Hani al-Mulki

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You are Hani al-Mulki, Jordanian Prime Minister and Minister of Defense


“Based on the principles of freedom, justice, equality, respect for human rights and the provision of equal opportunities, Jordan aims to ensure economic growth and social and political prosperity.”

“The refugee influx has resulted in growing pressure on Jordan’s infrastructure and resources, including the country’s economy and social fabric. The effects of the Syrian refugee crisis range from a fall in average wage levels to fewer employment opportunities, harsher working conditions, rising rates of child labour and the expansion of the informal labour market.”

Mulki’s first task “is to manage the news phase of the parliamentary elections and set the government’s political agenda. The second is to manage Israeli-Jordanian relations, which have seen tension over Israel’s policies and encroachment on the Palestinians in Jerusalem and against Al-Aqsa Mosque” (Tareq al-Fayed, Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper)


You were born in in 1951 in Amman, and you after completing your bachelor's degree in production engineering in 1974, you earned both a Masters and a Doctoral degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the latter coming in 1979. You have spent most of your adult life in government service, following a tradition set by your father, Fawzi, who served as Prime Minister for King Abdullah’s father, King Hussein.

You served as Jordan's ambassador to Egypt and as permanent representative at the Arab League, and you held several cabinet posts, including tenures as minister of foreign affairs and of industry and trade. Perhaps most significantly for our purposes, you chaired the negotiating committee which produced the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in 1994. Indeed, you have a reputation as a supporter of strong Jordanian-Israeli ties, having also championed the Dead Sea-Red Sea water sharing and purification project between Jordan and Israel.

Your original Prime Ministerial appointment was in June 2016, when you were chosen to head of a caretaker government appointed after the King dissolved parliament in the transition to new elections. As you know, the final act of the former parliament before it was dissolved was a controversial vote to allow Israel to invest in Jordan, which came as part of a larger bill to allow foreign countries to invest in the Hashemite Kingdom. The lawmakers first voted not to allow Israel to invest in their country, but reversed course in a re-vote. After the November 2016 elections, you were re-appointed as Prime Minister.


Let’s start by stating that your predecessor, Abdullah Ensour, served nearly four years as Prime Minister, which was a noteworthy departure from recent history in Jordan. In the two years preceding his appointment in October 2012, Jordan had had five prime ministers. Why? King Abdullah, it seems, had gotten in the habit of sacking his Prime Minister whenever he faced political difficulties, seemingly as a way to demonstrate his responsiveness—that he was “doing something.” Over time, the King needed to be seen as being both responsive and open to more serious reform so as to keep his critics from turning on the monarchy itself, which seems to have led to the recent change wherein the Prime Minister is appointed through consultation between the King and Parliament, rather than by royal decree. Once again, this would appear to be a change in degree rather than in real substance, and it is another sign of the King’s ongoing efforts to manage the system and maintain support (keep in mind, for example, that King Abdullah retains sole authority to appoint the heads of the military, security forces, police, senate and the constitutional court). In the end, it is probably wise for you to remember that your position is not secure, and that you ultimately serve at the King’s pleasure.

In a closely related matter, the concern that citizens might rise up against their unelected leaders is ramified in Jordan by the fact that a majority of Jordan’s residents are Palestinian. This fact attracted special attention because, since he took power, King Abdullah has sought to placate Jordan’s Palestinians, many of whom are concerned over what they see as Jordan’s diplomatic and economic coziness with Israel, and who might at any time revolt against over their politically and economically low status in Jordan. He also needs to maintain his parliamentary support, which led to another recent reform plan regarding representation in parliament. The plan changed the proportion of seats that reflect national and regional elections, increasing the seats awarded to regional election winners. Along with many Palestinian leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party has criticized these reforms as favoring tribal strongholds, long the major source of the King’s support, and minimizing the impact of what the Brotherhood asserts is their broader-based support. As a consequence, they boycotted the last round of elections. You may well sympathize with some of these concerns, but as an “insider” you will likely argue that they should bring those arguments into the political process and seek change, rather than choosing not to participate. The ultimate questions are to what extent they will buy your argument and trust you, as well as how much reform you (and the King) will allow. This is also an illustration of the vitally important idea (for you and the King) that all parties in Jordan feel the system has their interests at heart enough so that they will continue to work within the system, rather than seeking to overturn it.


