I Know the Devil Is in the Details
I Know the Devil Is in the Details
Interview granted in Amman by
His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan to Christian Malar,
France 3 Television. Images: Jordanian TV. Source:
Communication & Information Division, The Royal Hashemite Court, Amman, Jordan,
September 28, 2003. (Begin transcript)
Christian Malar: Your
Majesty, Jordan is squeezed right now between Iraq which is mired in the mug and
a deadlocked roadmap to peace. According to you, what should be done to get out
of this tragic nightmare before it gets worse ?
Abdallah II: Well on the
Israeli-Palestinian issue, as we have all always said this is the core issue in
the hearts of everybody in the region. I believe that there is no alternative to
the roadmap and we need to get the process back on track. That means, on the
Palestinian side this means trying to get Abu Alla’s government engaged as
quickly as possible, to see what they are capable of doing, and then getting him
to coordinate with the international community, the quartet: the United States,
Europe, Russia, and the United Nations and get the process going again. Because
at the moment, without anything on the ground, then the cycle of violence will
continue between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Christian Malar: Getting
back to Iraq in particular, many countries obviously, after the UN General
Assembly refused to side with the US administration because they do not agree
with this unilateralist approach which, they say, will lead to more hatred
towards the United States and to more terrorist attacks. Do you subscribe to
Abdallah II: Well you know
the President of the United States was fairly articulate in wanting to have
international engagement in Iraq, and I think all of us want to move the process
as quickly as possible. So I think if you are in the United States, or in
France, or anywhere else in the World, we at the end of the day want the same
things: a future for Iraq and the Iraqi people as soon as possible. But on the
practical level, if you looked at the United Nations coming into Iraq, this
cannot happen overnight, there needs to be a period of transition. So although
we want everything to be done today, I think realistically on the ground things
will take a bit longer than you wish.
Christian Malar: When you
say longer, how long ?
Abdallah II: Again there’s a
political coordination element and also a security element on who would commit
forces. I know the United States and the United Nations are working this out and
I know our friends in Europe are trying to get engaged in the same way. Again, I
think, because it was such a difficulty once the war was over in Iraq, it’s
taking a while for the dust to settle. So there’s a bit of confusion still out
there but I think in the good hearts of many around the world, including the
President of the United States, they want to be done as quickly as possible.
Christian Malar: A lot of
leaders in the World do not agree with George Bush, and they would like him to
change his policy towards Iraq drastically. Would you agree with that? Would you
advice him to change his Iraq policy?
Abdallah II: Correct me if
I’m wrong but my impression from our visit to the United States recently, is
that the President wants to get a role to the international community as quickly
I know the devil’s in the details, but I know he was very
clear that he doesn’t want the US and the immediate coalition there by
themselves. He wants to open it up to the international community.
How we get there is under negotiations at the moment and the
discussions that happened in the United Nations in the past week or so,
President Putin was in Camp David very recently, these are subjects that are
being discussed by all sides: how do we move from the position we are in now to
the one you subscribe to, so that there is more of an international presence in
Christian Malar: You are
going to meet President Chirac. You know he is at odds with the US
administration on Iraq. President Chirac is the one saying we are ready to share
the burden with the US but the US want to keep the overall control, they want to
have everybody to come to help on the ground but they do not want to share
anything. Do You share Chirac’s views on Iraq ?
Abdallah II: Well, in a way,
I subscribe to both elements of that because I think that - forget some of the
innuendos that keep coming up in the press - I think both President Chirac and
President Bush want to move it to the international community. But I think, like
I said, we have to be realistic on the ground. You can’t today say or tomorrow
have international troops come in just like that. I wish it was the case. But
there’s a lag time, which are the countries and how are they are going to
participate.. These are things that need to be worked out and let’s put it this
way, the positive, the Americans are engaging the United Nations, are engaging
the international community and in particular the Europeans, on how best to do
that. So let them talk this out and I’m sure they’ll come to a better agreement
in the very near future.
