February Israeli interview With Jordan's King

February Israeli interview With Jordan's King
March 5th, 2007  

Topic: February Israeli interview With Jordan's King

February Israeli interview With Jordan's King
Yaari: Your Majesty thank you very much for granting this interview to Israel Television Channel 2. May I start in sort of unconventional manner by saying that since you have accepted our request for the interview, I suspect you, I assume you may have a message that you would like to convey to the Israeli public.

HM King Abdullah: In a way we all do. We find ourselves at this very important crossroads, I think, in all our lives in all our futures. Whether it is Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli-Arab. What I do feel really is the last opportunity for peace for all of us to live in peace and harmony in the future that you know his late Majesty King Hussein and late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I think, wanted for their peoples and for the region. With the momentum that is going on not only with the Americans and the Quartet, with the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also the re-launching of the Arab Peace Initiative, the interest of Muslim countries beyond the borders of the Middle East that are interested in reaching out to Israel to finally solve the Israeli-Palestinian process. This is the golden opportunity that is in front of all of us.

Yaari: You were saying, Your Majesty, the last opportunity, and before that you were quoted in some places saying that if we do not make progress within the next six months or so, then the train may be out of the station.

HM King Abdullah: I do believe that. I think the circumstances in the Middle East have changed so much that really this is our last opportunity. We have all this momentum moving in the right direction at the moment. We need to be able to reach out, I think, to the Israeli public and say, look, we have this opportunity once and for all to solve the problem. We believe that the future of Israel is not to the borders of Jordan or to Syria or Egypt I think the future of Israelis is to be fully integrated into the neighborhood, and finally solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem so that we do have a two-state solution. Otherwise I think well always live under the shadow of, for example, this summer.

Yaari: Do you get the feeling that the Israeli leadership, Prime Minster Olmert, others share the same sentiment that you have that this is the last opportunity?

HM King Abdullah: I think they understand that this is a last opportunity, but again, I think historically from my limited and humble experience, people are sometimes too focused on sort of the tactical issues and forget to look at the strategic, the bigger picture. So today it's sort of what one side is doing and what the other side is not doing, as opposed to the comprehensive picture of being able to have a final peace that Israel is fully integrated into the neighborhood. And I believe that is what Israelis would like. And I think that is the price that I hope Israeli positions will focus on.

Yaari: What should be done in your opinion, Your Majesty?

HM King Abdullah: The negotiations have started. I can say they have started, not as well as we had all expected, but it is a move in the right direction. To keep in mind that it is not just an Israeli-Palestinian discussion, that there is the re-launching of the Arab Peace Proposal, add to that Muslim countries and these Muslim countries are probably the largest Muslim communities in the world. They are democratic nations and economic powerhouses in their part of the world. These countries are also interested in extending the hand of peace toward Israel.

Yaari: You are speaking also of such states as Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia?

HM King Abdullah: There are Asian countries that are willing to come in and sort of change the dynamics of things as long as we move the two-state solution forward. So I think the Israeli public, I mean politicians will obviously see the mood of the public. Does the public want peace? This is an opportunity once and for all for Israelis to be able to move on with their lives, and all of us in the region to be able to move on with our lives. I think this is a message not only to the Israeli public, this is a message that we extend also to the Palestinian public. This is a critical time for people to make up their minds. We have this opportunity that I do not think will be around forever, and, as I said, I think we only have this limited opportunity to take advantage of.

Yaari: But Your Majesty, many Israelis would ask you how do you launch a dynamic peace process now when the Mecca accord is perceived by many Israelis also at the top level as a setback. Because you have now on the Palestinian side a possibility that a national unity government will emerge which does not accept the benchmarks set by the Quartet.

HM King Abdullah: I fully understand the perception in the Israeli public, and I believe the attempt of the Mecca accord was to stop the violence spiraling out of control between the Palestinian factions and to try to create a movement where they could step forward. There is a government that is going to be formed. Now not just the international players, but also the Arab countries are also expecting the new Palestinian government to adhere to the policies that we have set out in the Quartet and in the Arab Quartet also. So you have President Mahmoud Abbas who is your negotiator, who is prepared to be able to move the peace process forward, and the government that it is going to be formed will have to adhere to the Quartet conditions but also to our conditions too. So you are not alone on this, there is international common grounds not just Western but also Arab and to some extent Muslim that believe there have to be certain criteria that the new government has to accept if we are going to move the process forward. So when I say we are reaching out to the Israeli public we are also reaching out to the Palestinian public. Is this the time for peace? And do you want peace? And your leaders on both sides have to make that decision.

