Jawad Anani to Albawaba.com: Arabs Have Tools to Secure Stability, Peace

Published October 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Interviewed by: Eyad Khalifa, Khaled Abul Khair, Bassam Al Antari and Mohammed Omar - Amman  


Jawad Al Anani, a prominent Jordanian economist, has held many top-ranking posts in the government in the course of his long career. These included the posts of chief of the royal court, foreign minister, deputy premier and minister of economy, and, finally, member of the Jordanian Senate. He held these posts before he was asked to submit his resignation for views that he expressed openly on the Palestinian dimension of Jordanian affairs.  

In an interview with Albawaba.com, Anani discussed recent international developments in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, as well as regional developments, particularly the Palestinian Intifada. The interview also touched on Jordan’s internal political and economic situations, and the Iraqi issue. The first part of the dialogue with Anani tackled Jordanian-Palestinian relations, Jordan’s internal situation, and the kingdom’s relationship to pan-Arabism.  


Following are excerpts from the interview:  


Q. How do you assess the situation in the region and how do you see its future development?  

A. The region is facing a difficult situation, which I believe will escalate. This is because returning to the circumstances that prevailed before the Al Aqsa Intifada has become unacceptable to both Palestinians and Israelis. Even the Israelis under the rule of Sharon won’t accept this turbulent situation. Therefore, I believe that more escalation is imminent.  

The second point stems from what is called the “return of the issue to its roots.” Jews have started to talk bluntly about their historical rights in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple, in addition to the introduction of fundamentalism in the religious dimension. These days, we hear the Israeli rabbis criticizing Arabs and calling for their relocation from Palestine.  

On the other side, there is a process for forming an Arab religious and national vision to counter the Israeli vision. In other words, the return to religious conflicts does not just mean a struggle by Palestinians to secure independence, but rather the matter of assessing one’s issue and holding onto one’s rights. It seems that the battle has evolved from a purely political conflict and struggle for land into a conflict between civilizations. This, I believe, has started to make many parties concerned.  


Q. What should the Arabs do in view of these circumstances, and is there any strategy to deal with the situation? 

A. I agree with what Prince Al Hassan Bin Talal said in a lecture at the International Affairs Society: “There is no Arab strategy for either peace or war.” We also accuse Sharon of having no strategy for peace at all.  

I believe the Arabs exerted pressure on the Palestinians to hold the Peres-Arafat meeting, in order to enhance Peres’ position at the cost of Israeli extremists led by Sharon, particularly since internal elections within the Likud Party are due soon. I think there is also fear of war in the region as a result of the Intifada.  

In fact, the Arabs have tools to safeguard themselves against potential escalation and are prepared for a long-term solution that would lead to peace and stability in the region.  


Q. While you are talking about precautionary measures, Jordan was the first to take such measures, including the recent laws. How do you see the situation in Jordan as far as the Intifada is concerned?  

A. There are three Arab countries which are keen on what they have described as not giving Sharon the opportunity to export the crisis abroad.  

I agree with these views, because Sharon cannot be free from negative ideas, because he wants to show that Palestinians constitute a problem wherever they go. He wants to say that he deals with them as the Arab countries do.  

So Jordan is keen to take precautionary measures, which I hope will be temporary in the absence of the parliament. Other measures may be taken to include the professional associations.  


Q. In view of the Intifada’s impact on Jordan, some people are addressing the Palestinian presence in Jordan and concerns over the escalation of internal divisions between Jordanians of Palestinian origin and native Jordanians. You have written about the situation of Palestinians in Jordan in one of the Arabian Gulf dailies. Was your article behind your stepping down from the Jordanian Senate Council?  

A. The article as was interpreted as the straw that broke the camel’s back, after which I received a demand to resign from the Senate Council. I think I talked about the subject on previous occasions when a book was released by Adnan Abu Audeh [a Jordanian figure of Palestinian origin who held many top posts in the Jordanian government and wrote a controversial book on the Palestinians’ position in Jordan].  

I accept the decision, but I disagree with it, and I believe there has been an exaggerated reaction to it. Some bad, narrow-minded people have exploited it and begun attacking anyone with a different point of view. I think what I wrote was permissible.  

However, the issue is deeper than that. It is not a matter of giving attention to some peoples’ feelings, but rather a matter of building a civil society based on a social contract between two basic groups in society. I have not created this situation; the circumstances have. Unavoidable waves of immigration have washed over Jordan, in addition to other factors, which have led this country to host 50 different ethnic, religious and geographic groups, of which the Palestinians are the largest.  

Therefore, we should not be shy about tackling this topic, and should not consider any person who addresses it as if he were calling for division. On the contrary, I think hiding the matter is more serious and may lead to division and pain.  

The issue is socioeconomic, and what we need is a new social contract under which everyone has his own role without any party claiming charity for the other. For me, as a Palestinian, I do not feel shy about saying that I have given to Jordan exactly as it has given to me. Nobody should say that we shared the loaf as if he were doing me a favor. This is a purely Jordanian issue, which should be tackled within a framework of understanding, justice and equality. I challenge the government’s stance over the issue of Ibrahim Ghoshe, which has made every Palestinian in Jordan feel as if his Jordanian passport was nothing but a driver’s license that could be taken from him for any violation.  


