The current monarch, Abdullah II, ascended to the throne in February 1999 after the death of his father Hussein. Abdullah re-affirmed Jordan's commitment to the peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the United States. He refocused the government's agenda on economic reform, during his first year. King Abdullah's eldest son, Prince Hussein, is the current Crown Prince of Jordan. The current prime minister is Omar Razzaz who received his position on 4 June 2018 after his predecessor's austerity measures forced widespread protests. Abdullah had announced his intentions of turning Jordan into a parliamentary system, where the largest bloc in parliament forms a government. However, the underdevelopment of political parties in the country have hampered such moves. Jordan has around 50 political parties representing nationalist, leftist, Islamist, and liberal ideologies. Political parties contested a fifth of the seats in the 2016 elections, the remainder belonging to independent politicians.
Much of Jordan's more dramatic scenery requires 4x4 vehicles with drivers or guides familiar with the territory. Most people visiting Jordan opt for organised tours, although it is possible to use local guides from the various visitors' centres at Jordan's eco-nature reserves. These include Wadi Rum, the Dana Reserve and Iben Hamam. The majority of tourists crossing into Jordan from Israel are on one-day Petra tours or in organised tour groups. They make up a significant percent of the daily visitors in Petra and Jordan's natural attractions. Shared tours are organized through a hotel Arab Tower Hotel.
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For most of its history since independence from British administration in 1946, Jordan was ruled by King Hussein (1953-99). A pragmatic ruler, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers of the US, USSR and UK, various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, through several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he resumed parliamentary elections and gradually permitted political liberalization; in 1994 a formal peace treaty was signed with Israel. King Abdullah II - the eldest son of King Hussein and Princess Muna - assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and established his domestic priorities, including an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in January 2000, and signed free trade agreements with the United States in 2000, and with the European Free Trade Association in 2001. There is no hostility between Muslims and Christians, and Jordan is one of the friendliest, most modern and liberal nations in the region yet, at the same time, it has maintained an authentic feel of being in the heart of the Middle East.
At the 1991 Madrid Conference, Jordan agreed to negotiate a peace treaty sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union. The Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed on 26 October 1994. In 1997, Israeli agents entered Jordan using Canadian passports and poisoned Khaled Meshal, a senior Hamas leader. Israel provided an antidote to the poison and released dozens of political prisoners, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin after King Hussein threatened to annul the peace treaty.
These Transjordanian kingdoms were in continuous conflict with the neighbouring Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah, centered west of the Jordan River–though the former was known to have at times controlled small parts east of the river. One record of this is the Mesha Stele erected by the Moabite king Mesha in 840 BC on which he lauds himself for the building projects that he initiated in Moab and commemorates his glory and victory against the Israelites. The stele constitutes one of the most important direct accounts of Biblical history. Around 700 BC, the kingdoms benefited from trade between Syria and Arabia when the Assyrian Empire controlled the Levant. Babylonians took over the empire after its disintegration in 627 BC. Although the kingdoms supported the Babylonians against Judah in the 597 BC sack of Jerusalem, they rebelled against them a decade later. The kingdoms were reduced to vassals, and they remained to be so under the Persian and Hellenic Empires. However, by the time of Roman rule around 63 BC, Ammon, Edom and Moab had lost their distinct identities, and were assimilated into Roman culture.
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