Palestine splits Arab street and state

Rami G Khouri writes: An important but unclear aspect of the ongoing Arab uprisings has been how more democratic and legitimate Arab governments would impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Several incidents in Egypt indicate how government and popular street sentiment are likely to behave differently on Israel-Palestine than did the previous Mubarak regime. Now Jordan vividly captures the complexities and nuances of the consequences of more representative Arab governance systems.

The newly elected lower house of the Jordanian parliament last week asked the government to expel Israeli Ambassador Daniel Nevo, and to recall Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Walid Obeidat. Neither of those things is going to happen, but the political dynamics of the process are intriguing, and highlight an issue that other Arabs must also address in due course: What do Arab governments do when they prefer to maintain peaceful relations with Israel and satisfy American government dictates, but their citizens are angry with Israeli policies and want to take political-diplomatic action to express their discontent?

The Jordanian parliament’s vote was non-binding, and will not result in any changes because its decisions must be ratified by a majority of the upper house of parliament, which is appointed by the king. This vote was especially intriguing because the lower house that was elected last November, in a vote boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s party, was thought to be dominated by pro-government tribal interests, and thus would be little more than a rubber stamp body.

Well, that may be true for most issues, but I guess we are learning now the important political science principle that rubber stamps and human hearts do not always coincide – for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and especially the Islamic holy places in occupied East Jerusalem, clearly touches the hearts of all Jordanians, Arabs and Muslims. [Continue reading…]

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