|The Peace Process Is Far From Dead|
The Peace Process Is Far From Dead
Arab leaders are clearly uncomfortable with renewed U.S. support for the Israeli government in the current Middle East crisis. The most recent high-ranking visitor to Europe is the ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, H.M. King Abdullah II. His was a message of concern but of "cautious optimism" both at NATO Headquarters outside Brussels, Belgium, and at his two venues in France, first with the French authorities in Paris and before the European Union’s Parliament in Strasburg. During his stay in France, the King of Jordan spoke to Christian Malar, Editor-in-chief at France 3 Television. George V Hotel, Paris, June 12th., 2002. Photo Jean-Marc Lalier, France 3 TV Corporation.
Christian Malar: Thank you very much, Your Majesty, for giving us this interview.
Majesty, one more terrorist action yesterday against Israel. Recently Egyptian President Mubarak failed to make George Bush understand that the American approach for a peace settlement in the Middle East is wrong – or might be wrong.
Prime Minister Sharon got from President Bush support for whatever he wants to do. What is your appreciation of the situation for the near future in the Middle East ?
H.M. the King of Jordan: Well, the way I see and the way I feel is obviously that the situation on the ground is still very, very bad.
There is still a cycle of violence. Israelis and Palestinians are losing their lives. There is obviously an entrenchment of positions by both the PNA and the Israeli government.
On the bigger picture, however, I believe that the international community has always known what was expected to move both camps forward. And I still believe that there is an opportunity in the Summer for Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and the Arabs to a low-level conference to put the building-blocks of moving the region forward.
Having said that, I believe that, again, the United States knows what is required. I think it is gathering facts, studying the situation. And I would like to say that I am cautiously optimistic, that, the United States and the international community will come together to lay the bridge of getting both the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Arabs forward.
Christian Malar: Your Majesty, it seems very obvious that Sharon wants the US president to put Arafat out of the peace process, out of the political game. Would you agree to that and say: Is it acceptable ? Or can we have another Palestinian leader substitute for Arafat ?
H.M. the King of Jordan: There is no doubt that there are many in the international community. I know that there are reservations by the American government and obviously, there is a very strong position by Prime Minister Sharon against Arafat.
But, again, we cannot choose other people’s leaders. And as a result, Arafat does still represent the Palestinians. He is still their leader. And – if you were talking of somebody else that’s high hypothetical – but the only people who can answer that question is the Palestinians themselves.
We can’t use the excuse of leaders as an obstacle to moving forward.
Christian Malar: What kind of specific action would you expect from George W. Bush to put the peace process back on tracks ?
H.M. the King of Jordan: Well, our position has been that we need, as we said to you over the past two years, an endgame that is understood by all. In other words, creating the two-basket approach where we identify for Israelis and for Palestinians what the prices are.
- For the Palestinians, it has to be a viable Palestinian State linked to 242 and 338 UN resolutions.
- For the Israelis, it has to be security and integration into the Middle East.
Now, the Arabs have answered the Israeli position in the Arab summit of Beirut several months ago. When they actually answer all the requirements that the Israelis wanted for the past several decades.
We now need the international community to make a strong move that there is a future for the Palestinian State.
Christian Malar: So, the Arab peace process is not dead ?
H.M. the King of Jordan: None of those plans are dead. You know, what we have to understand is that there are a series of initiatives and ideas that all are progressive of moving people forward. And we know it’s difficult to say. That you call it (as they say) an American peace plan or a Jordanian, an Egyptian peace plan or a Saudi.
We all want to solve the problem. So, it’s initiatives and tremendous efforts we need by all of us in the region to move it forward. So there is no such thing as peace being dead.
If it is, then we have to resign ourselves that there is no hope for the future. It is all moving forward and I am, as I said, cautiously optimistic that, this Summer, all these mixtures will come together under one umbrella, where we can set the building-blocks for a really next phase and getting Israelis and Palestinians close together.
Christian Malar: I know we already talked about that in the past, Your Majesty, I remember. But would you feel again today that there is a tricky initiative on the Israeli side for having Jordan as a Palestinian State ?
H.M. the King of Jordan: Well, we continue to hear this.. There are two stories that are out.
One is that Jordan should be a substitute for Palestine, and that will never happen.
We Jordanians know our history and I have the solidarity of all our people that Jordan will continue to be Jordan. And as the international community knows it, if it was not for Jordan, I think the Middle East would be in a worse position.
As for the other story going round – that Jordan should have control of the West Bank and Egypt over the other. But I can speak on behalf of Jordan.
Any rule for Jordan in the West Bank would do to replace an Israeli tank by a Jordanian tank.
The only people that can govern the future of the Palestinians are the Palestinians themselves. And that has to be understood and clear for everybody.
So those two ‘initiatives’ – if we can say they are initiatives - are both non-starters and ones that we will not allow to happen whatsoever.
Christian Malar: Thank you very much, Your Majesty, for granting France 3 this interview.
(*) Courtesy Christian Malar, Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, France 3 Television Corporation, Paris.