Jordan’s Prime Minister sacked days after phone call with Hamas

+972’s Omar Rahman asks, “What will Hamas do with its new political capital?” Well, it didn’t take long to find out.

Jordan’s King Abdullah has asked the country’s Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit to resign, effective immediately. This, after 70 out of 120 of the country’s MP voted in a no-confidence motion against Bakhit over a 2007 casino corruption charge. He had only been in the post since February, replacing the previous leader who was also removed for being too “pro-business” in the eyes of the many.

While Jordan has been one of the handful of Arab countries in the region that has successfully contained protests in the so-called “Arab Spring,” many would argue that Bakhit is the latest victim of the populist movements. He tried, but apparently failed, to appease growing frustrations among Islamists in the country by offering political reforms. But it appears to have been too little too late.

An outstretched hand
On Sunday, Bakhit received a rare call from his (deposed) Palestinian counterpart, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Islamist group in the Gaza Strip. The two discussed the Shalit/prisoner exchange deal and Bakhit expressed his support for the Palestinian cause.

What may seem like a trivial phone call between significant figures in the Middle East gets a little more complicated when one remembers that Hamas was exiled from Jordan in 1999. Amman officially recognized the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and gave Hamas’ offices and officials the boot. They went to the Kingdom of Qatar.

Since then, Fatah’s leader have felt very comfortable on Jordanian territory. When I interviewed the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year, it was not in Ramallah, home of the authority’s headquarters and his offices, the Muqatta, but rather in Amman, the Jordanian capital, at the residence of the Palestinian ambassador. Earlier on that day, eating a late lunch at a popular Amman restaurant, I spotted a number of key Palestinian figures dining just tables away, among them the Palestinian’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

This city ain’t big enough for the both of us
Amman is about to get another visitor, or so it has been reported. The exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is expected to arrive in Jordan in the coming days, accompanied by the Qatari heir-apparent who has been mediating rapproachement between the two parties. Meshaal has not been in Jordan in more than a decade, and his arrival there could signal new political clout for the group, and also an effort to placate Islamist politicians. All of this would be of grave concern to Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which has been keen to keep its rival, Hamas, as the weak player.

Jordan’s new Prime Minister has already been dubbed. Awn al-Khasawneh is a former judge from the International Court of Justice. It’s not clear how, if at all, his new role may affect fledgling renewed relations with an old friend-turned-foe.