The only honorable thing

Posted on May 9, 2012

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DEAD SEA/JORDAN, 22OCT11 - Awn Al-Khasawneh, P...

DEAD SEA/JORDAN, 22OCT11 – Awn Al-Khasawneh, Prime Minister Designate of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, captured during the World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World at the Dead Sea in Jordan,22 October, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From what I have read in the American and British press recently, it seems that a new hero is in the making in Jordan, whilst the King is being downgraded to the one who is bulldozing his way undemocratically into a crisis scenario. But hang on a moment, looking at the latest interview with Khasawneh, are we getting the facts right about this? It rather seems from the contradictory statements of the former PM that the crisis lies in his inability to accomplish his brief as being “appointed by King Abdullah to push through democratic reforms in response to the Arab awakening

Back to the interview:
In the words of Khasawneh:
“In November of 2011 the country was on the brink of civil war, ‘if Bakhit’s government stayed in power the country would have fallen in a wave of political violence”
It seems that Khasawneh is still affected by the general atmosphere of the International Court of Justice regarding civil war issues. Even his closest people were surprised by his statement advocating “civil war in Jordan”.  His long absences away from Jordan could have made him a little confused for a while that Jordan may have the same problems as the Congo or Rawanda for example … or wherever.
The problems of Jordan have never been related to a possible “civil war”. There are no brother- against- brother ethnic, geographical or religious conflicts – unless we incite them. The “civil war” which he refers to, is nothing less than protests which ask for realistic solutions to contemporary problems such as political crisis or reform, unless Khasawneh had a hidden agenda. That is why he was asked by the King to resolve these problems with a mandate to finally get reform on the way.
However, Khasawneh clearly came into power with civil war on his mind, despite the fact that no civil war would erupt without the creation of increased tension. Instead of defusing potential conflicts or disagreements through diplomacy – by consulting all parties and working out compromises or agreements, he chose to exclude many of the voices he represented, in favor of his policy to bring the Islamists into parliament. If we throw in a bit of deliberate skepticism, mistrust and unjustified stubbornness, it’s clear that tensions rise, not fall and clearly exacerbate an already tense situation.
The clearest indicator of  the disruptiveness of Khasawneh’s policy was the division of Jordan into Palestinians and Jordanians, North and South. The traditional poll of the Centre for Strategic Studies regarding “how the government is seen after 100 days” produced a shocking result. For the first time, the poll shows how people perceive Jordan as two separate entites, north and south, as if Jordan were divided into cantons. Ironic if we think that the idea behind bringing in a new PM was to unite our country behind a program for long delayed reforms.
So when Khasawneh says in his interview:
“GID was surprised that a person from a well-known Jordanian family is supporting the rights of Palestinians in Jordan”, I am a little confused.

First of all, is it right for a ‘judge, who is so conscientious about avoiding civil war, to use the term “Palestinians in Jordan”, immediately depriving them of their citizenship on the one hand, whilst at the same time talking about differentiation and lack of rights. What is the policy that Jordan should adopt about supporting the Palestinians right to return to their country if they want to? The issue is far more complex than simply accusing Jordanians, who are not happy about his policy to make Jordan into a state for an exodus of Palestinians, as being brainwashed by the GID. There is still the burning question that Palestinian people do have a right to their homeland. Turning this into a conspiracy theory is just avoiding the question.
Khasawneh says:
His goal is to bring the Islamist opposition into political life thereby bringing in a group who has been “ostracized”.  This was the major success of his government, reducing the level of tension in Jordan through dialogue and respect for others. Khasawne’s vision is to achieve stability in Jordan by adopting a policy to contain all (otherwise hostile) components and bring them on board.

Wonderful and impeccable words spoken directly after leaving the scene (not before). Especially, considering his policy of containing all people, it is ironic that he was accused of taking the side of the Islamists. On this note, has he ever been on a political mission to Jordanian towns outside of Amman? Did he meet the political parties or the protestors who, as” opposition” groups “beyond the pale” or “ostracized” should be brought into the political system to reduce tensions?
The answer is: No, actually, he denied and marginalized all the components of the Jordanian society for the sake of the Islamists. He put all his eggs in one basket.
Khasawneh says:
“I do not I receive instructions from the palace…. The king rules through his ministers not through his advisers,”
We all agree with Khasawneh, actually we all support him in this. However, we Jordanians also have the right to ask, why didn’t he show this stubbornness in refusing the arrest of  Tafileh and the Fourth Circle activists? Why did he accept the imprisonment of journalists? Why did he accept the closing of so many corruption files? Why did he defend the phosphate scandal in Parliament? Why did he accept the violation of freedoms or liberties? Why did he close an eye on looting? Why did he accept the return to emergency law restrictions whilst he had full jurisdiction?
After all this, he surprises us by saying, some believe that the Arab Spring has come to an end and they can return to the old ways. By doing this they prove that they are the worst students of history, because the spring is a season that will come at all times without interruption.” “I have resigned from …the government because this is the only thing I can do”
Khasawneh might be an able politician but we still have the right to ask, why did he not resign, or take immediate action on the above mentioned outrageous practices, unless he was part of it? If he had resigned then, we would all stand by him but he doesn’t have the right to criticize policies he was completely part of. Resigning for the way the “phosphate” case was closed, was much more important than resigning for an extension of the parliamentary session to give more time to legislate reforms – a snub to his power maybe, not very diplomatic maybe, but not much else, considering the issues that needed addressing in either an extended or extraordinary session. In simple terms, the PM was not fulfilling his brief and this was a clear signal.

As an aside, I’m actually quite interested to understand from Khasawneh’s comments that the influence of the palace, GID and King’s advisers has increased over the last 10 years to know what was it like when he served in the Royal Court of King Hussein?
Jordanians are no longer looking for fake heroes. Today we are witnessing the birth of a new generation, heavily influenced by their access to modern information but also deeply rooted in their national traditions. They will only begin to build our political future when they are able to get rid of the heritage of subjection represented by traces that remain of a past era, learn from their mistakes but also the wisdom of those who chose wisely.
In the end the words that ring in our ears are Khasawhneh’s “ The only honourable thing to do  is to resign”, with the adjustment that, “The only honorable thing is that you are no longer the prime minister of Jordan”