AMMAN, Jordan -- A tribal council long allied with the Jordanian monarchy has labeled King Abdullah II a Zionist agent because of comments he made in an interview with the Atlantic magazine.
“You practiced the role of agent for the forces of colonialism and Zionism,” said a statement from the Salvation Front of the Jordanian Tribes. “And you have conspired against Palestine for the benefit of the enemies of the Umma,” using a word roughly meaning “the nation.”
Abdullah’s wide-ranging interview with the Atlantic’s correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, caused a furor in Jordan. The king vented against many targets, including fellow Arab leaders such as Syrian President Bashar Assad and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, as well as members of the royal family and the secret police. He also launched a broadside attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that has gained political power as Arab autocrats were toppled in Tunisia and Egypt.
But what particularly enraged his erstwhile tribal allies was Abdullah’s characterization of them as “old dinosaurs.”
Criticism from the tribal groups is especially problematic because they have long been viewed as an essential pro-monarchy constituency that provided a backbone of support for his father, the late King Hussein.
But the same love has not been evident for Abdullah, who inherited the crown upon his father’s death in 1999, and has been viewed by many as an odd choice of successor. A career military officer who founded the Jordanian special forces, Abdullah was widely viewed as a stopgap monarch until his half-brother, Prince Hamzah, came of age. But Abdullah has retained power.
The king’s remarks and the tribal denunciation come at a difficult moment for the Jordanian government, a close ally of the United States. Major street protests calling for a constitutional monarchy and more accountability have become a regular part of the Jordanian landscape. The king’s staunchly pro-Western stance has also come under heavy criticism.
Bulos is a special correspondent.