WASHINGTON, DC: Of all the countries involved to varying degrees in the Middle East conflict, Jordan has always been one of the most moderate voices calling for peace. And of all the Middle East’s leaders, Jordan’s King Abdullah – much like his father King Hussein before him – has always offered a clear, crisp, intelligent analysis of the situation. (It must be said that Jordan benefits from one of the better intelligence services in the Arab world.)
Abdullah is worried for the future of the region. And when King Abdullah is preoccupied he has good reason. It would be unwise to ignore his warnings. The Jordanian monarch spent a week in Washington, DC, meeting with US President Barack Obama and leaders on Capitol Hill to drive home the point that time is running out. Unless a major breakthrough in the now comatose peace process is achieved in the months ahead the region may be well on its way to another major escalation of violence.
Indeed, when looking at the region’s recent history, wars have erupted whenever talks had hit a dead end. Speaking to a group of Washington diplomats, pundits, politicians and journalists over lunch, Jordan’s king said that only the United States, with its prestige and power of influence in the Middle East, could intervene to prevent further deterioration in a very volatile part of the world.
“I do not want to talk about missed opportunities; I want to focus on the urgency of not missing any more , said Abdullah.
Yet what is perhaps just as worrisome is the fact that no one involved in the Middle East peace imbroglio seems to have a “Plan B, a back-up plan in case the US does not come through. Abdullah and other regional leaders are gambling on a single racehorse – the prestigious foreign policy of the United States of America. But if the United States fails to convince the parties concerned of the importance of moving ahead, there is simply no alternative recourse. All the more reason to heed to Abdullah’s warnings.
“The United States has a stated, strategic interest in ending this conflict , said the king.
Abdullah said that few crises in history have presented such a potent mix of threats: from the regional instability and violence it promotes, to the worldwide divisions it has caused – divisions actively exploited by extremists.
Yet, as with any conflict, all of the United States’ clout will prove useless unless the parties involved have the desire to move ahead.
In that respect the Middle East conflict is no different from other conflicts in other parts of the world. Intransigence and extremism, no matter on which side they emerge, remain the biggest impediments to peace.
The king placed much hope for the future of the Arab-Israeli peace talks on direct intervention by the United States. And while the United States, indeed, carries its weight around the Middle East, political weight is usually helped along by generous aid packages, often in the form of US dollars and/or the latest US defense technologies and the most up to date weapon systems.
Progress said the Jordanian king, was “imperative.
“We have seen what comes of process without progress. Every missed opportunity has alienated more people on both sides.
“There must be a settlement that fulfils legitimate rights of both parties – the right of Palestinians to statehood, and the right of Israelis to security.
Many analysts are asking whether the election of Binyamin Netanyahu – a right-wing hardliner – as Israel’s new prime minister might not regress the situation even further. But I would argue that historically it has been Israel’s most conservative prime ministers who have made the largest peace overtures to the Arabs.
The first was Menachem Begin, who returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for diplomatic relations and a peace treaty, which holds to this day. And the second was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who returned Gaza to the Palestinians.
Abdullah reiterated that a large number of Arabs are in favor of peace, and that despite all provocations during the last seven years, the landmark Arab peace initiative has held. And he recalled the main points of the agreement: ending the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, creating a Palestinian State, and providing security guarantees to and normal relations with Israel.
A peace treaty with Israel at this point would offer the Jewish state acceptance and recognition by all the countries in the region and normal relations with its neighbors. In addition, Abdullah said that Muslim countries around the world have also expressed their support for a peace treaty. There are still 57 countries in the world today that do not recognize Israel.
Abdullah called the Arab Peace Initiative – which seeks to normalize relations with Israel and Arab countries in return for Israel’s withdrawal of the occupied territories – “the most important proposal for peace in the history of this conflict.
Finally, the king said he believed peace can succeed and that Jordan, for one, would settle for nothing less.
Claude Salhaniis editor of the Middle East Times. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Khaleej Times, www.khaleejtimes.com.