Transjordan was one of the Arab states which moved to assist Palestinian nationalists opposed to the creation of Israel in May 1948, and took part in the warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel. The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949 left Jordan in control of the West Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.
In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to include those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah. While recognizing Jordanian administration over the West Bank, the United States maintained the position that ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement.
Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Israel gained control of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should be determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970.
Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but by September, continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan--including the destruction of three international airliners hijacked and held in the desert east of Amman--prompted the government to take action to regain control over its territory and population. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force took up positions in northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but were forced to retreat. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the fedayeen in July 1971, expelling them from the country.
No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf war of 1990-91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.
Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The 80-member Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term, is subject to dissolution by the king. Of the 80 seats, 71 must go to Muslims and nine to Christians. The 40-member Senate is appointed by the king for an 8-year term.
The constitution provides for three categories of courts--civil, religious, and special. Administratively, Jordan is divided into eight governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the king. They are the sole authorities for all government departments and development projects in their respective areas.
Jordan maintains an embassy in the United States at 3504 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-966-2664).
King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the U.S. Abdullah, during the first year in power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.
Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population, and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's parliament has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and has become the major forum in which differing political views, including those of political Islamists, are expressed. While King Abdullah remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the parliament plays an important role.
Although the population is highly educated, its high growth rate (3.4%) and relative youth (more than 50% of Jordanians are under 16) make it difficult for the economy to generate jobs and sustain living standards. Jordan's distance from other markets makes its exports less competitive outside the region, and political disputes among its traditional trading partners--Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states--frequently restrict regional trade and development. King Abdullah has encouraged his government to liberalize the economy, improve economic ties in the region, and seek opportunities in the global information economy.
Since 1987, Jordan has struggled with a substantial debt burden, lower per capita income, and rising unemployment. In 1989, efforts to increase revenues by raising prices of certain commodities and utilities triggered riots in the south. The mood of political discontent that swept the country in the wake of the riots helped set the stage for Jordan's moves toward democratization.
Jordan also suffered adverse economic consequences from the 1990-91 Gulf war. While tourist trade plummeted, the Gulf states' decision to limit economic ties with Jordan deprived it of worker remittances, traditional export markets, a secure supply of oil, and substantial foreign aid revenues. UN sanctions against Iraq--Jordan's largest pre-war trading partner--caused further hardships, including higher shipping costs due to inspections of cargo shipments entering the Gulf of Aqaba. Finally, absorbing up to 300,000 returnees from the Gulf countries exacerbated unemployment and strained the government's ability to provide essential services.
Since 1995, economic growth has been low. Real GDP has grown at only about 1.5% annually, while the official unemployment has hovered at 14% (unofficial estimates are double this number). The budget deficit and public debt have remained high, yet during this period inflation has remained low, and exports of manufactured goods have risen at an annual rate of 9%. Monetary stability has been reinforced, even when tensions were renewed in the region during 1998, and during the illness and ultimate death of King Hussein in 1999.
Expectations of increased trade and tourism as a consequence of Jordan's peace treaty with Israel have been disappointing. Security-related restrictions to trade with the West Bank and Gaza have led to a substantial decline in Jordan's exports there. Following his ascension, King Abdullah improved relations with Arab Gulf states and Syria, but this brought few real economic benefits. Most recently the Jordanians have focused on WTO membership and a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. as means to encourage export-led growth.
Since the end of the war, Jordan has largely restored its relations with Western countries through its participation in the Middle East peace process and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Relations between Jordan and the Gulf countries improved substantially after King Hussein's death.
Jordan signed a nonbelligerency agreement with Israel (the Washington Declaration) in Washington, DC, on July 25, 1994. Jordan and Israel signed a historic peace treaty on October 26, 1994, witnessed by President Clinton, accompanied by Secretary Christopher. The U.S. has participated with Jordan and Israel in trilateral development discussions in which key issues have been water-sharing and security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley development; infrastructure projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues. Jordan also participates in the multilateral peace talks. Jordan belongs to the UN and several of its specialized and related agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and World Health Organization (WHO). Jordan also is a member of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), INTELSAT, Nonaligned Movement, and Arab League.
U.S. policy seeks to reinforce Jordan's commitment to peace, stability, and moderation. The peace process and Jordan's opposition to terrorism parallel and indirectly assist wider U.S. interests. Accordingly, through economic and military assistance and through close political cooperation, the United States has helped Jordan maintain its stability and prosperity.
Since 1952, the United States has provided Jordan with economic assistance totaling more than $2 billion, including funds for development projects, health care, support for macroeconomic policy shifts toward a more completely free market system, and both grant and loan acquisition of U.S. agricultural commodities. These programs have been successful and have contributed to Jordanian stability while strengthening the bilateral relationship. U.S. military assistance--provision of materiel and training--is designed to meet Jordan's legitimate defense needs, including preservation of border integrity and regional stability.
The U.S. embassy in Jordan is located in Abdoun, Amman (tel. 962-6-592-0101) and is closed on all U.S. federal holidays and some Jordanian holidays.