Yaari: Do you share the sentiment of many on our side basically what we have here with the Mecca agreement, is Fatah, President Abu Mazen trapped in a Hamas-led government?

HM King Abdullah: No, we are looking at this as. we in Jordan do not look at organizations, we are looking at a Palestinian president who is willing to move with the negotiations, whose government that he is forming knows and has given him the mandate to start negotiations with the Israelis, and as I said again, a government that we expect to be in full compliance with the Arab accord as well as the international commitment.

Yaari: And if they do not, if Prime Minister Haniyeh keeps saying Im not going to do that?

HM King Abdullah: Well look, the problem is on either side. You are going to have people that are not or will find excuses not to move forward. Well never find circumstances that are going to be ideal. This is fifty years of conflict and bloodshed, but I believe what we are trying to do is to reach out to the Israeli and Palestinian people and say look, your politicians really take the directives from you. Are you going to miss this opportunity, or not?

Yaari: Can there be a major Arab contribution, let's say the Arab Quartet the neighboring moderate Arab countries in order to help launch these negotiations?

HM King Abdullah: I think what we are talking about is re-launching the Arab Peace Initiative that was done by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2002. That is going to be re-launched, and, again, there is an interest from Muslim countries to be able to join that. So I think that is a pretty powerful group and I think a pretty powerful message to the Israeli public.
March 5th, 2007  
Yaari: Is there a possibility of an upgrade, any improvement, any expansion on the original text of the Arab peace initiative? This has been contemplated I believe in some Arab summits before.

HM King Abdullah: But you have to understand it. When the Arab peace proposal initially came out it was done in such way to reach out to concerns that the Israeli public would have. Obviously, no proposal that is going to come from any negotiating side is going to be a hundred percent perfect for the other, but even if you look at the wordings, I mean they were as flexible as possible to be able to reach out to the Israelis to say look the Arabs are serious about peace, they genuinely want to move the process forward. I think what they have to look on is the spirit of any declaration or any movement forward. Obviously, once it becomes negotiations then every thing can be worked out, but people tend to look at the fine print on a document like this, and what we should look at is the spirit of what is being offered here by Arab and Muslim nations.

Yaari: Is there a possibility that in case negotiations are resumed full steam with the Palestinians, Israel at the same time or parallel to that will have negotiations with the Arab Quartet with the Muslim countries that join on normalization in the region on the future relationship?

HM King Abdullah: Well, I think everything is possible. I think what we need to do in the short term is to be able to launch the Israeli-Palestinian process that then allows movement on the Arab Muslim side. How the sequencing goes, that is something to be sorted out. But you have this momentum, in other words Israelis and Palestinians are not alone in this process. It is not just the whole international community, but for the first time new dynamics. Here we have Arab and Muslim countries that want to move the peace process forward to finally solve the two-state solution, which then allows for Israel’s full integration into the region.

Yaari: Your Majesty, you were saying right there from the outset that this is a last opportunity, may I ask you to elaborate, what is your concern?

HM King Abdullah: Again, I just think that the opportunities that we have are diminishing, the frequency of conflict is rising rapidly in the Middle East. We went through an unfortunate issue in the summer of 2006 which nobody I think, I mean everybody suffered from this crisis, and I believe that the way the dynamics are changing, that we will find ourselves in a very short period of time with never being able to push the two-state solution. So if we never have the two-state solution, then can we ever have peace between Israelis and Arabs, and Israelis and the whole of the Islamic world? That instability is something that we would all pay for, for the rest of our lives. And so I think that is the commitment of how do you want to bring up your children? Do you want to bring them up in the 50 years of conflict? Is this what we want to give to the children we are bringing up today? Or do we finally want to be able to reach out and bring peace and stability to the Middle East. And unfortunately, where do we have to start is with the Israeli-Palestinian issue that then leads us to a greater stability between Israelis and Arabs.

Yaari: In what way can Jordan help both Israelis and Palestinians get together and get to some framework, which will lead us all into a better future?

