Jordan - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

Read about Jordan: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Jordan (country) or Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, kingdom in the Middle East. Its full official name is Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Arabic Al Mamlakah al Urdunniyah al Hashimiyah). The term Hashemite refers to the Jordanian monarchy’s claim of descent from Hashim, the grandfather of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

Jordan’s arid desert landscape and few natural resources belie its importance in the history of the modern Middle East. The territory was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was dismantled after World War I (1914-1918) and replaced, in this part of the Middle East, by British and French control. Transjordan—the territory east of the Jordan River—came under British control, as did Palestine to the west of the Jordan River. Transjordan’s status as an independent kingdom was recognized in 1946 (the kingdom’s name was changed to Jordan in 1949).

In 1947 the United Nations (UN) voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state and to internationalize the city of Jerusalem, but that plan was rejected by the region’s Arabs. The Jewish state of Israel was nonetheless established in 1948 in Palestine. Transjordan, along with four other Arab nations, attacked Israel the same year. Following the war, Israel held western Jerusalem, while Jordanian troops held eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. In the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Jordan continued to claim the West Bank until 1988 when, in response to mass Palestinian uprisings and Palestinian claims to self-determination, Jordanian king Hussein relinquished sovereignty over the West Bank.

Today, Jordan is bounded on the north by Syria, on the east by Iraq and Saudi Arabia, on the south by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aqaba, and on the west by Israel and the West Bank. The area of Jordan is 89,342 sq km (34,495 sq mi). Amman is the capital and largest city of Jordan.


The principal geographical feature of Jordan is an arid desert plateau that covers four-fifths of the country. The plateau rises to about 610 to 915 m (about 2,000 to 3,000 ft) in the west and slopes gently downward toward the Syrian Desert in the extreme east of the country. Deep canyons and mountainous outcroppings with elevations of up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) characterize the plateau in the southern portion of the country. This arid region is at the intersection of the Syrian Desert and the northern Saudi Arabian desert of An Nafūd.

The Jordan Valley occupies the western edge of the country. A deep depression of the Great Rift Valley, it reaches 209 m (686 ft) below sea level in the area of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and 408 m (1,340 ft) below sea level at the Dead Sea, the world’s lowest point. The soil of the Jordan Valley is very fertile when irrigated, and the region experiences a mild year-round growing season.

Highlands occupy northwestern Jordan, rising to an average elevation of 3,500 feet (1,067 meters) above sea level. Jordanian farmers grow fruits and vegetables in the rich soils of the north and grains in the less fertile soils to the south.

Rivers and Lakes in Jordan

The Jordan River, forming the country’s border with Israel and the West Bank, is the heart of the country’s drainage system. Rains in the highlands are channeled down temporary streambeds called wadis to the Jordan River. In addition, the Yarmūk and Zarqā’ rivers flow into the Jordan River. The Yarmūk, which separates Syria, Jordan, and Israel and is exploited by all three, is the larger. The Zarqā’ is entirely in Jordan. Its flow is regulated by the King Talal Dam. The Dead Sea is about 80 km (50mi) long and 18 km (11 mi) wide at its broadest. It is called the Dead Sea because it is much too salty to support aquatic life.

Climate in Jordan

Jordan has a Mediterranean climate with cool winters and hot dry summers and a variable rainfall. The rainy season runs from November to April. Temperatures below freezing are not unknown in January, the coldest month, but the average winter temperature is above 7°C (45°F). In the Jordan Valley summer temperatures may reach 49°C (120°F) in August, the hottest month, but the average summer temperature in Amman is 26°C (78°F). Hot desert winds, called khamsins, blow when the barometric pressure is low just before and after the hot summer months. Precipitation is confined largely to the winter season and ranges from about 660 mm (about 26 in) in the northwestern corner to less than 127 mm (less than 5 in) in the extreme east.

Plant and Animal Life in Jordan

Because much of Jordan consists of desert and steppe, plant life is not abundant. Grassland and wooded areas are found in the Jabal Ājlūn district between Amman and the Syrian border. In these regions the trees include willow, oleander, and tamarisk along the lower Jordan River valley and also ilex, olive, Aleppo pine, and palm. Wildlife includes the hyena, hyrax, gazelle, ibex, fox, partridge, mongoose, and mole rat; birds are also well represented.


The population of Jordan (2009 estimate), is 6,342,948, yielding an average population density of 69 persons per sq km (179 per sq mi). The population of Jordan is almost entirely Arab. The only sizable racial minorities in the country are the Circassians and the Armenians; each group accounts for less than 1 percent of the population. Jordan is 79 percent urban; nomads and seminomads make up perhaps 5 percent of the population.

