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Speeches
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
At the Brookings Institution
Washington, DC, US
13 May 2002

Ambassador Indyk, Friends,

Thank you for your warm welcome, and Ambassador, thank you for your kind introduction. I am grateful for this opportunity to share with all of you my thoughts, concerns and aspirations on this, the last day of my current visit to the United States.

I came to Washington, bringing an urgent message about the need for America to lead the peace in the Middle East. At no time since 1948, has there been a greater need for outside intervention, to solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. At no time, have the regional players been more aware, of the heavy price of this crisis, and more ready, for a solution. And certainly, at no time, has there been such a wide international consensus, about America's leadership role.

I also came to talk, in practical terms, about how to get the peace process back on track. Because this is not a case where we have simply gotten stuck, down a siding, and all we have to do is retrace our way to the main line, and blow the horn, and get going again. I think it is fair to say we have had a train wreck, a serious train wreck, with enormous destruction and the loss of many innocent lives. And we cannot now, just hoist the old mechanisms back on the old negotiating tracks, and expect to make any forward progress. We need a new engine of change, and, I suggest, some new tracks as well. So let me talk about that.

To begin, I want to say a word about where we have been. I won't review the entire peace process. Brookings publishes a distinguished, 425-page book, in order to cover this whole topic. I want to focus on a much narrower point, namely, the last time when a fundamentally changed peace process began. And that was 1991, the time of the Madrid Peace Conference.

It began, as you will remember, with a joint invitation from the United States and the Soviets, after consultations with the Arab states, the Palestinians, and Israel. Three developments had paved the way for that breakthrough. The Cold War, with its global focus, was over. The just-ended Gulf War had provided a new regional context for addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And there was a growing international consensus about Palestinian independence, a consensus that could give the Madrid process a firm foundation, in terms of reference, based on international legality, and United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.

Many of you know the results. The tracks emanating from Madrid succeeded in establishing the Palestinian National Authority in Palestine; in concluding a treaty of peace between my country, Jordan, and Israel; and in getting closer to real understandings on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts. The multilateral aspect of the Madrid process charted a new path in addressing issues that related to sustaining peace in the region. These covered economic development and cooperation, arms control and regional security, water resources, the environment, and refugees. Of course, no one was deluded into thinking that the solutions would be easy. Yet, the promise was there for a comprehensive, lasting peace that would end the conflict once and for all.

This is certainly not the time to assign blame for our collective failure to bring that process to its final fruition. Many were quite sincere in getting that difficult process on track. Many exerted all possible efforts to ensure its success. I lived through that period, watched as my late father challenged the constraints to realise a dream, and witnessed change, that seemed at times, almost impossible. And I believe that what is positive today is a result of that achievement.

What we need to do now is to draw the right lessons from this experience. The process ultimately crashed, not because its terms of reference were unclear or ambiguous, not because it was flawed or insincere, not because the hopes were misguided. The process hit a wall when it failed to win credibility and trust on the ground among the people.

Let us recall that the 1990s peace process never explicitly stated what the endgame was, nor when it would be achieved. The promise always was that final-status matters would be negotiated at a later stage, delaying the resolution of thorny issues, until sufficient confidence was built up among the parties. For many participants, the result was almost the opposite. Confidence was not built, because the process did not seem to promise real resolution. Indeed, for too many, confidence actually eroded. The peace process became viewed as yet another way to delay and therefore deny justice. By the time discussions on permanent solutions were attempted, at Camp David 2000, the gap between the process and the reality was huge.

Just as important, perhaps, the rules of the game could not be institutionalised as long as the endgame was hazy. The process, therefore, remained hostage to the whims and wills of individual leaders, who might opt to pursue peace or choose to obstruct it. In this environment, peace could be, and indeed was, constantly threatened, by actions and reactions, on the ground, events, that could not always be controlled by the stakeholders themselves.

All of this combined to undermine the process so carefully crafted in the fall of 1991. Bombings, settlements, deportations, and other actions revealed the failure of the parties to accept each other, as partners, and neighbours. It was only a matter of time before the escalating violence and hatred overturned the efforts of the peace camps, on both sides, to win the popular support needed to sustain the process. In its place, misguided perceptions emerged again, on both sides: that suicide bombings are a productive road to freedom, for instance, or the equally mistaken idea, that tanks can subdue a legitimate, popular cry for independence.