Jordan generally aligns itself with the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on most issues of foreign policy. However, Jordan's foreign relations have consistently been pro-Western. Jordan's relationships with the West were damaged by Jordan’s support for Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, support that was largely driven by Jordan’s Palestinian community, which favored Saddam Hussein as a champion against Western supporters of Israel. After the war, Jordan restored its relations with Western countries through its enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq, and by signing an historic peace treaty with Israel in October 1994, a treaty that you helped to negotiate. In inter-Arab relations, Jordan under King Abdullah has managed to complete the long and difficult process (since the depths of the Gulf War) of reestablishing relations with each of the Arab Gulf monarchies. Jordan has always been pressured to take a stronger stance against Israel due to the large Palestinian population in Jordan, and its close proximity to Israel, but by diplomatic means and cautiousness Jordan has managed to avoid war while maintaining good relationships with Israel and the West.

The most visible foreign policy issue with which you must contend regards the conflict in Syria. As of Spring 2017, Jordan had admitted into the country more than 1.3 million refugees from the war in neighboring Syria (making up approximately 20% of Jordan’s population), and this has certainly increased social tensions, as well as further stretching limited economic resources. Indeed, one of your first international statements as Prime Minister was a speech you gave to the European Union’s 2017 Brussels Conference on Syria, asking for EU financial support to assist Jordan in the project of absorbing Syrian refugees.

It should be added that some of these refugees from Syria are actually Palestinians, and Jordan has sought to portray its decision to close its doors to people of Palestinian descent as one founded in justice, an argument that brings us back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jordan’s argument is that the problem is ultimately Israel’s fault, and the proper solution is the return of these people to their homes in Israel/Palestine. Of course, you know that this “solution” is a political impossibility, as Israel would never consider such a proposal (you also know that the King’s policy in this regard has largely to do with his concerns about the threat to his regime represented by potential Palestinian dissent). What’s more important is how successful you will be in “selling” this stance to the Jordanian public. Many Jordanians will be only too happy to see the numbers of prospective refugees reduced, even if aid from Western and regional allies and non-governmental organizations continues to come into Jordan along with the refugees. The question is whether Jordanian Palestinians will buy this “justice-oriented” argument, or whether they will see it as yet another instance of Jordan’s mistreatment of Palestinians by limiting their political power, something that could compel them to protest. Your political skills will definitely be put to the test here.


Like every Prime Minister before you, you’ve chosen to trust that the King truly supports political reforms, including anti-corruption initiatives, and that he won’t leave you hanging when push comes to shove. Indeed, your predecessors might argue that you’re putting yourself in an impossible position, and that pushing for true reform will result in your soon finding yourself in the ranks of former Prime Ministers. Past history indicates that changing Prime Ministers is an easy (and public) way for the King to signify that this time he’s truly making changes….after all, there’s no chance that the King will resign.

On the foreign policy front, you are the public face for “moderate” policies regarding Israel that have never been widely popular, and while your strong relations with Israeli leaders could be hugely beneficial for Jordan’s economy, you will need to play things cautiously, as this perception can be politically damaging on the domestic front. You have been a strong opponent of growing Iranian influence in the region, fearing the potential of a radicalized “Shi’ite Crescent.”

Most of all, it will be your job to support the King’s delicate and ongoing balancing act, seeking to maintain the legitimacy of the monarchy by allotting power carefully, and by taking measured political stances that placate dissenters, making them feel (at least somewhat) heard so that they won’t turn against the monarchy. Jordan has adeptly weathered the storms of the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil war and, let there be no mistake, your primary job is to help continue this political balancing act.

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