A discussion of transition in Jordan between 1990-2000, showing it to be a multi-faceted process, in which each facet interacts with the other, forming a coherent interdependent system. Economic transition has been a consequence of Jordan’s isolation from its markets in Iraq and the Gulf in the 1990s, but is also inherent in its participation in attempts to foster peace as a key factor in regional stability. This is the preferred option of King ‘Abdullah II (who succeeded the long-reigning King Hussain in 2000), and reflects the country’s geostrategic options towards the United States and Europe. The Middle East peace process itself was the culmination of strategic choices made by King ‘Abdullah I, even as Israel was being created, but it also reflects the domestic political situation in seeking to overcome demographic and cultural ruptures. Yet the domestic political situation is also contingent on the generational change in attitudes within the elite that followed King Hussain’s death, and it remains to be seen to what extent political liberalization is a genuine option or whether it remains subservient to the older imperatives of the neo-patrimonial state. It is also not clear whether King ‘Abdullah’s enthusiasm for Jordan’s future within a globalized world will become a reality. Significant change within Jordan depends on the outcome of the Palestine/Israel conflict and the new relationships that it can forge with the wider world – particularly with Europe, which will eventually become the dominant guarantor of regional stability because of its economic role within the Mediterranean and the wider Middle East.
George Joffe is a Research Fellow at the Centre and Visiting Professor of Geography at Kings College, London University. He specialises in the Middle East and North Africa and is currently engaged in a project studying connections between migrant communities and transnational violence in Europe.