Country in southwest Asia, bounded north by Syria, northeast by Iraq, east, southeast, and south by Saudi Arabia, south by the Gulf of Aqaba, and west by Israel.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, with the king effectively head of state and government. The 1952 constitution, as amended, provides for a two-chamber national assembly comprising a 55-member senate, appointed by the king for an eight-year term (one-half rotating every four years), and an 110-member house of representatives (house of deputies), comprising 104 deputies elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term and six female deputies elected by a special electoral college. Christians are reserved nine seats in the house and Chechens/Circassians three. The house is subject to dissolution by the king within that period. The king governs with the help of a council of ministers whom he appoints and who are responsible to the assembly. The king commands the armed forces, signs all laws, appoints and dismisses judges, and approves amendments to the constitution, but his veto power can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the national assembly. The prime minister is the most senior member of the council of ministers. The cabinet can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of ‘no confidence’ by the house of representatives.
The area forming the kingdom of Jordan was occupied by the independent Nabataeans from the 4th century BC and perhaps earlier, until AD 106 when it became part of the Roman province of Arabia. It was included in the Crusaders' kingdom of Jerusalem 1099-1187. Palestine (partly in the disputed West Bank of the Jordan river) and Transjordan (the present-day East Bank) were part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire until its dissolution after World War I. Both were then placed under British administration by the League of Nations as the British Mandate of Palestine, three-quarters of which comprised Transjordan.
End of British mandates
Transjordan acquired greater control of its own affairs than Palestine. In 1921 the British gave substantial control over Transjordan to Abdullah (the future Abdullah I) from the Hashemite (an Arab clan) family who had been defeated by the House of Saud in the civil war to control the Islamic holy places of Mecca and Medina. In 1923 Transjordan separated from Palestine and achieved full independence when the British mandate expired in 1946.The mandate for Palestine ran out in 1948, whereupon Jewish leaders claimed it for a new state of Israel. Israel was attacked by Arab nations and fought until a cease-fire was agreed in 1949. By then Transjordan forces had occupied part of Palestine to add to what they called the new state of Jordan. In 1950 they annexed the West Bank. In 1951 King Abdullah I was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son, King Talal, but he was removed from the throne in 1952 on grounds of mental incapacity. His son Hussein ibn Tal Abdulla el Hashim, was only 17 years old, so initially a committee ruled Jordan until 1953, when, aged 18, Hussein was officially made king. In 1958 Jordan and Iraq formed an Arab Federation, which ended five months later when the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown. In 1967, following the Six-Day War (see Arab-Israeli Wars), Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel. In the aftermath of the 1967 war, there was a large increase in the number of Palestinians, chiefly from the West Bank, living in Jordan - rising from 0.7 million to over 1 million. There was also an upsurge in armed Palestinian resistance (feyadeen) groups in Jordan, which put the state's stability at risk.
Search for peace
King Hussein survived many upheavals in his own country and neighbouring states, including attempts on his life, and kept control of Jordan's affairs. He provided stability for the Bedouin-related and Palestinian communities in the country and oversaw major advances in improving water and electricity networks and improved literacy, health, and education. He also played a central role in Middle East affairs as a key bridge between the West and the Arab states. Relations with his neighbours fluctuated, but he was generally a moderating influence, although his peace efforts were frequently frustrated. After Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hussein sought to bring peace to the area, establishing a relationship with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yassir Arafat. By 1984 the Arab world was split into two camps, with the moderates represented by Jordan, Egypt, and Arafat's PLO, and the militant radicals by Syria, Libya, and the rebel wing of the PLO. In 1985 Hussein and Arafat put together a framework for a Middle East peace settlement, to involve bringing together all interested parties, but Israel objected to the PLO being represented. Further progress was hampered by the PLO's alleged complicity in a number of guerrilla operations in that year. Hussein tried to revive the search for peace by secretly meeting the Israeli prime minister in France and persuading Yassir Arafat to renounce publicly PLO violence in territories not occupied by Israel. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank.
In response to mounting unrest within Jordan in 1989, Hussein promised greater democratization, and free and fair elections to a new house of representatives were held. Martial law (in force since 1967) was ended, and political parties legalized in 1992. Assembly elections in 1993 were won by deputies loyal to the king (mainly independents), with several leading Islamic fundamentalists failing to win back their seats.
Moves towards peace
Following the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait in August 1990, Hussein unsuccessfully attempted to act as a mediator. Meanwhile the United Nations' trade embargo on Iraq and the exodus of thousands of refugees into Jordan strained the country's resources. Jordan attended the historic Middle East peace conference in Spain in 1991. However, the king's image as a peace broker had been damaged by his support for Saddam Hussein and in 1993 he publicly distanced himself from the Iraqi leader. Later that year he concluded a ‘common agenda’ for peace with Israel. In January 1994 an economic cooperation pact was signed with the PLO, and in July 1994 a treaty with Israel to end the 46-year-old ‘state of war’ - as a precursor to serious boundary negotiations.
The transition to King Abdullah II
From the mid 1990s, King Hussein's health was ailing, due to cancer, and he prepared for his succession. In late January 1999 he dismissed his brother as heir-apparent to the Hashemite throne and installed his eldest son, the 36-year-old half-English Prince Abdullah ibn Hussein, as crown prince. The move drew a mixed reaction from Jordanians, confused by the speed of the decision days after King Hussein returned from six months of cancer treatment in the USA.
Hussein died on 7 February 1999 and his funeral was attended by hundreds of foreign dignitaries and was accompanied by national mourning. Crown prince Abdullah ibn Hussein succeeded, becoming King Abdullah II. He appointed an ally of his father, Abdul-Raouf Rawabdeh, as prime minister and continued his father's peace initiatives. He held talks in May 1999 with Yassir Arafat to forge a united Arab position, before the renewal of peace negotiations with Israel. To encourage Israel, the offices of Hamas, the radical Palestinian Islamic militant movement in Jordan which opposes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, were closed down by the Jordanian government.
King Abdullah embarked on a privatization programme and opened up the economy more to the private sector and external trade, with Jordan joining the World Trade Organization and signing a free trade accord with the USA in 2000. In June 2000 King Abdullah dismissed the conservative prime minister, Abdul-Raouf Rawabdeh, and replaced him with Ali Abu al-Ragheb, a US-educated economist, and appointed more liberal members of parliament to work alongside him and push through economic reforms approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The king's concerns over the slow pace of reform led to a succession of new prime ministers: Faisal al-Fayez, from October 2003; Adnan Badran, from April 2005; Marouf al-Bakhit, from November 2005; and Nader Dahabi, from November 2007. However, from 2004 the economy grew by around 6% a year.
King Abdullah supported the USA's war in Iraq in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but the subsequent instability and insurgency in Iraq led to a series of bombings in Jordan and attacks on tourists by terrorist groups, including a group called al-Qaeda in Iraq. In November 2005 suicide bombings in Annam claimed 70 lives.There has also been a large influx of Iraqis to Jordan, with 0.5 million Iraqis living in Jordan in 2007.
We're sorry this article wasn't helpful. Tell us how we can improve.