Strategic Appointments


By Rami Dabbas

Did the King Abdullah choose Al-Khasawneh as prime minister to pass the deal of the century?

After the government of the new Jordanian Prime Minister, Bishr Al-Khasawneh took the constitutional oath in front of king Abdullah, many questions revolved around the basic tasks that this man was assigned to, and whether he was able to complete them in light of the difficult conditions  Jordan is going through internally and regionally.

It seems that Jordan is forced to march towards interim challenges that it will face in the next stage, in light of the great turning point that the region is moving towards, and the insistence of the current American administration led by Donald Trump to bypass the Jordanian regime, which in the eyes of the current US administration and the Netanyahu government has become an obstacle to its interests in the region. Especially in light of King Abdullah’s insistence on not agreeing to the American peace deal in its current form, and  also after the Palestinian Authority’s refusal.

All these changes made the Jordanian monarch inclined to appoint Bishr Al-Khasawneh as prime minister to face these challenges, which Jordan seems forced to agree to, the most prominent of which is the deal of the century.

Coming out with a minimal loss

The Jordanian monarch’s choice of Al-Khasawneh came at the expense of two other candidates, Hussein Majali and Walid Al-Maani.

Hussein al-Majali is distinguished as a military figure who lacks political acumen, but he enjoys a populist discourse that makes him close to the street, which is what made the king think of him as a first option, for his characteristics that are able to absorb the anger of the Jordanian street, and his ability to restore popularity again to the Jordanian king, which has declined Recently.

In the end, however, the king saw that the dues of the next phase require the export of a diplomatic figure more than a military and popular figure close to the street. While the personality of the second candidate, Walid Al-Maani, came far from political and security work, he is a doctor, and therefore choosing him  would not be feasible to deal with the next stage.

The deal of the century … the search for realistic solutions

According to sources, King Abdullah pointed out that the choice of Al-Khasawneh came as a result of his distinction as a diplomatic and political figure known to the American decision-making circles, as the king wants to come out in the next stage with the least losses, in light of the state of normalization and peace between the Arab Gulf states with Israel, and the American demands by the Trump administration on Jordan to accept the deal of the Century.

Al-Khasawneh is distinguished in that he is a moderate figure who believes in realistic solutions. He has no problem with the principle of financially compensating the Palestinians instead of the right of return.

It is noteworthy that Al-Khasawneh was the only person who accompanied the Jordanian monarch on his recent lightning visit to the Emirates, just before the UAE signed a peace agreement with Israel, which gave initial indications at the time that King Abdullah wanted to send special signals to Washington via Abu Dhabi, that Amman would accept realistic solutions regarding the Palestinian issue specifically the American peace deal.

In addition to the fact that the man enjoys distinguished relations with Basem Awadallah, a figure close to Muhammad Dahlan, which is considered a green light from Jordan and a tacit approval to make sharp concessions regarding the Palestinian issue, and to agree to the deal of the century in principle, after he initially showed intransigence And a big rejection.

A dictatorial man who does not accept the other opinion

On the other hand, the “diplomatic” character of Al-Khasawneh on the external level does not appear in his dealings and behaviors with the social environment that he knows, and which he collided with and dealt with directly. The man’s personality is known for its clash and non-acceptance of the other. Rather, the man is distinguished by a great exclusionary state.

According to some sources, the man is famous for his nervous temper, and that he is a propagandist and opportunist, as he had attacked a traffic policeman during his work as his country’s ambassador to Egypt. In addition to that, he used to deal with auditors at the Jordanian embassy in Cairo in a superior manner, and did not accept any criticism or complaints submitted to him by the auditors.

Prime Minister with an excessive diplomatic flavor

Al-Khasawneh served extensively in the Jordanian diplomatic corps, and moved in a number of diplomatic and government positions, the last of which was the king’s policy advisor, since August 2020, and he previously worked as an advisor to the king for communication and coordination affairs for the period 2019-2020.