The population grew enormously after 1948 as Palestinian refugees flooded Jordan. An estimated 100,000 Palestinians fleeing the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949 settled on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River, and 310,000 more crossed the river after Israel conquered the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Principal Cities of Jordan

Amman, the capital and largest city of Jordan, grew in population from a census estimate of 321,000 in 1966 to nearly 648,000 at the 1979 census, largely because of the influx of Palestinian refugees; in 2003 the city had an estimated 1.2 million inhabitants. Other important cities include Az Zarqā’ (population, 2000 estimate, 428,623) and Irbid (247,275). Al ‘Aqabah, the country’s only seaport, had an estimated population of 41,900 in 1989.

Religion and Languages spoken in Jordan

The great majority of the Jordanian people are Sunni Muslims (see Sunni Islam). Shia Muslims (see Shia Islam) form a small minority. Christians, about one-third of whom belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, make up about 4 percent of the population. Islam is the state religion and Arabic the official language.

Education in Jordan

Jordan has made significant strides in education in recent decades, despite the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and the very large share of the national budget assigned to the armed forces. Public education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. At the secondary level, about 85 percent of the male children and 87 percent of the female children go to school. Some 93 percent of the Jordanian population age 15 or older was literate in 2007.

The country has two major universities: the University of Jordan (1962) in Amman, and Yarmouk University (1975) in Irbid. Other institutions of higher education include Mu’tah University (1981) in Al Karak, Jordan University of Science and Technology (1986) in Irbid, Al-Isra University (1991) in Amman, and numerous colleges and other institutes for the study of agriculture, banking, social work, and public administration. About 37 percent of college-age Jordanian males, and 37 percent of females, attend institutions of higher education.

Libraries and Museums in Jordan

The major libraries of Jordan are the National Library, the Greater Amman Public Library, the University of Jordan Library, and the Scientific and Technical Information Center, all in Amman. Major museums housing historical, religious, and archaeological treasures are the Jordan Archaeological Museum, the Mosaic Gallery, and the Folklore Museum, all in Amman.

Way of Life in Jordan

Rapid economic development and social change in recent decades have resulted in great discrepancies in living styles and standards in Jordan. Shepherds still move their flocks from east to west with the change of seasons, but are most likely to do so today with the help of a pickup truck. In some areas, village cultivators still employ mule-drawn wooden plows and labor-intensive methods in tending their terraced fields, harvesting is still done by sickle, and threshing is performed communally at the village threshing grounds. In other regions, where the terrain allows, modern agricultural machinery such as tractors and harvesters are utilized. This rural life is rejected by large numbers of young people for whom education has opened a wide range of new options, mostly in the city. The city has come to dominate the modern Jordanian way of life.

Rapid economic growth and urbanization have created tensions between traditional customs and a changing lifestyle. Though family ties remain strong, most urban households consist of the nuclear family, not the extended family. Arranged marriages are still prevalent, and Amman is a socially conservative, work-oriented city with only modest nightlife.


Underdeveloped industrially, poor in natural resources, and largely too arid for agriculture, Jordan is not economically self-supporting and must depend heavily on foreign aid, primarily from petroleum-rich Arab countries. Further burdens were placed on the economy after the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which contained nearly half of Jordan’s agricultural land, and by the subsequent influx of unemployed refugees. In the late 1980s Jordan’s economy became increasingly dependent on the overland transport of goods from the port of Al ‘Aqabah to Iraq and on remittances from Jordanian workers employed in the Persian Gulf states. These sources of revenue were disrupted by the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the U.S.-Iraq War. In 2007 Jordan’s budget revenues were $5.1 billion and its expenditures were $5.8 billion.

Agriculture of Jordan

The West Bank accounted for an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the grain, 70 percent of the fruit, and 40 percent of the vegetable produce of Jordan before the 1967 war with Israel. After the loss of the West Bank, Jordanian agricultural production plunged, and the proportion of the labor force engaged in agriculture declined from 37 percent to 4 percent in 2003. Only 2 percent of the land is cultivated, and only a small percentage of the cultivated area is irrigated.

