The monarch appeared to double down on the allegations against Prince Hamzah while trying to reassure Jordanians that the nation is returning to business as usual.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II first tackled the unprecedented public divide within the royal family on Wednesday, describing it as an attempted sedition involving his half-brother who had been “nipped in the bud”, but he caused anger, pain and shock.
The monarch appeared to be stepping up allegations against Prince Hamzah, a former crown prince, while trying to reassure Jordanians that the country was returning to business as usual.
But even if the current crisis is ultimately defused, major challenges lie ahead for the West-allied monarchy as it faces growing internal dissent.
Wednesday’s statement, presented by a reporter on Jordan TV, addressed the internal crisis that erupted over the weekend when Prince Hamzah was confined to his home and accused of being part of a plot to destabilize the kingdom.
Prince Hamzah has denied the allegations, saying he is simply calling for long-standing corruption and mismanagement in the kingdom.
The king said on Wednesday he had been injured by recent events.
Hurt by developments
“The challenge of the past few days was not the most difficult or the most dangerous for the stability of our nation, but for me it was the most painful,” he said.
“Sedition has come from inside and outside of our one home, and nothing compares to my shock, pain and anger as the brother and head of the Hashemite family and as the head of this. proud people. ” King Abdullah also suggested that there was continued control over Prince Hamzah’s movements. The prince, who has not been seen or heard for days, was “with his family in his palace, in my care,” the statement said.
There is no indication that authorities have freed up to 18 other detainees, including members of one of the powerful tribes on which the monarchy has historically relied.
Authorities have imposed a general gag order on any coverage of the royal dispute, a sign of their sensitivity to how it is viewed. The king’s gag and willingness to sanction his own brother has also reaffirmed what Jordanians see as their “red line” – an outright ban on criticizing the monarch or the royal family.
Bessma Momani, professor of international relations at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said the crisis had bolstered Prince Hamzah’s popularity, prompting critics of the government and new supporters to rally behind him.
She said doubling down on the king on vague conspiracy allegations could also create problems in the future. Prosecuting those detained, including members of a powerful tribe, could spark protests. If they are released, further questions could arise as to whether there was a conspiracy.
Even before the palace drama, Jordan was grappling with an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with one in four people out of work. Long-standing complaints of corruption and mismanagement have fueled dispersed protests in recent months.
At the same time, the region’s strategic landscape is changing as the powerful Gulf states continue their closer ties with Israel, which could undermine Jordan’s role in the Middle East peace process.
The White House, in a statement released on Wednesday, said President Joe Biden had spoken with King Abdullah to express the United States’ strong support for Jordan and underline the importance of the king’s leadership to the United States. United, the region and the peace process.
Response from the United States
Asked by reporters if he was concerned about the situation in Jordan, Mr Biden replied: “No, I am not. I just called him to tell him he has a friend in America. Stay strong. ”The crisis in the royal family erupted on Saturday when the Jordanian army chief of staff visited Prince Hamzah and warned him not to attend meetings with government critics. things quickly escalated, with Prince Hamzah accusing the security services of threatening him and ordering the general to leave his home.
Authorities placed the former crown prince under a form of house arrest and detained up to 18 people, including former senior officials. On Sunday, the government said Prince Hamzah and others were involved in a “malicious plot” against the security of the kingdom with foreign backing.
King Abdullah and Prince Hamzah are both sons of King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for nearly half a century before his death in 1999. King Abdullah appointed Prince Hamzah as crown prince upon his succession, but took away the title in 2004.
The government imposed the gag order on coverage of the dispute after an audio recording of the meeting between Prince Hamzah and Chief of Staff Gen. Yousef Huneiti raised questions about his allegations of foreign conspiracy. Neither of them mentioned such a plot in the recording, which was recorded surreptitiously and broadcast online.
Family members of those arrested in connection with the alleged plot, meanwhile, said they had had no communication with authorities or detainees.
Among those arrested are Yasser al-Majali, Hamzah’s chief of staff, and Samir al-Majali, both prominent members of the Majali tribe.
“We don’t know where he is,” Yasser al-Majali’s brother Abdullah said. He said they could not reach any officials and were not informed of any charges.
“If there is anything against them, bring them to justice for a fair trial,” he said. “We don’t want any problems. We care about stability and we want our people to be liberated.” The Majali tribe issued an angry statement immediately after the arrests, calling it a “dark day” in which the dignity of the tribe was insulted.