Christian Malar: When you
look closely at what is going at what is going on in the Middle East right now.
It seems -it’s an impression - we have that since the Israeli officials
threatened Chairman Arafat of being exiled or even being killed, we have no more
terrorist attacks. According to you, does that mean that Chairman Arafat
succeeded in exerting pressures upon Hamas and Jihad leaders to refrain from
having more terrorist attacks against Israel ?
Abdallah II: I really don’t
know. My instinct is there a desire to move the process; we have a new
Palestinian government under the premiership of Prime Minister Abu Alla and I
think everybody would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. And let’s hope
that working with us in the international community, we move him into a position
where he’s actually giving something to his people – then I think that’s a
reflection of the situation we’re in at the moment.
Again, terrorist incidences give Israel an excuse to also
retaliate and go back to the cycle of violence. I’m pleased that there has been
a lull, let’s hope that the lull happens by both sides to give the political
process a chance to get back on track.
Christian Malar: Do you
think we can have peace as long as there is not a more balanced approach from
the US towards the Palestinians because most of the people do think that the
Americans have a too pro-Israel stand ?
Abdallah II: I think the
problem is that the majority of Americans do not understand what is actually
happening on the ground so the perception is that it is always the Palestinians
who are at fault which at the same time gives the impression in the Middle East
that America is biased. This comes with education and with reaching out to the
American society to explain to them what is happening in the area and to have
better understanding. The President of the United States is committed to a
Palestinian state, hopefully by 2005. So from the sincerity of his heart, he
wants this thing to happen.
The problem is the process, how long it will take. We need to
be able to get the Americans to clear to the Israelis because I think the loss
of Abu Mazen was a terrible shame I think for everybody because it derailed the
process and allowed the extremists to win the day on both sides and I strongly
believe that even the Israeli government could have done a lot more to support
Abu Mazen to make him succeed – in stopping the settlements, in moving out
Palestinian villages, in allowing economic reform and finances to get to the
Palestinians. When these things were not happening, there was an extra burden on
Abu Mazen and it was not surprising that he resigned. So I think there’s a lot
more that both sides need to be doing.
Christian Malar: Do you
think there’s a chance to succeed before the US presidential elections in
thirteen months because President Bush, like most of his predecessors, when it
comes to a period when they are going to be involved in presidential campaign,
nothing will happen ?
Abdallah II: Well let’s put
it this way, if the President is less involved, it’s because he’s busy on other
things. He’s a very sincere man when it comes to articulating such ambitions: he
believes in a future for the Palestinians. So if he’s not engaged, it’s because
he’s busy with the elections, not because he’s playing politics. That’s one
The other thing is that I believe we have to be able to
create an atmosphere for the President to step in. At the moment, we’re at a
dead-end and we need to get the process back. If we can create enough movement
on the ground, getting people back onto the peace process, the roadmap, then the
president can fully get engaged. He has what he always used to call a
presidential card, when he plays that, he has to play it because something is
actually happening on the ground.
At the moment, there’s nothing for him to be able to do, so
it’s work for Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians, part of the international
community, to move the process back onto the roadmap and then give some tangible
edge to that so that the president can step in and say right, this is what’s
needed next irrelevant of what is happening with the elections. If we give him
the ambition, he will be able to produce.
Christian Malar: You have
been fighting hard for your great country. In this unpredictable World, how do
you plan to lead Jordan that you have already led on the right way ?
Abdallah II: We’re not going
to use the regional problems or the international obstacles as an excuse not to
continue to move forward. So economic and social and now the new dimension of
political reform will continue to be the course of what you will see Jordan
taking over the next couple of years.
It is a very tough neighborhood and a very difficult area as
you well know, but our people deserve better. We can achieve a better life for
Jordanians and we are not taking no as an excuse. So we will continue on these
reforms and we’ll make it.