Jordan Lays off Civil Service Workers As Palestinians Worry over Future

The Jordanian Cabinet, in another step toward implementing King Hussein’s new policy of separating from the Palestinians and the West Bank, announced its intention to lay off some 21,300 civil service employees working in Israeli institutions in the West Bank.

Those affected include teachers, hospital workers, municipal employees and those who work in other Jordanian-operated establishments. The move is to take effect Aug. 16.

Hussein’s measure was seen here as a substantial blow to relations between Jordan and the Palestinians, who reacted with shock to the harsh reality of having most of their livelihood abruptly cut off from them.

Those who have worked for the government 20 years or longer will continue to receive a full pension. Those who worked at least 15 years will have to wait five years before collecting their pensions.

For those who have worked under 15 years, compensation will amount to a month’s salary for every year of work.

Jordan said the cuts would reduce its monthly expenditures by some $1.5 million.

Despite Hussein’s statement last weekend that he was acting according to the wishes of the local Palestinians, there was no doubt among local observers that the move would have a negative effect on relations between the Palestinians and Jordan.

On Saladin Street in East Jerusalem, Sabri Abu-Khater, a former income-tax official, said Thursday he was confident the king would not desert him, and that he would continue receiving his monthly salary of some $500.

But Abdullah Kaed, a worker at the Jerusalem Hyatt Hotel, said people would adjust to the new circumstances and hate Hussein even more.

“This is the price we have to pay,” said Kaed. “What are 20,000 salaries compared to the 10,000 who rot in jail?”

DOUBLE SALARIES

Of the 14,000 Palestinians employed by the Israeli civil administration, some have been civil servants since Jordanian times. Such workers received salaries from both governments.

Although they will now have their incomes cut considerably, they will still be able to rely on Israeli salaries coming through.

Hanna Siniora, editor of the East Jerusalem paper Al-Fajr, said Thursday that Hussein’s move was expected, and was but another indication of the death of the “Jordanian option.”

Siniora, too, said this was the price for a new state.

But there are also indications that Hussein’s moves were intended to show that the Palestinians need Jordan and needed this show of independence to bring them running back to Jordan.

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, who was expected in Amman after Hussein’s speech Sunday, has postponed his visit to gain time to study the situation.

Arafat is reportedly enraged at Hussein for having “handed” him the territories just when he is least capable of controlling them. Arafat has long claimed to represent the people who live in the territories.

Meanwhile, Israelis debated the situation.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir rejected a demand by the Tehiya party to immediately extend Israeli law in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as a result of the political vacuum Hussein has created.

Meeting with Tehiya Knesset members, Shamir said conditions had not really changed.

NEXT STORY