With so much of Jordan’s agriculture dependent on rainfall, annual production figures fluctuate widely. Even in the best agricultural years, food imports exceed food exports. Wheat and barley are the major grain crops, but production is not sufficient to meet the needs of the country. Cereal production in 2007 was 80,860 metric tons. Some fruit crops, primarily citrus, olives, almonds, figs, grapes, and apricots, and such vegetables as cucumbers and tomatoes are grown for export. Jordanian farmers also cultivate tobacco. Livestock include sheep, cattle, goats, and poultry.

Mining in Jordan

Although the country has few mineral resources, phosphates and potash salts (both used in the production of fertilizers) traditionally dominated Jordan’s export earnings. Mining operations in Jordan produced 1.8 million metric tons of phosphate rock in 2007.

Manufacturing in Jordan

Jordan lost about one-fifth of its industrial production as a result of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Since then, the Jordanian government has encouraged the expansion of industry through fiscal concessions and high protective tariffs. Jordan’s main heavy industries are the manufacture of cement, fertilizer, and petroleum products. Consumer goods industries include the manufacture of clothing and other textiles, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, paper, and processed foods. Since the late 1990s manufactured products have grown to rival minerals as export earners. Most of Jordan’s factories are located close to Amman.

Tourism of Jordan

Jordan’s many historic sites are popular tourist attractions, notably Petra, an ancient city carved from solid rock in southwestern Jordan. Tourism is an important source of foreign exchange revenue. In 2007, 3.4 million tourists visited Jordan, yielding $2,312 million in income.

Energy in Jordan

Jordan generates 99.5 percent of its electricity in thermal installations using imported petroleum. In 2006 the country’s output was 10.9 billion kilowatt-hours.

Currency and Banking of Jordan

Jordan’s unit of currency is the dinar (0.70 dinar equals U.S.$1; 2007 average), which is divided into 1,000 fil. The Central Bank of Jordan, which was founded in 1964, is the country’s bank of issue.

Foreign Trade in Jordan

The principal exports of Jordan are phosphates, potash, fertilizers, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and transport equipment. The principal imports are machinery, food, crude petroleum and other fuels, and basic manufactured goods. Leading purchasers of Jordan’s exports are Iraq, the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, and Israel; chief sources for imports are Iraq, Germany, the United States, China, and France. In 2007 the total value of Jordanian imports was $13.5 billion, and the total value of exports was $5.7 billion.

Transportation and Communications in Jordan

Jordan has a modern road network of 7,500 km (4,660 mi), nearly all of it paved. The only rail lines run from the Syrian border through Amman to Ma‘ān, where branches run southeast to Saudi Arabia and southwest to the port of Al ‘Aqabah, a total of 293 km (182 mi). Queen Alia International Airport, south of Amman, is served by the Royal Jordanian Airline and other international carriers.

In 2004 Jordan had in use 119 telephone mainlines, 271 radio receivers, and 119 television sets for every 1,000 inhabitants. Publications include 4 daily newspapers, as well as 20 nondaily newspapers.


Under the 1951 constitution (approved in 1952), Jordan is a limited monarchy.

Executive of Jordan

The Jordanian monarch is chief executive and head of state and shares executive power with a prime minister and other cabinet members who are responsible to the parliament. The monarch may declare war, conclude peace, and convene, adjourn, and suspend the lower house of the legislature.

Legislature of Jordan

The Jordanian parliament, called the National Assembly, comprises two houses. The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, consists of 110 popularly elected seats, 6 of which are reserved for female candidates. The upper house, or Senate, consists of 40 members who are appointed by the monarch, subject to approval by the Chamber of Deputies.

Judiciary in Jordan

Jordan, like many Arab countries, has a civil and a religious court system. Magistrate courts, the lowest in the civil system, hear minor criminal and civil cases; important cases go to courts of first instance. Decisions of these courts are subject to review by courts of appeal. The supreme court of Jordan, known as the Court of Cassation, presides over cases against the state, hears appeals, and interprets the law.

Islamic Sharia courts rule on marriage, divorce, interdiction, wills, and guardianship cases for citizens desiring Islamic interpretation rather than civil decisions. Non-Muslim minorities may resort to religious courts of their own traditions in personal status cases. The country’s nomadic tribes may bring cases to tribal courts.

Local Government of Jordan

Jordan is divided into 12 administrative districts, or governorates. Each is headed by a governor appointed by the monarch. Jordan’s nomadic population is administered separately.

Political Parties of Jordan

Political parties were banned until 1992. Since then, various parties have been established, many of which are allied with the king. The largest opposition party is the Islamic Action Front.

Defense of Jordan

The king of Jordan is commander in chief of the armed forces. In 2006 the army comprised a total force of 85,000 people; the air force, 15,000; and the navy, an estimated 500.


