new state. The trans-Jordanian forces conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which according to a 1947 UN resolution would be part of a Palestinian state.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Jordan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In 1949, Transjordanian King Abdullah was proclaimed king over all of Palestine (that is, Transjordania and the conquered territories). At the same time, the country changed its name to Jordan. The Palestinian territories were formally incorporated into Jordan in 1950.

Abdullah was afterwards regarded by many as a traitor and in 1951 he was murdered by a Palestinian. The following year the power went to his only 16-year-old grandson Hussein. The young King Hussein tolerated no opposition. In 1957, martial law was introduced after a coup attempt and all political parties were banned. The king then ruled the country almost single-handedly.

Contemporary History of JordanThe former British influence was replaced by US economic and military aid. Jordan's relations with other Arab countries were poor, partly because the country opposed an independent Palestinian state.

Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser took the initiative in 1964 to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which would be the only legitimate language tube of the Palestinian people. The PLO would be funded by the Arab League and recruit soldiers into a Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). King Hussein opposed the initiative.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, thus losing important agricultural and tourism revenue in these areas. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees poured into Jordan. When the PLO was taken over by Palestinian guerrilla movements in 1969, with Yasir Arafat's Fatah at the forefront, King Hussein's authority was challenged and he was forced to balance between the royal-friendly groups and the increasing Palestinian population's demands for influence.

The PLO grew stronger and attacked Israel, leading to Israeli punitive actions on Jordanian soil. The PLO developed into a state in the state and the tension between the PLO and the Hussein regime changed in September 1970 ("Black September") into civil war. The guerrilla was crushed for six months and its members were expelled from Jordan. The rest of the Arab world reacted strongly to Hussein's actions.

King Hussein reconciled with Egypt and Syria's leaders just before the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, when Jordan lined up troops on Syria's side. One year later, at an Arab summit, Hussein was forced to accept the PLO as the Palestinians' only legitimate representative and his relations with the Arab world improved. When a Palestinian uprising, the intifada, broke out on the West Bank in 1987, it received King Hussein's support and helped him to renounce all territorial claims in the West Bank in 1988. When the PLO indirectly acknowledged the state of Israel and withdrew from terrorism, the path was opened for Palestinian-American dialogue. In 1991, peace negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation began, and three years later Jordan and Israel signed a peace agreement.

During the 1970s, King Hussein pushed through constitutional changes that put Parliament out of business for ten years. When Parliament was re-convened and elections were held in 1984, opposition was seen solely as a way to mitigate growing criticism of the regime. Political parties were still banned.

In 1989, violent riots broke out in several Jordanian cities after the government implemented sharp price increases following demands for austerity measures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The riots caused the king to announce parliamentary elections that year. Political parties were not allowed to stand and the majority of the seats went to royal independent candidates. In the 1992 elections, political parties were again allowed to participate, but most of the seats went to independent candidates in the conservative and royal camp. When the parliamentary elections were held in 1997, it was boycotted by several opposition parties.

By the mid-1990s, the country's economy had deteriorated and reduced grain subsidies led to higher bread prices. It triggered new rattles in the south that quickly spread to Amman's poor suburbs. The riots were brutally fought and hundreds of people arrested.

King Hussein died in 1999. He had been in power for 47 years, longer than any other leader in the Middle East. Shortly before his death, he had unexpectedly moved the throne from Brother Hassan to his eldest son Abdullah. Upon his accession, Abdullah carried out a series of reforms. But the trend toward a more open society soon came to an end when King Abdullah's government felt compelled to prevent fundamentalist Islamic groups such as Palestinian Hamas from strengthening their influence.

After a new intifada broke out among the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza 2000, the Jordanian government pushed for security and freedom of the press for security reasons. Further restrictions were imposed after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. The parliamentary elections that should have been held in 2001 were postponed until 2003. The lower house continued to be dominated by royalists. Following the assassination of an American in Amman in 2002, Jordanian police arrested hundreds of suspected Islamists.

The regime sought to pursue a policy that safeguarded good relations with the United States without challenging US hostile domestic opinion. When the US-led war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq broke out in March 2003, King Abdullah chose to act outwardly as a cautious critic, but he secretly allowed the United States to use Jordanian military bases to attack Iraq.

In 2005, suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on three hotels in Amman where foreigners often live. More than 50 people were killed, most of them Jordanians. The investigation found that a group of Iraqis with contacts with the notorious Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had carried out the deed. In 2006, Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike in Iraq.

In 2008, 24 of the country's 36 parties lost their permission to act politically as they did not meet new requirements (see Political system). In the same year, King Abdullah appointed his eldest son, then 15-year-old Hussein bin Abdullah, to crown prince.

In protest against a new electoral law, the largest opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), chose to boycott the elections in November 2010. The new electoral law increased the number of MPs, but was still considered to disadvantage the opposition even more than before. After the election, the Parliament consisted of an overwhelming majority of members who supported the regime.

 
 

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