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An order targeting Palestinians without papers in the West Bank threatens hardship for Jordan.
While many human rights groups say it is difficult to determine exactly how many people may be affected by the order, some analysts have estimated that up to 70,000 Palestinians could be at risk of deportation. The military order, however, is so vague that human rights groups say that almost anyone in the West Bank could theoretically face forced removal from their homes.
There is some concern about the “immediate effect of this order, but we think that its effects can be spread out over 10 years. Maybe it won’t be that dramatic in the headlines, but the thing is that every person in the West Bank is currently at risk of criminal charges and deportation,” said Elad Cahana, an attorney for HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, an Israeli human rights organization. “Even if the military is kind-hearted, and says that it’s not going to use it this is a problem because the order gives them the possibility to do so. Policies change, military commanders change, but the order will still remain the same.”
With over half the population of Jordan already composed of Palestinians, many in the country are concerned about increasing the number of Palestinians any further. While Jordan remains one of the most stable countries in the region, there exist underlying tensions between Jordanians and those of Palestinian origin who live in the Kingdom.
“[Israeli politicians] want to create a problem between Palestinians and Jordanians, to shift the attention from what they are doing in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories, but this will not happen at all,” said Oraib al-Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman. “Sometimes they are testing the water. If it’s possible to do something, they will do it. If they face a serious objection they will freeze it.”
Last summer, without first consulting Jordan, a sizable minority in Israel’s Knesset voted in favor of a bill that would establish the Kingdom as the official homeland of Palestinians. Many officials in Jordan wanted to break diplomatic ties with Israel after the incident. The new military order has raised concerns that Israel may be subtly working in that direction again.
“I would be very hesitant to back the claim that there is a fear of a wave of deportations to Jordan,” said Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group. “The point is that Israel still considers Palestinians who live in the West Bank, some of whom are in areas that are under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, as people who are forced to hold a valid visitor’s permit on its behalf.”
While Israel may deport some in the West Bank to Gaza, Rantawi said it may face a hard time sending Palestinians to Jordan without the kingdom’s consent.
“They cannot just put them in a truck and take them to Jordan and Jordan will open the doors and that’s it,” he said. “Jordan is a free country and it has the right to defend itself and to not accept any of those deported people and return them back to Israel. Nobody can make you accept a new wave of refugees in your country without your political will.”