Jordan Table of Contents
Over a long period, the most serious threat to Hussein's continuance in power had been posed by the militant and rejectionist elements of the PLO that were supported by Syria and Libya. Although the PLO's avowed goal was to regain the traditional Palestinian homeland for millions of Palestinians scattered throughout the Middle East, the PLO's actions at times had given the impression that the initial phase of its program was to gain control over Jordan. In the aftermath of the June 1967 War, Hussein was persuaded by fellow Arab leaders to permit the PLO to station some of its military forces in the East Bank. By 1970 the fedayeen (Palestinian guerrillas) had acquired a powerful presence in the country and had become openly defiant of Hussein's government. They threatened to topple the monarchy and replace it with a regime that would not interfere with guerrilla operations against Israel. After a series of crises during which Palestinian behavior became increasingly disruptive, a fierce civil war broke out in September 1970. By the summer of 1971, after suffering heavy losses, the organized PLO militia was forced to withdraw to new bases primarily in Lebanon (see The Guerrilla Crisis , ch. 1).
Having ended the Palestinian military threat, Hussein was determined not to permit its reappearance. The departure of the PLO meant relief from Israeli retaliatory shelling and incursions in reprisal for PLO raids and rocket attacks on the West Bank. Hostility between Hussein and the PLO gradually abated after the October 1973 War. The king reluctantly assented to a decision taken at a conference of Arab leaders in 1974 to designate the PLO as the sole authorized representative of the Palestinian people, in effect relinquishing his traditional role as representative of Palestinians residing on the West Bank. In 1988 the king formally renounced Jordanian claims to sovereignty over the West Bank. At the same time, Hussein intensified his efforts to promote national unity in the East Bank by encouraging the integration of Palestinians into the indigenous political and social structure. Many Palestinian residents had by 1989 become well absorbed into Jordanian society, achieving prominence in government, business, finance, and industry, with an investment in the stability of the Hashimite regime. But there was still widespread discrimination against Palestinians in favor of Transjordanians, and thousands of Palestinians remained in Jordan as impoverished refugees.
As of 1989, the remaining potential for political subversion among the Palestinians appeared to be confined to scattered and poorly organized extremist groups operating mostly out of refugee camps. These groups included radical factions of the Syriansupported anti-Arafat wing of the PLO, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). In late 1987 and early 1988, the government detained without charge or expelled more than 100 Palestinians to prevent them from agitating in support of the intifadah (the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank) and against Hussein's inaction. The Black September terrorist group, claimed responsibility for bomb explosions in Amman later in 1988 and charged the king with "conspiring against the Palestinian revolution."
Data as of December 1989