Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Arab Tribe Threatens To Disown Jordanian Appointee

      At least part of the leadership of the Obeidats, one of the most numerous and powerful Arab tribes in Jordan, is calling for one of its members to decline his nomination as ambassador to Israel for the Jordanian government and is threatening ostracism should he accept the post.

     The objecting contingent of the tribe harbors a hatred for the Israelis, or at least finds it ineffective to negotiate diplomatically with a nation that refuses to accommodate their desires.  Not really a very unique situation.  Nation-states break off diplomatic relations all the time, that a tribe should employ a similar tactic isn't very surprising.

     The issue in this situation is the role of the tribe in the nation/state environment.  While leaders of the tribe can "disown" Walid Obeidat, other members of the tribe, his closest relatives, for instance, will probably ignore the downgrade.  Tribes frequently have internal conflicts, if this one is serious enough it might even lead to a split in the tribe, although that seems unlikely.  Even now tribal leaders are discussing the pros and cons of the appointment and while some will see any intercourse with the Zionist entity as wrong, others will point out that having an Obeidat in such an important position actually enhances the prestige of the tribe.  At some point a non-democratic consensus will be reached and while the losers will be upset, life will go on.  There won't be any gunfire over it.

     Part of the controversy is related to the position of the tribe vis a vis  the Jordanian government itself and the other tribes under it.  As a significant portion of the Jordanian population, the Obeidats are a player in the politics of the kingdom.  Abdullah II, head of a relatively new monarchy originally legitimized by the British, has a tenuous grasp on power and needs all the friends he can keep.  We can't know ever nuance of this affair, which could have many dimensions.  But it does point out that tribal affiliations are a still an important feature of human society.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah II.

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