Spare a thought for Jordan's King Abdullah as he visits Washington this week, complaining of the dire consequences of the failure of his Israeli neighbor to make peace with the Palestinians: it's not easy being a monarch in a Middle East buffeted by the democratic winds of the Arab Spring, and even less so when your country is wracked with rising tensions between its indigenous Bedouins and Palestinians who comprise as much as half of the population. When the King visited the southern tribal area of Tafila on Monday, a rare skirmish between the gathered crowd and security officers hinted at the powder keg atop which Abdullah sits.
Still, despite the occasional incident, Abdullah appears to have retained his subjects' support, unlike his peers in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. He has done so largely by positioning himself as the glue that holds together the country's many ethnic factions. "For an awful lot of Jordanians, the monarchy has marketed itself as part and parcel in the stability of Jordan," says Rex Brynen, a professor at McGill University who specializes in Middle East politics. "People don't really challenge that."