Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Randa Habib
Agence France Presse (AFP)
16 May 2009

(Following the King’s April 2009 visit with President Obama in the United States and his May 2009 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu)

AFP: Your Majesty, you stressed during your latest visit to Washington that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved without American intervention and that the Israelis and Palestinians "will not achieve results" on their own. What type of American intervention is required?

King Abdullah: Many years have passed without the peace process achieving the desired results – and that is comprehensive peace that ensures real security and stability in the region and that responds to the Palestinian people's rights to freedom and to the establishment of their independent state on their national soil, that restores all occupied Arab lands and that realises acceptance and security for Israel, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.

What we need now is serious and direct negotiations to reach a two-state solution as part of a comprehensive approach that achieves regional peace. As you know, I visited Washington last month and conveyed to US President Obama the position of the Arab states, which are committed to achieving comprehensive peace on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. This initiative is an unprecedented opportunity to end the conflict and it opens the door for Israel to build normal ties with all Arab and Muslim states that support the initiative.

Fifty-seven states do not recognise Israel; that's a third of UN member states. The reason is the continuation of the occupation and the absence of a peace settlement. Our only option is comprehensive and lasting peace and a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the two-state solution. This has international consensus and that is simply because it is the only way to resolve the conflict. And Israel has to make choices: does it want to be a fortress, isolated from the region, or does it want to coexist with its neighbours and with all the countries that do not recognise it and achieve acceptance and real security?

President Obama has announced his commitment to the two-state solution within a comprehensive approach to achieve comprehensive peace, and it was clear during my talks with him and members of the US administration that he wants to work seriously to achieve peace. He also understands the urgency of the situation today, and understands that procrastination threatens the security of the region and the world.

We believe that progress towards a solution requires a leading American role and European, Arab and international support. We expect an announcement from the US administration – and it has said that a resolution to the conflict is an American strategic interest – of its plan to restart negotiations to achieve a comprehensive solution. And we hope that it will announce this plan as soon as possible, because lost time undermines the chances for peace. There is a tremendous need to move quickly, seriously and effectively. Otherwise the possibilities of a new round of violence, a new war, will increase and the region and the world will pay the price.

AFP: Your Majesty, you said after your meeting with President Obama last month that you were comfortable with the US commitment to the two-state solution. Does that, in your opinion, close the door to the idea of the alternative homeland?

King Abdullah: In our dictionary there is no such thing as the alternative homeland. There is not even a door to open as far as it concerns this issue, and Jordan is able to resist having something imposed upon it. The solution to the conflict lies in an end to the occupation and in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on national Palestinian soil. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fantasising. Peace will not be achieved in this region unless the Palestinians gain their right to statehood, and Israel will not achieve real security unless the Palestinian people also achieve security and a decent life in an independent state. Israel should know that security cannot be achieved by walls, blockades and armies. Real security is achieved through peace and acceptance, and this is dependent on the restoration of Arab rights, especially Palestinian rights, through direct negotiations that should start immediately and according to a clear plan to achieve the desired results.

AFP: Does Your Majesty have any hope that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is serious about the peace process, especially after his statements about the need to recognise Israel as a Jewish state?

King Abdullah: I met Netanyahu two days ago, and we had a clear and direct discussion about the need to move, to work seriously and to commit to achieving the peace that is needed by the region and the world. The security of the region is threatened if there are no serious efforts to end the conflict. Israel has to stop building settlements and to lift the blockade and end the siege on the Palestinians. It also has to stop unilateral actions that threaten Jerusalem, its holy sites, its identity and its Muslim and Christian residents. It should enter into real negotiations to achieve the two-state solution as soon as possible and within a specific time frame. Israel now has a chance to live in peace and achieve acceptance within the region according to the Arab Peace Initiative, and it must choose between this and continued isolation within the region and bearing responsibility for continued conflict and the threat of war.

AFP: When the Arab Peace Initiative was launched, Israel accepted it with some reservations but Netanyahu did not mention it in Cairo, and Lieberman described it as dangerous. Are there any intentions to amend the issues pertaining to the refugees in the initiative?

King Abdullah: There is only one Arab Peace Initiative, which is complete and is an historic opportunity to achieve peace on all tracks - Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese - in accordance with a very simple formula: Israel's withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands. This is a condition to achieve normal relations with the Arab states. There is no change to the Arab Peace Initiative, and there is no need to amend it. Any talk about amending it, is baseless.

AFP: If we look to the future, how can Israel be integrated into the region. What can the Arab world do? And what was the reaction of Arab leaders to your talks with Obama?

King Abdullah: The Arab world has done and will do what is required of it. The Arab states have presented an initiative to achieve comprehensive peace and have committed to working to achieve that goal in accordance with this initiative, which corresponds to international consensus about what is necessary to end the conflict. The Arabs have reiterated this position at every summit since the announcement of the Arab Peace Initiative at the Beirut summit in 2002. We will support every effort to achieve this. The whole world knows the path to a solution and it knows the choice of the Arabs. Israel today bears responsibility for continuing the conflict. If Israel wants to integrate into the region, it has to end the occupation in order to pave the way for the establishment of a Palestinian state as well as reach peace with Syria and Lebanon. And Israel will have normal ties with all Arab states. I want to emphasise here that peace is in Israeli, American, Arab and international interest, because peace means development. It means a better future, and it means economic growth and cooperation.

AFP: Does Jordan aspire to be a centre for anti-terrorism training, since it was also a centre for the training of Iraqi and Palestinian police?

King Abdullah: What Jordan wants and strives to achieve is peace for this region and freedom, security and stability for its people, so that real development can take off, opening the door to achievement, decent living standards and job opportunities. Jordan will continue to do everything possible to achieve this. Terrorism is the enemy of all of us, and fighting it is a joint responsibility. As for training the Palestinian police, we have always provided all the support we can to Palestinian institutions in order to build the infrastructure that any state needs to grow and prosper. We have also always been on the side of stability and security of Iraq, as well as its territorial integrity and national unity, and we will provide every support to Iraq, and we will stand by its people.