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Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

By: Ehud Yaari

For: Israel Channel 2
7 March 2005

Channel 2: Your Majesty, thank you for granting this interview to Israel TV channel 2. I wanted to start with asking you: When are you coming to Israel?

King Abdullah: Well, we have no planned dates at the moment to visit Israel, although there have been some discussions. We're looking at if we can be of help in moving the peace process forward in both coming to the West Bank and Israel as part and parcel of getting the roadmap back on track. Obviously, as you well know, we are all fairly optimistic with this new chance. And that means that all of us have to work together to help the Palestinians and Israelis move the peace process forward.

Channel 2: How do you think Jordan can assist in revitalising the peace process? Both on the bilateral level and with respect to the Palestinians.

King Abdullah: As many of your people know, we have been working very closely with the Palestinians and Israelis for many years. Our support has not stopped even though there's been sort of a deadlock over the past several years. Obviously we just came away from Sharm El Sheikh where I was personally very optimistic from the very forward-leaning positions that both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas had. And were committed with London conference, getting the roadmap back on, working on issues of security, and also trying to reenergise the Arab initiative. So we are very busy behind the scenes and we will continue to do so.

Channel 2: You have been talking to other Arab leaders about it, just last night you visited Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. What kind of elaboration and articulation of the peace initiative should we expect?

King Abdullah: Most of us believe, Sir, I mean if we want to have a true peace in the Middle East its not Israel's peace to the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or Sinai. The true prize I think for Israel to have peace in the Arab world is from Morocco in the Atlantic to Oman in the Indian Ocean. That is the true essence of having an Israeli future but at the same time, there has to be a future for the Palestinians. So it was these two baskets: what do the Israelis want from the Arabs but at the same time there has to be a future for the Palestinians. And that's what we try to articulate.

Channel 2: Chairman Abu Mazen spoke of the Badr Force, especially here in Jordan, we lately saw them training in Zarqa to be moved to join the Palestinian security agencies in the West Bank. Is it possible, is it going to happen?

King Abdullah: It is very feasible. I was actually Commander of the Special Forces in the mid-nineties when we trained the Badr Force to go in under the United Nations. Unfortunately the decision was taken by the Palestinian Authority to take other people in. So this is still a very viable, capable, very high-quality force that can be used inside the territories. And they can help as instructors, and again as I'm sure most people know, this is a purely Palestinian force that was part of the Jordanian Armed Forces that I think will be very capable in assisting Abu Mazen in bringing security to the forefront.

Channel 2: Your Majesty … you hosted the President of Syria, Mr. Bashar Assad here a week ago, he seems to be on a coalition course with the Security Council, and my question to you is: Do you think it is a mistake not to pull out completely from Lebanon?

King Abdullah: Well, again I think its still early days. I voiced my opinion and my concerns to President Bashar when he visited us several weeks ago. I think there is a seriousness of the situation that Syria faces with the international community. I believe he understands the gravity of the situation and I'm hoping we will get a positive response from him. As you mentioned earlier, we were in Saudi Arabia yesterday and I gathered from our Saudi colleagues that they too tried to press upon him the difficulties that he is facing. We hope that Syria will make the right decisions.

Channel 2: Your Majesty one of the issues between Jordan and Israel is the issue of Jordanian prisoners in Israel. Do you see any chance of this being resolved or some understanding between the two governments concerning who’s to be released and who is not?

King Abdullah: I think there will be. I think that there is the right intent from both sides. Obviously there are two groups of prisoners. The large group of prisoners that don't have blood on their hands and there are others that do. And this needs to be discussed and agreed upon between both governments. My feeling is that there is the right intent from your government. And with discussions I hope that we will be able to come to some amiable solution on this particular problem.

Channel 2: About Amman Message. It seems that you and people around you feel that there is a need to introduce a different interpretation of Islam and Islamic values than those which are perceived by many in the West as a result of Islamic radicalist movements.

King Abdullah: I think we're looking at explaining the right position of Islam. The problem that we've had over the past several decades is that there has been a certain sect that has gone off on a different tangent and has brought a very bad name to Islam. The reason for the Amman Message was to identify throughout the Islamic world and also to the West this is what Islam means, this is what our tenants, this is what our beliefs. All those that take the lives of innocent people that live on destruction and hatred they have nothing to do with it. Then in a fact or in a way the word extremist is wrong. You can't be a Muslim extremist or Christian extremist or Jewish extremist because if you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim you believe in the rule of God and that does not allow you to do the crimes that these extremists do. So what we're trying to say is get the moderate majority of Muslims to stand up and say this is what's right and this is what's wrong.

Channel 2: Are they willing to stand up?

King Abdullah: The initial conferences at the government levels throughout the Islamic world have gone very well, and have had a very good impact on civil society. But what's more important now and its not something that can be done overnight is to be able to get grassroots mobilisation. We always suffer in any society under any problems from the silent majority, how do you get the silent majority to stand up and say enough is enough and we don't want to deal with what's going on. So this is the challenge of the Amman Message. And one that can't be solved in six months or a year. This is a long term process to be able to reach out. And is part of a process of reform political, social and economic that we'd like to see in the Middle East.