Q. What about your pessimistic statements regarding the Jordanian-Palestinian issue?  

A. I have not released statements, but there are studies and assessments on the issue. I warned that the situation would explode. We do not want to ignore our internal issues while we face outside issues that might impact on domestic matters.  


Q. Some observers expect that matters might develop into a situation similar to that which we witnessed in September 1970. What are your comments on that?  

A. Not at all. We should never allow the Intifada to spark a civil war in Jordan. This would be a tragedy. We are talking about building a civil society.  

Take, for example, Palestinian Jordanians who do not participate enough in the parliamentary elections. If a Palestinian runs for the parliament, nobody elects him. I do not want to say that the Palestinian participation should be through the Muslim Brotherhood, to appear on the opposition side alone. Jordanians of Palestinian origin abstain from politics not due to incompetence, but due to the fact that they are unwanted.  


Q. Some observers say that your stepping down came against the backdrop of your close ties with Prince Hassan, and not due to the article you wrote. What are your comments on that?  

A. I admit that I have close ties with Prince Hassan, and I am proud of that. But this does not mean that there is a political tie with him…I am proud to have been nominated by the prince for several posts, because I am fully convinced that he does not deal with people out of friendship, but rather for their competency.  

My relationship with the late king Hussein was excellent and close. I visited him eight times during his illness when I was chief of the royal court.  


Q. Prince Hassan is a man of intellectual principles, and you tend to support this trend?  

A. I got acquainted with Prince Hassan in the mid-1970s at a development conference after I obtained my Ph.D. Since then, I have been close to him, despite the fact that there have been differences between us over some issues.  

But the beauty of dealing with the prince is his tolerance of differences of opinion. I am optimistic about King Abdullah, despite his selection of some people about whom we have a different assessment as far as their capabilities are concerned. These people lack maturity and experience, which they will acquire over time. I wouldn’t say that what happened was due to my relationship with Prince Hassan.  


Q. How do see the economic prospects in Jordan?  

A. According to government statistics, Jordan’s economic growth rate for the first half of this year was four percent, despite the impact of the Palestinian Intifada.  

The government should explain how this growth was achieved while it said the Intifada had impacted the economy. This rate has exceeded the previous growth rates when there was no Intifada.  

I would like to warn against the indicators the government uses to show that the economic situation has improved. For example, they say that exports increased by 14 percent over the same period of last year, but they don’t say that imports increased this year compared to the same period last year. When you increase your exports by five percent and your imports by five percent as well, you will consequently have a deficit of 10 percent of the increase in exports. Therefore, how come we’re talking about big economic growth?  

The second issue relates to the Amman stock market, which I wish had recorded any increase in the index. The Social Security Corp. bought shares of the Arab Bank from Kuwait for 68 million dinars, in addition to shares from other bank and pharmaceutical companies. In my opinion, it is too early to say that this was an improvement in the stock market’s performance, and it is also too early to say that the Jordanian stock market is indicative of the emergence of the economy from its crisis.  

We are too optimistic in some matters. There was an editorial by Fahed Al Fanek regarding a study on poverty in Jordan, in which he said that poverty in the country was within normal limits. I reviewed the study and would like to say that we should not give people inaccurate information about economic improvement. This improvement stems basically from foreign investment. We do not wish to deceive ourselves. We are currently facing an economic crisis with many complications. We should not be prematurely optimistic before the right time comes, because people will ask where the four percent economic growth has gone.  


Q. Is it possible for the free trade agreement with the US to be signed?  

A. The agreement will eventually be signed, but I cannot determine when. The Jordanian ambassador to the US, Marwan Al Mu’asher, said that it might be signed during the king’s upcoming visit to Washington.  


Q. Some people say that Jordan does not have a clear strategy, and that government actions are always nothing but reactions to certain developments. Do you agree with this?  

A. There’s no doubt that Jordan needs to formulate its vision, which I do not wish to call a strategy. This is due to the fact that strategy applies to countries which are capable of controlling changes more than other countries can do. Jordan can be affected by local, regional and international developments, and this is not the problem of Jordan alone, but rather the problem of small countries.  

In my opinion, Jordan’s situation is becoming more complicated over time. An intelligent leader is the leader who makes the final decision, but this doesn’t mean that the decision should come about accidentally. There is not a single person who is capable of making the right decision all the time. We should not tell King Abdullah “Go with your God for fighting, here we are waiting.” On the contrary, we are all responsible, whether in or out of office.  

I think one or two years of assessment is too short a period. We should give ourselves more time. King Abdullah will be 40 next year, which is the age of maturity. His vision, performance, priorities and concerns will definitely change. The king is making great efforts without any backing. He is building and others are demolishing, yet his majesty has been tolerant, as was the case with the late king Hussein and the late king Abdullah, the founder of the kingdom.  

We, as citizens, should always expect that the art of ruling matures with experience. Two years of a reign are not long enough, and I believe that what King Abdullah has achieved has been big.  


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