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The Palestinian-Transjordanian Rift: Economic Might and Political Power in Jordan

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The political developments in Jordan since the events of 1970-71 shaped the Palestinian community and Transjordanian society (mostly tribal) into two conflicting ethnic groups. The Jordanian Palestinians are a political minority, while simultaneously constituting a slim demographic majority yielding economic strength through dominance in the private economic sector, a matter that is a source of heightened inter-communal tensions. Analyzing data on the 500 largest economic concerns in Jordan and on the 173 companies that were traded on the Jordanian stock exchange in 1995-1996 leads to the conclusion that the prevailing image of a dichotomous, sector-based economy grounded in Transjordanian and Palestinian ethnic groups receives empirical corroboration. Following a discussion on the nature of the Jordanian economic élite in terms of the overall political system, the author concludes that the economic influence of wealthy Palestinians does not extend to the political realm. Thus, even the most prosperous individuals (or family corporations) in Jordan do not constitute a pressure group or a known and particular lobbying force, neither as businessmen nor as sub-groups on the basis of extraction. The Palestinians' financial activity in Jordan and their control of the banking sector give them, as a group, a special status with inherent political implications. Progress toward economic and political liberalization will enable the Palestinians to yield more meaningful political influence in the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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