Analysis

Israel Warily Watches as Jordan Rocked by Biggest Protests in Years

Israel fears that unrest in the neighboring country, whose stability is a key security interest, could lead to further chaos in the Middle East

Jordanian protesters shout slogans and raise a national flag during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office in the capital Amman late on June 2, 2018.
KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP

Israel has been forced over the past several days to direct more attention to events happening in Jordan. Huge demonstrations have been organized there over the past week, attended by tens of thousands of people in a number of cities in protest at the rising cost of living and the Jordanian government's economic policies. This comes against the backdrop of the difficulties the country is facing in hosting more than a million refugees from the Syrian civil war in addition to the tensions between the authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The protests began Thursday night with the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Thousands of protesters took to the streets across the kingdom – In the Irbid and Jarash provinces, the cities of Amman, Aqaba, Salt, Al-Karak and the Jordan Rift area – demanding to cancel the raising of taxes and staple food, which they claim will increase poverty and distress.

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Jordanian King Abdullah, who cut short an official visit abroad to return home, has already dealt well with such waves of protest in the past. On Friday, the king intervened and ordered to delay the decisions to raise petrol prices. The royal palace is also communicating with the protest organizers in an attempt to calm the storm. At this stage, they are considering meeting more demands by the protesters, and it is possible the king will order the formation of a new government and elect a new parliament.

Jerusalem is aware of Jordanian sensitivity to involvement in the domestic affairs of neighbors, so it is not likely that we will hear any member of the Israeli cabinet publicly comment on what is happening in the Hashemite kingdom.

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In any event, the kingdom's stability is a supreme security interest from Israel's standpoint. At this point, officials in Jerusalem are particularly closely following the demonstrations in Jordan as well as the regime's efforts to halt the protest.