The territory constituting modern Jordan was the site of some of the earliest settlements and political entities known to historians. The Ammonites and the kingdoms of Edom, Gilead, and Moab, situated east of the Jordan River, are referred to repeatedly in the Bible.

The northern part of present-day Jordan was part of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria from the 3rd to the 1st century BC, after which it came under Roman rule. Southern Jordan was the site of a powerful kingdom centered on the rock city of Petra. The kingdom was made up of Arab people known as Nabataeans. Petra was situated on one of the main trade routes between eastern and western Asia. Caravans carrying gums, spices, and silks brought by sea to the Gulf of Aqaba went through Petra on their way to the lands of the eastern Mediterranean.

The Nabataean kingdom lasted until AD 106, when it too was conquered by the Romans. After the division of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century, all of what is now Jordan came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

Arab Muslim armies conquered what is now Jordan in the 7th century (see Spread of Islam). In later centuries the region was overrun several times by invaders from central Asia, including Seljuk Turks, Mongols, and Tatars. During the Crusades, parts of Jordan were governed by Christians. From 1517 until 1918 Jordan was ruled by the Ottomans (see Ottoman Empire).

Transjordanian Independence

The liberation of Jordan from Ottoman sovereignty was achieved in September 1918, during World War I, by joint action of British and Arab troops. After the war, Jordan, along with the territory constituting present-day Israel, was awarded to Britain as a mandate by the League of Nations. In 1922 the British divided the mandate into two parts, designating all lands west of the Jordan River as Palestine and those east of the river as Transjordan. Transjordan was placed under the nominal rule of Abdullah ibn Hussein in 1921. In February 1928 Transjordan obtained qualified independence in a treaty with Britain.

The government of Transjordan cooperated with Britain during World War II (1939-1945), making its territory available as a base of British operations against pro-Axis forces, which had gained control of the government of Iraq. In 1945 Transjordan became a member of the Arab League, an organization created for the purpose of coordinating Arab policy in international affairs and curbing Jewish national aspirations in Palestine. The British government relinquished its mandate over Transjordan on March 22, 1946. By the terms of a treaty concluded by the two nations on that date, Transjordan received recognition as a sovereign independent state. The treaty also established an Anglo-Transjordanian military and mutual-assistance alliance, with the British securing military bases and other installations in the country in exchange for an agreement to train and equip the Transjordanian army. Abdullah ibn Hussein was proclaimed king the following May.

The Arab League and Jordan

In May 1948 the Jordanian army, known at that time as the Arab Legion, joined with the armed forces of the other Arab League nations in a concerted attack on the newly formed state of Israel. During the war the Arab Legion occupied sections of central Palestine, including the Old City of Jerusalem. Transjordan signed an armistice with Israel in April 1949.

In April 1949 King Abdullah changed the name of the country to Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Hashemite refers to Hashim, the great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad, from whom the Jordanian royal house claims direct descent. In April 1950, despite strong opposition from other Arab League members, the king formally merged all of Arab-held Palestine with Jordan and granted citizenship to West Bank residents.

King Abdullah was assassinated in July 1951 by a Palestinian opposed to Jordanian tolerance of Israel, and was succeeded by his son Talal I the following September. In August 1952 the Jordanian parliament deposed Talal, who suffered from a mental disorder, and elevated his son to become Hussein I the same day. A regency council acted for the new king until he reached the age of 18 in May 1953.

Armed Jordanian and Israeli detachments were involved in frequent frontier clashes during the early 1950s. Major sources of friction were Israeli irrigation and hydroelectric schemes that would have reduced the volume of Jordan River waters, considered vital to Jordanian development.

Arab Problems and Disunity

Jordan became a member of the United Nations (UN) in December 1955. During the latter half of the following year Jordanian and Israeli UN delegates registered bitter and increasingly frequent charges of border violations and armed raids.

By the provisions of a ten-year pact signed in January 1957 Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia agreed to furnish Jordan with an annual subsidy of $36 million. The pact was designed to free Jordan from dependence on Western nations, particularly Britain, whose policies were considered anti-Arab and pro-Israel. The Jordanian premier and other leftists in the government were dismissed by the king in April, however, and the following June, Syria and Egypt revoked the aid pact.

