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Impact of Jordan decision not to recognize Palestinian statehood

Jordan’s announcement that it would not recognize the Palestinian Authority’s seemingly imminent unilateral declaration of statehood will send shockwaves around the Arab world. While the Arab Spring has united the Arab world and occurred irrespective of the Palestinian statehood question, the Hashemite Kingdom’s stance will certainly provoke strong reaction.

Arab leaders have rallied around the Palestinian cause for political gain, although the only Arab country with a true vested interest in Palestinians is Jordan. Most Arab nations — Syria being the most prominent example — have used Palestinians as rhetoric and as a political football. Many Arab nations reject Palestinian citizens from entering their borders, as even the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been met with resistance.

Jordan's border with Israel and West Bank could be more volatile with Palestinian statehood

Jordan, however, begrudgingly accepted Palestinians. They are second class citizens in that country despite comprising nearly half the population. So if anyone is an authority on Palestinian statehood and refugees in the Arab world, it’s Jordan.

But as new Arab governments come to power, they may be less beholden to United States and other Western influences. The U.S. supported many Arab dictators — like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak — because they were willing to support Israel’s right to exist. However, that view was not aligned with the Arab street in those nations. As democratically elected governments come to power in Tunisia and Egypt, and possibly Libya in due time, it will be more difficult for the U.S. to interfere and pressure those leaders to support the unpopular cause of aiding Israel.

Jordan may now have partially ostracized itself among a new group of Arab leaders by essentially breaking a party line. It will be interesting to see how accepted Jordan is when a new government in Egypt takes control. And if Bashar al Assad remains in power, Jordan will not be spared from his vitriol. Same goes for Iran.

Jordan’s stance on Palestinian statehood breaks from Arab solidarity on that issue. Jordan already has set itself apart from Arab nations by its cool but cordial relations with Israel, which may be more for Jordan’s own border security than shared ideological beliefs. Jordan maintains respectable ties with Israel out of necessity because they share a border. Their histories would not naturally align the two.

And that is why Jordan is making this decision — the border. A unilaterally-declared Palestinian state would mean Israeli involvement, as it could be considered aggressive behavior because Israel believes it has a right to settlements in the West Bank. Politically, Jordan had to try its best to maintain the status quo and keep as quiet a border as possible with Israel and the West Bank. By not lending its support to Palestinian statehood, Jordan shields itself from Israeli blame and the associated political ramifications.

The U.S. will undoubtedly veto any UN Security Council resolution, so the Palestinian Authority will have to appeal to the General Assembly for symbolic support of statehood. Nothing will be official until the Security Council agrees, which is unlikely for the indefinite future.

Side note:

Interestingly, the YNet story also had this to say about Palestinian identification papers in Jordan:

Meanwhile, the paper also reported that Jordan is preparing to cancel the identification papers provided for Palestinian statesmen and their families. The decision was explained as a move that began with a 1988 ruling “to disengage from the West Bank and maintain Palestinian identity”.

The wording is extremely vague. I’m not sure yet what it means to “cancel” identification papers. The papers were issued to Palestinian refugees beginning in 1988 to distinguish them from Jordanian citizens. The Jordanian government put a nice spin on it with that quote, but it ultimately has been used to discriminate against Palestinians in Jordan rather than to “maintain Palestinian identity” out of some source of nationalistic pride. By canceling these papers, are Palestinians in Jordan recognized as the same as Jordanians? Or are they now officially nomads with no national identity or rights? I’ll have to look into this.

UAE opens more housing for women

June 6, 2011 2 comments

The United Arab Emirates will expand housing opportunities for women under an amendment to the gulf nation’s housing code, bringing the nation more in line with textual rather than customary interpretation of the Qur’an.

Several groups of women who previously could not own a home in the UAE will now have the chance. Those groups include Emirati widows with children, divorced wives with children, single women without parents, unmarried women 30 years or older with deceased parents and Emirati women married to non-Emiratis.

Many people may (incorrectly) think that Islam does not allow women to own property. That is not the case, as the Qur’an states: women “shall be legally entitled to their share” (Qur’an 4:7) and that “to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn.” Take it for what you will, but to me that seems like the right to property.

What has happened in many Arab nations with strong Islamic faith an emphasis of Islam based on custom rather than religious text. Those interpretations call for a more patriarchal society. To that point, if Christian nations were to abide by the customs that existed during Biblical times, those standards on women’s rights would not be much different.

The United Nations Human Development Index ranks the UAE 32nd in the world, making it the second best Middle East nation behind Israel. But the UAE’s gender inequality ranking is 47th, meaning there is certainly room for improvement.

Housing is one of the easiest ways to bridge the UAE’s gender inequality gap. After all, UAE women are clearly going to school, as a 2005 report showed 65 percent of the university students in that country were female. But just 15 percent of the workforce was female, which I suppose is not all that surprising in the Middle East but still shows some inherent discrimination against women in the workforce.

The UAE is not at risk for the types of revolution that has spread throughout the Arab world. But the government’s decision to open up housing to what are considered a taboo class in customary Islam — single women and single mothers — shows the UAE’s relative progressivism in that region.

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