Friends,

The incremental negotiating model has run its course. Now more than ever, people need to see results, real security, viable independence, and a future of hope. A peace that resonates with both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, independent of the wills of leaders. A peace that once again focuses on timely, practical results. Sceptics might argue that this is not possible, given the hardening that has emerged in public opinion on both sides. To these I respond that if today's crisis has made the divisions deeper, it has also made the issues clearer than ever before. Indeed, even while the conflict rages on, there is an internalisation process in the minds of peoples on both sides of the proposed solutions. Both peoples are exhausted and are ready for peace, a peace that will allow an Israeli mother to send her child to school without fear, a peace that will allow a Palestinian mother to deliver her newborn, alive, at a hospital and not at an Israeli roadblock.

To end today's violence, conflict resolution must replace conflict management. This requires that we focus sharply on the ultimate goals and principles of peace. We must go straight to final prizes. The mechanism that is adopted must re-launch negotiations on final status issues, and, as important, complete them, within a reasonable timeframe. That means translating the visions articulated in Madrid, Louisville, Washington and Beirut, into a detailed time-line, a plan of action that will rekindle hope and make it reality.

I believe that a strong basis for such a deal was articulated at the recent, precedent-setting Arab Summit. There, Arab states articulated a vision for peace that explicitly recognises the interests of Israel while it fulfils the hopes of the Palestinians. Through a collective peace treaty with every Arab state, Israel would receive the security guarantees it needs. The Jewish character, security, legitimacy, international recognition, Arab acceptance, and peaceful future of Israel would be positively addressed. At the same time, Arab states would have their core requirements met, an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands, the guarantee of independence, freedom, dignity, equality and security for the Palestinians, and an agreed solution to the refugee question.

I believe that this is the kind of fair deal that could stick. Both Israel and Palestine would be ensured of their viability, security, and territorial integrity. The Jerusalem question would be answered, by providing for a shared open city to all faiths. There would be an agreed solution to the refugee problem that is fair to Palestinians and that does not threaten the sovereignty of the Israeli state.

Friends,

More than seven years ago, my father, His Late Majesty King Hussein, concluded a treaty of peace with Israel, establishing normal relations between our countries. Now, for the first time, all Arabs have directly addressed Israeli citizens as neighbours who deserve to live in dignity, security and peace. We told Israelis at the Arab Summit in plain language: "We want to permanently welcome you in our neighbourhood. Look at the Arab peace proposal seriously, for the sake of the present, and for the future for all our peoples."

I believe that many Israelis are listening. Despite the difficult situation, more than half of the Israeli public believes that an end to occupation and the dismantling of settlements will help to establish peace. An opinion poll released last week found that 63 per cent of Israelis felt that peace negotiations were necessary to resolving terrorism, and 56 per cent support a U.S.-led international force for the Palestinian territories.

But success will require more. It will indeed require American leadership, policy and will to pull the region back from the brink. Only the United States has the political and moral authority to bring people together to take the risks that peace requires. In the Middle East, an active US role is indispensable, not only to guide the Palestinians and the Israelis out of conflict, but also to protect your own vital national interests and those of your moderate allies, allies who are a bulwark against extremism in our region and around the world. The fact is, that given present conditions, neither Israelis nor Palestinians are capable of taking the steps needed to reach a reasonable final compromise. Only the international community, under strong American leadership, can guide the parties across the divide.

Last week, I called on the United States to seize this historic moment to create a new peace alliance for the Middle East. Under its umbrella, a U.S.-led coalition of European, Arab, and other countries would provide the support that is needed, security, economic, and political, by both Israelis and Palestinians. The parties would be told in no uncertain terms that while suicide bombings will not be rewarded, neither will occupation. Most important, the peace alliance would bring its clout to the bargaining tables, brokering a comprehensive, fair and lasting deal.

All I have witnessed and heard in the past few months, convinces me of the need, and the opportunity, to act decisively, quickly and clearly. Core to our success will be respect and understanding for the peoples on both sides, an understanding, I am glad to see, that is reflected in your work here at Brookings.

The former British Minister Chris Patten, who was involved in the peace process for Northern Ireland, often says that the beginning of wisdom in that conflict, was to recognise that there are two authentic cries of pain and rage. The same applies in the Middle East. What is now required is real moral and political leadership, leadership that articulates a vision and takes risks to persuade people to share it. Today, more than ever, the world looks to the United States to lead.

Thank you very much.