Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jordan in a Strange New World as the King Moves toward Peace with Israel, the Disbelieving Masses Would Rather Talk Soccer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jordan in a Strange New World as the King Moves toward Peace with Israel, the Disbelieving Masses Would Rather Talk Soccer

Article excerpt

THE long expected, but mostly dreaded words have been finally uttered openly: King Hussein is ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In a country where political reaction has always echoed across the borders, there is unusual silence.

In fact, the World Cup soccer games seem to capture more attention than daily official statements seeking support for the escalation of peace talks with Israel. Results of the games provoke more debate than the most controversial political statements.

For a highly politicized population, the lack of debate over Crown Prince Hassan's recent televised announcement that Jordan might host a round of Israeli-Jordanian talks is almost inexplicable.

But underneath the apparent apathy lies layers of accumulated disillusionments that have turned a fiery population numb. Since the end of the Gulf war, Jordanians have watched the changes in their surroundings, angrily in the beginning but helplessly now.

Infuriated Jordanians marched in the streets over the war and the subsequent embargo against neighboring Iraq. They challenged their government's adherence to the international sanctions, only to find that their own southern port of Aqaba has been blockaded continually since the Gulf war. The hills and squares of Amman that once echoed with rebellion against American policies in the region are now swarming with destitute Iraqis selling everything thinkable to survive.

The same streets that exploded with demonstrations every time the Israelis cracked down on the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are now filled with people baffled at watching the once-revered Palestine Liberation Organization fighters cross to the other side to police Palestinians under, as they see it, Israeli terms.

Damascus to the north has lost its appeal as a cradle for nationalism. Rhetoric beaming from Syrian television against Jordan's talks with Israel and the Palestinian autonomy deal has no influence at all. …

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