'Irresponsible and dangerous': Jordan king's brother lashes Trump's embassy move

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The royal reaction from US ally Jordan represents some of the harshest criticism that Amman has ever made of Washington

Jordan's King Abdullah welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the royal palace in Amman on Thursday (AFP)
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Friday 8 December 2017 12:41 UTC
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The brother of Jordan's King Abdullah has launched into rare royal criticism of the US, calling the Jerusalem embassy move "an exceptionally irresponsible and dangerous step".

The criticism of US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has been widespread and swift, uniting virtually all governments in condemnation.

But the response from Jordan, one of the US’s key allies in the Middle East, represents some of the harshest criticism that Amman has ever made of Washington.

On Wednesday evening, just hours after Trump made the announcement, Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein, a brother to King Abdullah, tweeted that the move was “an exceptionally irresponsible and dangerous step”. The remarks represent the first time a royal of his generation has criticised US actions, according to one expert. 

Crown prince from 1999 until the position was withdrawn from him in 2004, Prince Hamzah has at times acted as the king’s deputy, and anti-government protesters in 2012 were keen to see him replace his half-brother as monarch, according to the New York Times.

The embassy move, he said, in tweets in English and Arabic, “will destroy any remaining US credibility as a broker in the Middle East Peace Process and deal a severe blow to any hope for a JUST and lasting peace”.

Foreign minister Ayman Safadi joined in a few hours later, tweeting that the US move violated international law and frustrates “peace efforts, provokes Muslim & Christians across Arab Muslim worlds”.

Jordan, he said, “rejects decision & all its implications, will continue to work for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

As custodian of Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites, and with a significant Palestinian population of its own, Jordan has a particularly close relationship with both Jerusalem and Palestine.

In a special parliamentary session on Wednesday, Jordanian deputies condemned the move and urged the government to expel the US ambassador and boycott American goods.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday met with King Abdullah in Amman. Palestinian news agency Wafa said Abbas updated the king on "the imminent dangers in light of the decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and the mechanism of future steps to protect the holy city".

'Deeply disrespectful'

General Mussa al-Adwan, former Jordanian army deputy chief of staff, described the US decision as "deeply disrespectful” to the king, in comments to Al Jazeera, since it was his father, King Hussein, who lost Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 war.

Sean Yom, associate professor of political science at Temple University, said that the king had tried to impress upon Trump how dangerous such a decision would be for Jordan.

“Despite the king's efforts to signal to Trump that this would place Jordan in a crisis, and despite the US State Department's own resistance, the White House chose to plough forward,” he told MEE.

Speaking to Trump on the eve of his announcement, King Abdullah warned the president that such a move to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel would have “dangerous repercussions” for regional stability, a Jordanian palace statement said.

The “decision will have serious implications that will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike,” he said.

While relations between the US and Jordan plummeted at the outbreak of the first Gulf War, with King Hussein’s decision to back Iraq prompting Congress to cancel all aid to Jordan, that falling out was defined by “active American frustration and hostility to the Hashemite Kingdom”, according to Yom.

The current crisis, however, “is defined by something different - wilful neglect or ignorance of the Jordanian position, which is fragile given the intersection of demography, land, and politics”, he said.

The crisis does symbolise… the increasing marginalisation of the Jordanian voice in regional affairs and in Washington

- Sean Yom, associate professor, Temple University

And whether Trump’s decision, in spite of Jordanian warnings, is the result of neglect or ignorance, for Yom it represents the fact the kingdom is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the US.

“The crisis does symbolise… the increasing marginalisation of the Jordanian voice in regional affairs and in Washington,” he said.

“With the Gulf now the pivotal point of conflict in the region, and with Saudi Arabia arising to become the regional hegemon, and with Trump no longer interested in maintaining the US position as arbiter of peace, Jordanian influence is now regressing back to its normal size,” he said, having become inflated between 1994 and the mid-2010s, due to its proximity to regional flare-ups.

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said of the embassy move, "all unilateral moves that seek to create new facts on the ground [are] null and void".

The Jordanian foreign minister is due to meet on Friday with the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, to discuss the Jerusalem issue.

Mogherini, who also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, threw her weight behind the Jordanian king, saying he was "a very wise man" and that everyone should listen to him as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.