Jordan and the Israeli War on Gaza: Shifts in Political Discourse

After Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Hamas has gained newfound popularity among Jordanians, while the government has taken a different tone in its relations with Israel.

Abdullah Jbour – Carnegie endowment

News of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, in which Hamas militants killed 1,300 Israeli civilians and took 200 Israelis hostage, was celebrated among segments of the Jordanian public. Jordanians circulated video clips and sarcastic comments about the high death toll and capture of Israelis, a unprecedented loss for Israel in its history of its wars with Palestinian resistance movements. Spontaneous festivities took place in Jordanian streets, as people distributed sweets and chanted slogans in support of the leadership of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades.


After absorbing the shock of the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel was in “a state of war,” and formed an emergency government that included the opposition. By launching Operation Iron Swords, Israel made clear its intention to respond violently to Hamas and take revenge on Gaza and has so far killed thousands of Palestinian civilians. Thousands of Jordanians in cities across the country have taken to the street to protest the Israeli assault. After attack on Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, demonstrators in Amman tried to storm and set fire to the Israeli embassy, but were ultimately thwarted by Jordanian security personnel.  


Hamas has a long history in Jordan: its offices were in Amman during the 1990s, and King Hussein bin Talal almost canceled the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel after the latter’s attempt to assassinate Khaled Mashal while he was in Jordan. Mashal is considered one of the founders of Hamas, who previously served as head of the movement’s political bureau, and now leads its political bureau abroad. He had a influence on public opinion in  Jordan, but his popularity—along with the movement as a whole—had declined in recent years due to Hamas’ preoccupation with regional political affairs at the expense of its commitment to resistance. This gap between the movement and the Jordanian public also widened as the result of Hamas’ rapprochement with Bashar al-Assad’s regime last year. However, it seems as though the movement has significantly renewed itself in Jordan after the attacks of October 7. 

During the recent protests in Amman, Jordanians called out the names of Hamas’ military leaders, including Mohammed Deif, the commander-in-chief of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the movement’s official spokesman, Abu Ubaida, and Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of the Hamas movement in Gaza. On the other hand, the names of famous Hamas political leaders, such as Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Political Bureau and Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas foreign or international office, were absent from the protests. This is indicative of wider transformations in Jordanian popular opinion. The Jordanian masses supporting the Palestinian cause now prefer military confrontation over political negotiations, especially given the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and many former Fatah supporters in Jordan have now joined the ranks of Hamas—which is no longer seen just a movement, but an entire ideology. 


The tribes of Jordan, one of the pillars of the social, political and security system in the country, have largely supported the Palestinians since the 1948 nakba. Prior to 1967, for example, during the period of unity between the West and East Banks of the Jordan River, tribesmen participated in combat against the Israeli army. During the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, what has been new in tribal discourse is clear support not only for Hamas as a whole but for Mohammad Deif in particular.


So far, the Jordanian government has only responded to the war in Gaza with diplomatic measures. After the Al-Ahli hospital bombing, King Abdullah cancelled a summit that Jordan had planned to host with U.S. President Joe Biden. Among other changes in the official Jordanian position, Crown Prince Hussein entered the political discourse, taking a sharp stance against Israeli killing of civilians in Gaza. He also supervised the aid convoys provided by Jordan to Gaza through the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi also made diplomatic efforts at the United Nations, and with the support of 120 countries, the General Assembly adopted a Jordanian resolution that called for an “immediate, permanent, and sustainable humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” and a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, it remains a non-binding resolution, and Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza are only increasing. Most recently, Al-Safadi took the significant step of recalling Jordan’s ambassador to Israel.

Jordan sees that the war could expand from Gaza to multiple fronts, including the West Bank, at any moment. Israel’s disproportionate reaction, with full American support, to the October 7 Hamas attacks could internationalize the crisis and compel multiple parties across the Middle East to become engaged in a wider conflict. This is the most important concern for the Jordanian government, and it seems likely that there is coordination between Jordan and Egypt, both of which fear the possibility of mass transfer of Palestinian civilians—a step that they believe would infringe on national security and spell the end of Palestine. The fact that Jordan sees Israel’s attempt to displace Palestinians as a “declaration of war” is unprecedented since the two countries normalized relations in 1994. 

The tone of Jordanian politics has changed sharply towards Israel, and the countries’ bilateral relations are at a low point. It is clear that Israeli violations against Palestinians are rapidly contributing to widespread adoption of the “Hamas ideology”, not only among Palestinians but also among Jordanians and Arabs across the region. This puts the future of security and civil stability in Israel at stake, and may further alter the political map of the Middle East, with its new alliances, the rise of the BRICS bloc, the near normalization of Saudi-Israeli relations, and the increasing presence of Iran in the Arab world.

Abdullah Jbour is a researcher in political sociology whose research focuses on youth and civil society, citizenship and identity, the state and democratic transition. Follow him on X @jbour_abdullah.

@ sada

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