Jordan Juggles Islamic Radicals and Israel Peace

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Jordan may want to help Israel and Yasser Arafat as they try to reach a peace settlement, but itís not about to put its own stability on the line for its neighbors. So although Jordanian authorities on Wednesday showed themselves willing by arresting three senior leaders of the anti-peace-process Hamas organization, King Abdullahís government will stop short of a full-scale confrontation with Hamas. "Jordan itself has no problem with Hamas, and this clampdown is being undertaken on behalf of Israel and the Palestinians," says TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad. "But Jordan will always put its own stability above the interests of Israel and of Arafat, and Hamas enjoys the support of the man in the street in Jordan. Thereís a lot of opposition in Jordan to normalizing relations with Israel, and the government will be wary of sparking a backlash among Jordanians."

As much as Jordan is forced to walk a tightrope between the interests of a broader Middle East peace and the sentiments of ordinary Jordanians, Hamas too has no interest in a confrontation with Jordan. The last time Palestinian exiles and their descendants, who now make up a majority of the Jordanian population, challenged the Hashemite throne ó in the "Black September" of 1970 ó the response was swift and brutal, leaving thousands of Palestinians dead and the PLO in exile. "Hamas will maintain that its struggle is with Israel and it has no quarrel with any Arab state," says Hamad. So while the latest clampdown signals an end to friendly relations between Jordan and Hamas, itís unlikely to start a war.