Jordan has been a quiet country that keeps its head down with limited resources but strategic importance. Jordan fulfills the duty of acting like a mediator between the Israel and Palestinian factions. It also holds control of the Al-Aqsa Compound. Unlike other non-Gulf Arab countries in the region, it has a unique character for having a powerful monarch. Its relations with the Gulf countries have had a compliant tone since its economy mostly depends on foreign aid. However, its geopolitical position and strong relations with both Palestinians and Israelis enabled it to challenge the decisions of the Gulf states. The most striking example was its reluctance towards the Abraham Accords. This reluctance allegedly motivated Saudi Arabia and the UAE to plot against the current King Abdullah II. Dahlan was involved in aiding the main plotters. Dahlan has been pursuing revenge against the Jordanian kingdom through political and economic plots since he was expelled from Palestine. Amman was his first destination but he was banned from staying there. 

“Palestine and Jordan are inextricably tied to each other.” 

Mohammed Dahlan

 

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Dahlan looks over Amman after his expel from Ramallah in 2011.
Dahlan speaks during a news conference at King Hussein Medical City in Amman in front of the King’s family photo, Sept. 4, 2005.
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Bassem Awadallah (R) and Dahlan (L).
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Dahlan talks to King Abdullah II's adviser Abdullah Wreikat in Amman in 2017.

When Israeli authorities decided to deport Mohammed Dahlan, the destination was Jordan. This was in 1987. He didn’t stay in the country long and left for Tunisia. Jordan aims to have balanced relations with every Palestinian faction. Yet, Dahlan’s activities even before his removal from Palestine, caused controversy in Amman. It was claimed that he was acting on behalf of Israel and the US.

As a disliked figure, Dahlan’s second expulsion from Palestine also ended in crossing the Jordanian border in 2011. Yet, he was disappointed by Jordan’s reception. The Amman administration declared him a persona non grata in an unofficial way i.e., by freezing his assets in the country. His arrival in Jordan sparked outrage since he was accused of carrying out espionage for Israel and framed with torture.

Even after he fled to the UAE, Jordan’s anger towards Dahlan increased on the grounds that he helped Israelis kill top Palestinian figures. Dahlan’s brother Abed Rabbo, a Saudi-based businessman, claimed that Jordan was applying for Palestinian Authority’s orders. Indeed, Jordan did deny this statement as an official told AFP that “Jordan’s seizure of Dahlan’s fixed and liquid assets came after a Palestinian Authority request, in line with a bilateral judicial cooperation agreement.”

Since then, Dahlan has attempted to exact revenge on Jordan on different occasions. In return, Jordan has tried to keep him at a distance, remaining reluctant regarding his bid for the presidency in Palestine. In a secret plan, arranged by the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, Dahlan was to be replaced with Mahmoud Abbas. Yet, Jordan expressed certain reservations about Dahlan’s weaknesses. The Jordanians argued he was unpopular among Palestinians for having a bad reputation for both financial crimes and misuse of power. Furthermore, they felt Dahlan was not sincere towards Jordan. It is not clear whether Jordan disabled the implementation of this plan, but it is certain that the kingdom had strong hesitations toward him.

The growing tensions between Dahlan and the Jordan leadership persuaded the former and his bosses to get rid of the King. It should also be noted that Dahlan had loyal men within significant Jordanian institutions but had failed to take the King and his cortege to his side. One of the first claims appeared in 2017. Media reports stated that Dahlan threatened to reveal sensitive files regarding Jordan. Jordan replied to this threat with a private message, saying that he was free to do so. Yet, Dahlan stepped back and claimed that he would not reveal the files and documents due to his respect for Palestinian sovereignty.

“Dahlan was to mobilize Palestinians in Jordan and tribes against the King.” 

Emirates Leaks 

Jordan’s relations with the Gulf have also witnessed ups and downs. In 2018, Jordan had to deal with popular protests over the mismanagement of the economy. These protests mainly targeted IMF-backed austerity measures including a new income tax draft law and price hikes. The Prime Minister, Hani Mulki stepped down. The UAE and Saudi Arabia saved the King by pledging a $2.5 billion aid package. Dahlan would be one of the players, who tried to drag the Jordanian economy into a deeper crisis. Allegedly, he arranged for a local company to sell products far below market prices in an attempt to destabilize the markets and to push other companies to decrease prices to an extent that they had to fire several employees.

Following the aid delivery, the US and the Gulf increased their pressure on Jordan in a bid to secure Jordanian support for the Trump-proposed peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another source of dispute was Jordan’s repeated rejection of listing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group despite decisive requests from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Jordan decided to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups in its territories but did not add the group to the terror list. Although this step mitigated the pressure to an extent, the Deal of Century once again thwarted solidifying the relations with the Gulf.

Against the backdrop of the peace plan and the Muslim Brotherhood issue, the second claim came from a bunch of leaked documents. The claim was that Dahlan was involved in a Gulf-organized plot against Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Allegedly, Bassem Awadallah, a former royal court chief and a Saudi-based version of Dahlan, and Hassan bin Zaid, a low-ranking royal, attempted to replace Jordan’s King Abdullah II with his half-brother Prince Hamzah at Saudi Arabia’s request. Yet, the kingdom successfully thwarted the plot. Bassem Awadallah was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Jordan in July 2021. While Israeli media reported that the former Israeli Prime Minister was involved in the plot, Arab media reported that Awadallah received help from Dahlan during the plot. Awadallah was planning to receive the support of tribal leaders, and, allegedly Dahlan was to persuade tribes to back Prince Hamzah against King Abdullah II. That said, Dahlan, in social media post, said the safety of the King was a national necessity for Arabs and praised Jordan’s support for the Palestinian people. He also stated that Jordan and Palestine were inextricably tied to each other.

The main reason for the attempt to eliminate the King was his strong opposition to the Deal of Century, in which Dahlan, allegedly, had a mediating role. Following this historic development, the Trump-led US administration said it would recognize the annexation of Jordan Valley by Israel. The US has not officially made a declaration. Although such annexation is not a violation of Jordanian sovereignty, it will likely create further troubles in the country nearby, even leading to more refugees from Palestinian lands. The Jordanian King neglected the Gulf’s warnings not to appear in the same scene with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, King Abdullah II has met Erdoğan repeatedly and given positive signals about bilateral relations. In a telephone conversation following the plot, Erdoğan pledged support to the Jordanian leadership.

In conclusion, Dahlan’s relations with Jordan have never been great. The two sides had different priorities. While Jordan desires to continue being a stable country in one of the most unstable regions by remaining indifferent to disputes among Palestinian factions and following a balanced agenda adroitly towards regional and international powers, Dahlan and his supporters in the Gulf push for more ambitious projects such as implementing the Deal of Century and installing Dahlan as Palestine’s next president.

King Abdallah, Arafat and Dahlan in KSA
King Abdallah, Arafat and Dahlan in KSA

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