In February 1958 two weeks after Egypt and Syria merged to form the United Arab Republic (UAR), the more conservative governments of Jordan and Iraq announced the formation of the Arab Federation. When the Iraqi government was overthrown in July, however, largely as a result of UAR propaganda and intrigue, the federation was dissolved and Jordan severed diplomatic relations with the UAR. Although ties were restored in August 1959, relations between Hussein and President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the UAR remained strained. When the Jordanian premier, Hazza Majuli, was assassinated in August 1960, King Hussein charged Nasser with responsibility.

Tranquility in the Early 1960s

During 1961 and 1962 Jordan was relatively free of domestic political strife and antigovernment agitation by the country’s refugee population. The growing strength of the throne was evidenced by the general acceptance, and even popularity, of the king’s marriage in May 1961 to Antoinette Avril Gardiner of Britain, who was granted the title Princess Muna. (They were divorced in 1972.) After the elections of December 1962, political parties, which had been banned during the height of Jordanian-UAR tensions, were reactivated. Foreign relations were less relaxed, however. In September 1961 Jordan recognized the new regime in Syria, which had just seceded from the UAR, and President Nasser of Egypt retaliated by breaking diplomatic relations with Jordan.

After the fall of one premier and the resignation of his successor in the spring of 1963, political parties were banned again. Elections in July installed a new cabinet and inaugurated another two-year period of relative domestic tranquility. Diplomatic relations with the UAR (Egypt) were restored in 1964 in response to mounting pressure for Arab League unity against Israel. Renewed clashes with Israel over Jordanian water rights led to an Arab summit conference in Cairo, Egypt, in September 1964, attended by King Hussein.

Growing Tensions and War with Israel

Relations between Jordan and the left-wing Baathist regime in Syria deteriorated in the mid-1960s. Despite calls for unity, Arab nations tended to polarize into an extremist camp including Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, and a moderate group including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. For a time the Jordanian frontier with Syria was as troubled as its border with Israel. Arab guerrilla fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), infiltrating Jordan from Syria, launched terrorist attacks against Israel for which Jordan suffered Israeli reprisals. In July 1966 Jordan withdrew support from the PLO, but a massive Israeli raid in November created intense pressure for Hussein to back the terrorists. When he refused, the PLO called for his overthrow, and clashes on the Syrian border increased.

Arab-Israeli tensions were meanwhile mounting steadily. When war seemed imminent, Hussein, in an unprecedented gesture of Arab solidarity, flew to Cairo and signed a defense treaty with Nasser in May 1967. This action greatly enhanced his position with the refugees, but it also committed Jordan to active involvement when the Six-Day War broke out on June 5. On June 7, with its air force destroyed and the West Bank occupied, Jordan accepted a UN cease-fire.

Jordanian postwar diplomacy aimed at reinforcing ties with the West and achieving an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied area. Hussein took no unilateral initiatives toward a peace settlement, however, and Egypt, Algeria, and Syria hardened their anti-Israel position with calls for a sustained guerrilla offensive against Israel, staged from bases in Jordan.

The situation in Jordan reached the point of civil war in September 1970, when Palestinian guerrillas supported by Syria fought Jordanian troops in Amman and other areas of northern Jordan. After heavy casualties, a cease-fire agreement was reached requiring a number of concessions from Hussein. In 1971, however, Hussein ordered Premier Wasfi al-Tall to take military action against the guerrillas, and the movement was completely crushed. The Arab response to Jordan’s actions was hostile. In November while attending a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Premier al-Tall was assassinated by guerrilla members of the Palestinian Black September organization.

In 1972 Hussein proposed creation of a federated Arab state comprising Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Most Arab governments and the Palestinian organizations were unanimously opposed to such a state, however.

In February 1973 King Hussein visited the United States and received promises of continued U.S. economic and military aid. In September Hussein granted amnesty to 1,500 political prisoners, including some 750 Palestinian commandos. The move was viewed as a peace gesture following meetings with the leaders of Egypt and Syria that had brought about reconciliation among the three countries.

The 1973 War and After

The short, indecisive Arab-Israeli War of 1973 began on October 6 and lasted for 18 days. Jordan contributed some token forces to assist Syrian troops fighting against Israel in the Golan Heights region. After the war the PLO gained standing in the Middle East, and in 1974 Jordan reluctantly recognized it as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. In return, Jordan was promised economic and military aid from other Arab nations. In November King Hussein dissolved parliament so it could be reconstituted without representatives of the West Bank. Elections for the new Chamber of Deputies were postponed indefinitely in early 1976.