HM King Abdullah: Because of the relationship that we have with both sides, we've always been sort of a group of countries that are trying to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, we are supporting the International Quartet or the Arab Quartet or other parties to be able to move forward. So I think we are an honest broker, although I don’t believe that should be a middle man role, and we are there to support Israelis and Palestinians to move the process forward. Again, I think the question at the end of whatever I've been saying today is, if we don’t move forward with the peace process what is the consequence? What is the alternative? The alternative is a very dark and dismal future, I think, for all of us, and I don’t think any of us would want that.

Yaari: Were you able to convince the Americans? Secretary Rice was here two days ago. Were you able to convince them that this is the time to act?

HM King Abdullah: I think what you have seen from Dr. Rice and from President Bush, not just in this visit, but on previous visits to the region, a full commitment to move on the Israeli Palestinian process. Dr. Rice has been here again on her second visit, I believe, in the very near future she should be back again to visit the region. So I do believe that the President of the United States with Dr. Rice has all the intentions to be able to push as hard as they can on the process. So I would say there is a hundred and ten percent commitment from the president and his administration to move this process forward.

Yaari: And at one point then Hamas will either change their position or will not count as much as they do count in Palestinian politics.

HM King Abdullah: I think the problem is, we are always trying to look at the sort of different sides there, I will be quite honest. From the way I see it, there are a lot of players on both sides and even further a field that do not want to move the process forward and we can’t give them that opportunity, because again the alternative is, I think, disaster for all of us. We have to be much more effective and we need to move faster than those groups out there who like to destabilize the process.

Yaari: May I switch, Your Majesty, to another burning topic, which is Iran and its nuclear aspirations. This is going to capture the headlines for the foreseeable future. What is your position?

HM King Abdullah: I think, you know, as I have said previously we always believed in a nuclear free zone, I guess that is not going to be reality in our part of the world. As I said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper recently, the dynamics have changed because there is tremendous interest to go into nuclear energy here. So the dynamics have changed in our part of the world. But as Jordan, we believe that there needs to be transparency on the issue. There is an international standard, international treaties, and we believe that everybody should belong to that club and abide by international concerns when it comes to nuclear energy and any nuclear programs. There is a system out there, and we believe that we all need to be part of that club to show transparency. I think the difficulties we are facing in our part of the world is nuclear ambiguity in an area with lots of conflicts, that creates a lot of tension and sometimes misunderstandings.

Yaari: Iraq. This I am sure a major concern to you and your Kingdom. You have I believe something like 700,000 Iraqis who choose to live now in Jordan because of the unstable situation in Iraq. Do you think there may be a way to stabilize the situation in Iraq, at least achieve the appearance the semblance of a specification so that Iraq can stay a unified entity?

HM King Abdullah: Sure, I mean all the countries in the region and further afield are very concerned about any potential instability inside of Iraq, but we are working with the Iraqi government, and we are working with all sides that we have relations with to make sure that we can down play the sectarian conflict. If this continues to spiral out of control, then it is something that we all are going to pay the price for. So therefore all countries of the region, and, I believe further afield, have to be a hundred percent committed in trying to get the sectarian violence sorted out and trying to give sort of the new Iraq a chance to succeed. It is going to be difficult uphill struggle, but the alternative is also pretty dismal.

Yaari: Do you think there is a chance for the new plan which is being implemented by the Iraqi government, the Americans and their allies, the security plan for Baghdad?

HM King Abdullah: Well, when President Bush was here with Prime Minister Maliki, our concern was as long as the plan was well articulated that it was benchmarked and that we had a time period. So I believe coalition forces and the Iraqi government will have to make an assessment on how successful they have been. If they feel that the plan has been on time, benchmarked properly, then continue with it and if not then call it for what it is and look for alternatives.

Yaari: Thank you very much Your Majesty.

A very interesting interview. The king strikes me as a humble man. I was always impressed with his father but since his death Jordan hasn't been in the news as much.

Also found these statements which would seem to put the government of Jordan on our side...

Jordan views Terrorism as defying the teachings of Islam and the culture of modern society. Islam is not only a religion but also a way of life, where the principles of tolerance and dialogue prevail. The bond between religion and peace should be strengthened as a key for eradicating fundamentalism.

Seems that they are straddling a fence much like their counterparts in Indonesia.

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