Al-Khasawneh also held the position of Minister of State twice, becoming Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in 2016-2017, and Minister of State for Legal Affairs in 2017-2018.

During his diplomatic career, he traveled as ambassador to Jordan in a number of countries, and his representative in a number of international organizations and forums. He was his country’s ambassador in Egypt from 2012 to 2016, and during the same period he served as Jordan’s delegate to the Arab League, permanent observer to the African Union, and Jordan’s ambassador to Kenya and Ethiopia, then moved to work as ambassador to France between 2018-2019.

Prior to that, he held a number of other positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the early 1990s. Second and First Attaché and Secretary.

King Abdullah II had limited options as a result of cumulative mistakes throughout his reign. His choice of Bishr Al-Khasawneh at this stage is due to a number of reasons.

The first reason is that he cannot return to the old guard, and thus the king has lost much of his popularity, and he does not want to lose more. Evidence for this is the experience of Marouf Al Bakhit, who he assigned  to head the government twice, the first was in 2011, and the second time in 2017, and his second government was worse than the first.

The second reason is that there are pressing issues on the Jordanian street, including the bad economic situation and political considerations in the region, from new alliances, on top of which is Gulf normalization with Israel, and the attempt to jump over the Jordanian role in the issue of Jerusalem and annexation of the Jordan Valley, and everything related to the Palestinian issue.

In addition to the most important and dangerous file at the domestic level, which is the health file related to the “Coronavirus” pandemic, and the devastating economic repercussions that came with it on the Jordanian economy.

Whereas, the king did not want to focus on the security aspect only by choosing a character such as Hussein al-Majali, or the health aspect by choosing a figure such as Walid al-Maani, but rather wanted to use a personality close to him and close to the Cabinet and the Hashemite palace.

Al-Khasawneh is aware of the instructions and trends within the corridors of the Jordanian political decision, and he is closely informed of the Jordanian position in various issues, as he is the least problematic for the king rather than choosing another person, considering that this person does not have question marks or major criticism in the Jordanian street, since most of his work  is concentrated in the diplomatic and foreign corps.

This is what prompted King Abdullah to change his mind at the last minute regarding the appointment of Majali and Al Maani as prime minister, and the tendency to appoint Al-Khasawneh after a series of great consultations with advisers and close associates.

As the king lives in a very big dilemma, fear and great anxiety about the current stage and what is coming, in light of important files, including holding elections for the House of Representatives, and many Arab countries rushed to normalize with Israel, and most importantly the upcoming American elections.

His Character touches the aspirations of the Jordanian palace and Regime

The choice of Al-Khasawneh as prime minister was among other options before the Jordanian monarch, as the man is famous for his closeness to the king,  considered one of the personalities close to the king for years, specifically, being a long-term advisor to the king, in addition to his experience as a diplomat who worked in Jordanian embassies abroad, and he had a role in developing  Jordan’s relations in the countries in which he worked, including the Arab League, and perhaps the joining of a number of diplomats to his ministerial team would confirm this.

On a large scale, if internal challenges are excluded, specifically dealing with the Coronavirus epidemic in all its details, and the repercussions of the economic crisis that will appear more deeply in the coming months, the external challenges, including regional ones, so the Jordanian decision-maker waits today for the post-American election phase in which the region will witness profound changes, not only linked to Palestinian and Arab peace with Israel.

There are transformations and rearrangements affecting regional powers in the region, which require precision in building Jordanian positions, especially since there is a Jordanian perception that normalization agreements with Israel will include other Arab countries, and this is what Jordan proposes to review its previous positions, ensuring its survival, which is not an issue. All regional powers in the region are moving and adopting their policies with one reference, which is the American elections and the implications of their results.

No magical solutions

Hence, the new Prime Minister Al-Khasawneh does not have a magic wand of solutions to confront the internal challenges, as the margins to maneuver in it are limited, and perhaps in his first statements after the oath, there was some indication for that when he said: “We will take the necessary decisions, even if they are painful,” while drawing foreign policies and decisions.  The government is one of the actors in it, not the only actor.

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