During his visit March 11-12, 2010 to Jordan, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with four Jordanian civil society activists at the U.S. embassy in Amman. The meeting was not announced in advance and was not part of Biden's official itinerary for the visit. The American embassy stated that the meeting addressed preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Jordan, and reforms in the kingdom.
The non-government Jordanian press came out strongly against the meeting, saying that it constituted interference in Jordan's internal affairs and that the government should not have agreed to it. There were even those who claimed that the meeting was held in order to advance a plan to resettle the Palestinian refugees in Jordan.
Following are reactions to the meeting by several Jordanian journalists:
Al-Arab Al-Yawm Editor: "There is an Openly Declared American-European-Israeli Agenda… Aimed at Resettling Palestinian Refugees [in Jordan]"
Tareq Al-'Adwan, editor of the independent daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm, charged that discussing the elections at the meeting constituted "blatant intervention in an internal [Jordanian] matter," as part of U.S. intentions to resettle the Palestinian refugees in Jordan. In an interview with the Al-Jazeera website, Al-'Adwan said: "It is strange that those who took part in the meeting with Biden remained anonymous, and did not approach the media to discuss what took place there." According to his statement, Jordan's concern over the meeting stems from the fact that "there is an openly declared American-European-Israeli agenda demanding reforms in Jordan, aimed at resettling Palestinian refugees [in this country] in order to effect the plan of [Jordan as] an alternative [Palestinian] homeland, to the satisfaction of Israel..." Al-'Adwan attributed the Jordanian government's silence to "the subordination of [its] official policy to the U.S., because of financial aid and strong ties [with this country]. The government protested against the Iranian embassy's intervention [in Jordan's affairs], but did nothing [about the intervention] of the American Embassy."[i]
In an editorial, Al-'Adwan claimed that Biden's speech at Tel Aviv University and his meeting with the Jordanian activists eradicated the good impression that had been made by President Obama's speech in Cairo: "The negative responses to [the meeting] indicate how sensitive Jordanians are toward any American and European intervention in matters of [Jordan's] election laws and the elections themselves, even if [this intervention takes the form of] mere advice and opinions...
"If Biden wanted to know the truth about how Jordanians feel, he should have chosen an institution like the University of Jordan, for example, and met there with a 100 people [as opposed to a small number of people], even from the so-called moderates... Had he discussed the future of the region with them, he would have discovered them to be unanimous in their opinion that the only danger threatening stability and security [in the region] is Israel. If the U.S. wants to advance its interests through strategic friendships with Middle East nations, then the only way to [achieve] this is the establishment of a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and with the right of return for the refugees.
"While Biden gave his emotional speech at Tel Aviv University, overflowing with love for Israel, he [also] chose [to hold] a secret and mysterious meeting in Amman, aimed at driving a wedge [into Jordanian society]... Biden the Zionist nullified... what his President, Obama, said at Cairo University. That is the sum of Biden's unfortunate visit [to Jordan]. As for his advice [to the Jordanians], it is totally worthless, except for its ability to stir up strong and determined responses among all Jordanians against any external, Zionist intervention endeavoring to force its will and solutions [upon them]."
Jordan Times: "Biden's Misstep in Meeting Secretly with Representatives of Civil Society Has Only [Harmed] the Image of America"
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Hassan Barari, a columnist for the English-language daily Jordan Times, claimed that the Jordanian public has a negative view of meetings like the one Biden held in Amman, and that Biden's decision to hold this secret meeting only harmed the U.S.'s image:
"What the American embassy needs to understand is that its connections with these civil society organizations have little, if any, influence on events in Jordan.
"Many Jordanians argue that Western embassies in Amman interfere in Jordan's internal [affairs] in a very selective manner and support only groups that are willing to serve foreign agendas. This game is fully exposed.
"Biden's misstep in meeting secretly with representatives of civil society has only [harmed] the image of America.
"One poll after another show that the vast majority of Jordanians have an issue with the American policy vis-à-vis the peace process. They see nothing but America's blind support for Israeli expansion, and for this reason, Biden's lip service regarding reforms is a non-starter."
Liberal Columnist: Foreign Intervention in Matters of Democracy Is Legitimate
Liberal columnist Fahed Al-Fanik defended U.S. intervention in the Jordanian elections, explaining that the cooperation of civil society organizations with foreign countries is, in fact, likely to benefit a state such as Jordan:
"The era has passed when despotic rulers in primitive countries could abuse their nations as they pleased without any supervision, with the excuse of [opposing foreign] intervention in the internal affairs of their countries. Democracy and human rights are no longer internal affairs in which others have no right to intervene. They have become general humanitarian issues, subject to the supervision of international institutions which have taken upon themselves to intervene – if not by force, then by other means of expression. The U.S., for example, permits its State Department to publish annual reports on the state of human rights, democracy, freedom of religion, and other issues in various countries around the world, without denying any other [country] the privilege of inspecting infringements of these same rights in the U.S. itself...
"Intervention in the internal affairs of others has become an acceptable practice, as long as it is carried out by peaceful means, which is to say through reports and critical statements, and even through economic sanctions... Another means of intervention with regard to democracy and human rights is the awarding of grants and financial aid. A country that receives financial support cannot reject intervention from the contributing country. There are no free gifts except in the case of charity organizations.
"He errs who thinks that human rights in Jordan, and our country's parliamentary life and upcoming elections, are internal affairs which others have no right to address. These are matters that concern public opinion worldwide, [and have a bearing on] the interests of world powers. It is in Jordan's interest to demonstrate normal, cultured conduct [in the upcoming elections] and invite the world to observe it. Jordan's good image is a source of power for it.
"There is nothing strange about [Biden] meeting with Jordanians. The strange thing is that the meeting was limited to persons hand-picked by the U.S. embassy from among its friends, which meant [in effect] that the senior American was speaking with himself."