Jordan: No time for Israel to play the waiting game

Jordan: No time for Israel to play the waiting game

In Davos, King Abdullah warns that Obama's second term is an ephemeral window of opportunity to implement the two-state solution

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

King Abdullah II of Jordan speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Friday.
King Abdullah II of Jordan speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Friday.

Barack Obama’s second four-year term as US president is the last opportunity for a two-state solution, King Abdullah II of Jordan said Friday.

He made the assessment during a talk at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, in which he also addressed the Arab Spring, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and the process of democratization in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

“These last years have seen turmoil and challenge across the globe, and no less in our region,” said Abdullah. But he warned against adopting a destructive “wait-and-see” attitude in lieu of responding to the changes occurring all over the Middle East.

“The time for answers is now. Nothing is more counter-productive, nothing is more dangerous than the old attitude of ‘let’s wait and see,’ said the Jordanian king. 

“Today we hear some say, wait and see about the two-state settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They say the times are too uncertain, there are other priorities, ‘let’s just wait’ — but today’s unprecedented threats to regional and global stability and security don’t wait,” Abdullah said.

He said the next four years presented a window of opportunity for implementing a two-state solution, warning that the window would close at the end of Obama’s second term.

“Beyond that, if we don’t fix it in the next four years, I don’t believe it’ll ever happen,” he said.

“We hear some say ‘wait and see about the Arab Spring,’ but today no one can afford to sit on the sidelines of change. Our citizens want their goals now, and that means moving forward together from the old status quo to a new dynamic, from protests to stake-holding, from self-interest to public interest,” he added, urging the international community to end “the continued denial of the Palestinians’ right to their own future.”

Addressing the elections that took place in Israel this week, Abdullah urged Jerusalem to accept the Arab Peace Initiative, which he said “provides a path, a two-state settlement giving both sides what they need and want, with an independent, sovereign and viable Palestine, and a secure Israel enjoying peace with all its neighbors and normal relations with all Arab states.”

He urged the international community to join Jordan in pressing for negotiations and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “once and for all,” stressing that “there is no time left for Israel to play the waiting game.”

The Jordanian king, who met with President Shimon Peres on the sidelines of the Davos conference to discuss the Middle East peace process, said Jordan had tried in the past year to “keep the atmosphere positive between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” He added that Obama’s reelection presented a golden opportunity for the renewal of peace talks between the two sides.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “understands that,” he said. He added that the Israeli prime minister would have to keep in mind when forming a coalition that the international community, led by Europe and Washington, would take steps to move the process forward.

Asked if the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, as well as Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, would not impede peacemaking efforts, Abdullah responded that Hamas leaders were becoming more “realistic” in view of the fact that the United States had a “second-term president.”

He said that while Israelis had viewed the Arab Spring favorably at first, they had come to view it with growing concern and had realized that a destabilized Jordan was not in their country’s best interests.

He added that Israelis realized the alternative to the two-state solution was the one-state solution, which was frightening to Israelis.

“If it’s a one-state solution, is it democratic or is it apartheid?” he asked. “This is a serious challenge for Israelis.”

Abdullah said that the world could not afford to wait for the dust in the Arab world to settle or for democracy to take its course, stressing that the international community had to become involved in the transformations overtaking the region.

“Pluralism, diversity and respect for the other need proactive support,” he said, warning that otherwise, yesterday’s repressive regimes would be replaced by “new, possibly worse repression.”

The Jordanian king said his country — which has seen demonstrations recently against the king, and which this week held elections — remains a secure haven at the heart of the region because it had rejected the wait-and-see approach. He said the Arab Spring had given the world an opportunity to “renew the momentum of change” — an opportunity Jordan had seized.

Abdullah then discussed his country’s role in alleviating the Syrian humanitarian crisis. He said that international support was “desperately needed” to assist Syrian refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to Jordan only to struggle to survive the harsh winter weather there.

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