Jordan PM who signed Israel peace deal: Haifa should be taken by force if we can

‘If we ever have military power, will we let them keep Haifa? We’ll take it,’ Abdelsalam al-Majali says in TV interview, while praising Israel for water supply

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

The former Jordanian prime minister who signed the peace treaty with Israel said in a recent interview that his country would “take Haifa by force” if it ever has the military power to do so, despite the 1994 treaty.

Abdelsalam al-Majali, 93, served as prime minister in 1993-1995, during which he signed the accord with his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Rabin, and took office again in 1997-1998.

But in a TV interview aired on August 18, he said: “The Arabs do not have any power. If we ever have military power, will we let them keep Haifa? We’ll take it.”

“If tomorrow we become stronger and can take Haifa by force, will we really decline just because we have an agreement with them?” Majali told Jordan Today TV in remarks translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Earlier in the interview, Majali and the TV host had been discussing the “right of return” which Palestinians claim five million people — tens of thousands of living original refugees from what is today’s Israel, and their millions of descendants — are eligible for. Israel rejects the demand, saying that it represents a bid by the Palestinians to destroy Israel by weight of numbers and that no other population of refugees has been dealt with in that manner.

Jordanian Prime MinisterAbdelsalam al-Majali, left, speaks to reporters with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat standing beside him during a press conference in Ramallah, July 20 1997. (AP Photo/Naser Naser)

“There are millions of Jordanian Palestinians who have property in Israel,” Majali said. “They have the right to get it back or get compensation for it.”

The host was opposed to the idea of compensation, equating it with the Palestinians “sell[ing] their land for a price.”

Majali said that people would collect the compensation from “Haifa, Jaffa, and elsewhere beyond the West Bank,” adding that retaking the land wasn’t possible for the time being because “[The Israelis] own that land. They live and build there, while you are not there, and you don’t have an army or anything.”

When the host argued it was better for the Palestinian cause to refuse the compensation and leave the land “occupied,” Majali said: “Well, what can you do? You lost the land to a military force. You do not have any power. All you do is talk.”

It was then that he made the remark about conquering Haifa if Jordan ever got stronger.

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) shakes the hand of Jordan’s King Hussein at the signing of the bilateral peace treaty, October 1994 (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

At the beginning of the interview, Majali defended the peace treaty he signed 24 years ago, which is opposed to this day by many Jordanians, saying that “my mentality is a mentality of peace.”

“As long as you do not have force of another kind, peace is your only option,” he added.

He said that contrary to what many Jordanians believe, “Israel continues to give us more water than we are due.”

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