Jordan’s King Abdullah II is planning to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday. It is unknown if PA President Mahmoud Abbas will also be stripped of his citizenship. The decision comes on the heels of the Kingdom’s new electoral law that is criticized for limiting Palestinian representation in parliament to less than 8 percent.
According to The Jerusalem Post report, the decision to revoke citizenship from Palestinian-Jordanians is expected to affect some 1.6 million people. The exact number of Jordanians of Palestinian origin is unknown, and estimates range from approximately half, to 43 percent according to King Abdullah, to at least two-thirds of Jordan’s total population of 6.5 million. The Palestinians’ large number has made them a hot-button issue. According to Human Rights Watch, between 2004 and 2008 Jordan stripped more than 2,700 Palestinians of their nationality in an effort to limit the population’s growing power.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives King Abdullah II of Jordan (L) on November 21, 2011 in Ramallah. (Photo: PPO/Getty Images Europe)
Revoking citizenship creates a number of problems. In Jordan, it immediately cuts people off from access to the country’s jobs sector, educational institutions, health care, real estate market, and more. In addition, the loss of citizenship enlarges the population of stateless Palestinian people overnight, putting even more pressure on future Israeli-Palestinian statehood negotiations — if that is at all possible.
The Arab Uprising of 2011 and continuing violence in Syria has only exacerbated the situation. King Abdullah fears the powerful Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood may form an alliance with the Palestinian population and threaten the regime. Indeed, over the last year, nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees have entered Jordan seeking shelter. And yet, the Kingdom has refused to allow some 1,100 Palestinian refugees from Syria into the country, leaving them stranded along the Syrian-Jordanian border.
The Middle East is rife with human rights issues that receive far too little attention, and Amman’s policy of stripping its Palestinian-Jordanian residents of their citizenship is certainly one of them.