Last week marked the 17th anniversary of Jordan’s King Abdullah’s coronation after the death of his father, King Hussein.
Abdullah’s ascension to the monarchy was unanticipated. His uncle Hassan was his father’s long-serving crown prince and was expected to inherit the throne. Hussein made the change in succession from his deathbed.
Today it is hard to believe that Abdullah will have the power to decide who succeeds him.
For generations, the largest looming threat to Jordan was its Palestinian majority. Although estimates of the size of Jordan’s Palestinian population vary widely, some placing it at just over 50 percent, and other estimates claiming that Palestinians made up 70% of the overall population, all credible demographic studies have agreed that most Jordanians are Palestinians.
It was due to fear of his Palestinian citizenry that for the past decade or so, Abdullah has sought to disenfranchise them. Beginning around 2004, Abdullah began throwing Palestinians out of the Jordanian armed forces. He also began canceling their citizenship.
According to a 2010 report by Human Rights Watch, between 2004 and 2008, the kingdom revoked the citizenship of several thousand Palestinian Jordanians and hundreds of thousands were considered at risk of losing their citizenship in an arbitrary process.
Today, concerns that Palestinians may assert their rights as the majority and so threaten the kingdom have given way to even greater fears. Demographic changes in Jordan in recent years have been so enormous that Palestinians may be the least of Abdullah’s worries. Indeed, it is far from clear that they are still the majority of the people in Jordan.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, between 750,000 and a million Iraqis entered Jordan. Current data are not clear regarding how many of those Iraqis remain in Jordan today.
But whatever their number, they have been eclipsed by the Syrians.