In 1975 Jordan established closer ties with Syria, mainly in order to guard against a possible attack by Israel. King Hussein refused to accept the 1978 U.S.-sponsored Camp David Accords on the Middle East, because they failed to provide for Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories; in 1979 he denounced Egypt’s separate peace with Israel. Jordan supported Iraq in its war with Iran beginning in 1980, a policy that strained relations with the pro-Iranian government of Syria. In January 1984 parliament held its first regular session in ten years, and limited parliamentary elections took place in March.

In July 1988, in response to months of demonstrations by Palestinians in the Israeli-held West Bank, Hussein ceded to the PLO all Jordanian claims to the territory. Islamic fundamentalists showed significant strength in Jordan’s first general election in 22 years, held in November 1989. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, King Hussein unsuccessfully sought to play a mediating role. Meanwhile, the large influx of refugees from the Persian Gulf region, combined with the worldwide embargo on trade with Iraq, took a toll on the Jordanian economy. An influx of Jordanians who had fled from Kuwait and Iraq increased the country’s unemployment rate to 30 percent. The falling worth of the Jordanian dinar also added to the country’s economic problems. Jordan’s apparent tilt toward Iraq during the Persian Gulf War strained relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states. A joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation took part in the comprehensive Middle East peace talks that began in October 1991.

Political Reform and Peace with Israel

In 1992 King Hussein lifted a ban on political parties, paving the way for the country’s first multiparty elections since 1956. These elections, held in 1993, resulted in a loss of seats for conservative religious parties and the election of a woman to the parliament for the first time. In 1997 elections, marked by a boycott by Islamic opposition parties and low voter turnout, candidates loyal to the king gained ground.

In July 1994 Hussein signed a peace agreement with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, ending 46 years of war and strained relations between the two countries. In October, Jordanian prime minister Abdul-Salam al-Majali and Rabin signed a full peace treaty, making Jordan the second Arab nation (after Egypt) to establish relations with Israel.

The treaty resolved the long-standing and deeply disputed issue of land and water rights: Israel agreed to return about 350 sq km (about 135 sq mi) of disputed territory just north of the Gulf of Aqaba to Jordan in exchange for a much smaller portion of land then under Jordanian control. Israel also agreed to make 50 million cu m (13.2 billion gallons) of water available to Jordan each year, mostly by diverting flows from the Jordan River. In addition, the two governments agreed to a full normalization of diplomatic relations, and cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as tourism, transportation, environmental protection, trade, and economic development. While Israel recognized Jordan’s claims to Islamic shrines in Jerusalem, Jordan pledged not to participate in anti-Israeli alliances, or to allow its land to be used for such purposes. In September 1997 relations between Jordan and Israel were strained again by Israel’s unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the founder of Hamas, a militant Islamic group responsible for frequent terrorist acts against Israel, in Amman.

Jordan After Hussein

In February 1999 Hussein died of cancer, ending a reign of 46 years. He was succeeded by his son, Abdullah bin al-Hussein, whom he had named as his successor the previous month (see Abdullah II). Abdullah vowed to continue the moderate policies of his father. Soon after Abdullah assumed the throne, many Western and Arab nations, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, promised financial support to help maintain political and economic stability in Jordan.

Following the new monarch’s recommendations, the government clamped down on local followers of the militant Islamic movement Hamas, closing its offices in Amman in August 1999 and expelling its leaders in November, which effectively ended the group’s activities in the country. Six Islamic militants were sentenced to death in 2000 for their membership in the outlawed organization al-Qaeda. Sixteen others received prison sentences.

Legislative elections held in 2003, the first of Abdullah’s reign, returned a substantial majority of candidates loyal to the king. For the first time, women candidates won seats in Jordan’s parliament. Abdullah assembled a new government after the elections, appointing three women and several young technocrats to cabinet posts. The government tightened security measures in the wake of a series of suicide bombings that struck the Jordanian capital in November 2005, killing 56 people. Jordanian officials said Islamic militancy was on the rise in their country as a result of the U.S.-Iraq War, which began in 2003. That war also led to Jordan assuming the brunt of a new refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly from the middle class, made their way to Jordan to escape violence in Iraq.

Abdullah addressed the United States Congress in 2007 and urged U.S. action toward resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That conflict, he claimed, was the basis of problems in the Middle East.

Legislative elections in 2007 again resulted in victory for allies of King Abdullah. The opposition Islamic Action Front lost 10 seats it had won in the 2003 elections and was reduced to only 7 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Following the election Abdullah named Nader al-Dahabi as the prime minister. Dahabi is a former transport minister and air force commander and is known as a technocrat, rather than a politician.

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