Jordan envoy: Status quo between Israel, Palestinians ‘untenable’

Jordan envoy: Status quo between Israel, Palestinians ‘untenable’

Walid Obeidat says Arab Peace Initiative could be ‘win for all’; President Rivlin praises Hashemite Kingdom as ‘shining light of tolerance and harmony’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin (right) and Jordan's Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat, June 16, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
President Reuven Rivlin (right) and Jordan's Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat, June 16, 2015 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

The status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is unsustainable, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel said Tuesday in Tel Aviv, arguing that if the two peoples learn to respect one another, peace could only but follow.

“Jordan is convinced that maintaining the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians is untenable,” Walid Obeidat said during a reception in honor of the Hashemite Kingdom’s 69th Independence Day. “Security comes only with peace, and peace comes only with respect and coexistence.”

In his speech at the Dan Panorama Hotel, Obeidat hailed the increasing bilateral cooperation between Israel and Jordan — especially in the fields of water and gas — before addressing the stalled peace process.

“We always need to talk about the importance of realizing the two-state solution,” he said. A failure to reach peace comes with the threat of “recurring war and military conflict affecting us — millions of civilians,” he said.

“Jordan remains deeply committed to the two-state solution, whereby an independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state emerges through negotiations on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side in peace, in genuine security with Israel and all other countries in the region.”

Obeidat offered the two parties Jordan’s assistance, emphasizing the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full diplomatic relations with all Arab and Muslim states after a peace deal with the Palestinians is signed. The proposal could be “a win for all,” the diplomat said.

President Reuven Rivlin, who also spoke at the lavishly catered event, only mentioned the peace process briefly. “We have to build confidence with our cousins, our neighbors the Palestinians, and Jordan plays a great role in building such confidence,” he stated.

After greeting the guests with several sentences in Arabic, Rivlin switched to English and went on to praise Jordan as a “shining light of tolerance and harmony” and an “island of stability in a very complicated region.”

The president also hailed bilateral cooperation in various fields and recalled that his late father, a scholar of Islam, used to fast on Ramadan out of respect to his Muslim friends.

“I grew up learning about the rich world of Islam, which is full of beauty, kindness and mercy,” continued Rivlin.

Jordanian officials rarely speak at public events in Israel. And when they do, their comments are often diplomatic, albeit critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

In November, Ambassador Obeidat was recalled to Jordan due to alleged Israeli “violations” regarding the tenuous status at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, when police clashed with Palestinian youths who were throwing stones at them. He returned to Tel Aviv in February.

Last October, Obeidat warned Israel that continued settlement construction and attempts to change the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount could endanger the two-decade-old peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

At an event in Tel Aviv in October 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, the ambassador had called for the swift resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He said that it was “imperative that all unilateral actions and measures must stop, to give peace negotiations a serious chance for success.” Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must end, he added.

“Equally important, Jordan expects all attempts at altering the status quo in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound to be stopped,” Obeidat said last year. “All such acts are incompatible with international law and international humanitarian law, and if allowed to continue will ultimately imperil the treaty, adversely affect the peace process and regional stability, and fuel tensions and feed extremism.”

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