It has been about three weeks since the conflict in Lebanon began and even longer since the chaos in Gaza started. Some of the harshest statements aimed at Israel have been by way of HM King Abdullah II that the international press has emphasized mainly because of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and it’s pro-western leanings. Calling Qana “an ugly crime” was an unexpected statement from the King and so was calling Israelis criminals. These statements also come in the midst of relative silence from most Arab leaders even those one would expect to be fairly vociferous about the conflict. The silence has left both the media and the Arab street to fill in the blanks, especially after the expected failure of the recent Arab League conference.
Yesterday the King gave two interviews to the Jordanian dailies Al-Ghad and Al-Rai in which a more complete view of the conflict was outlined. Whether people agree or disagree and whether these statements will invoke positive or negative reactions socially and politically does not in my opinion make them any less significant. The interview includes everything from calling Lebanon a model, Israel a criminal and harsh criticisms on US biases and policies. Another rare element is acknowledging the Arab street and their opinions on the conflict, which is something I’ve personally rarely if at all ever seen an Arab leader do.
Fellow Jordanian blogger Batir Wardam has a bullet point summary of the statements but I’d like to point out the more important ones.
Ã¢??Israel must realise that even if Hizbollah is destroyed, and still there is no peaceful solutions to the Palestinian cause, and [IsraelÃ¢??s problems with] Lebanon and Syria, another Hizbollah would emerge in a year or two in another country; maybe in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, or Iraq,Ã¢?Â
I am uncertain sometimes about Israel’s policies. At times they appear to be mistakes on par with naive American moves in the region but Israel is not a naive player, it knows the region well. I suppose one can argue that Israel does not make mistakes, that it’s purpose is always multifold, for example its invasion of Lebanon is also an attempt to destroy the country’s infrastructure and economic progress. Other motives include water and oil. In other words Israel does not expect to wipe out Hizballah because it realizes that attempting to do so will only increase its support and create more Hizballahs in the region.
Another statement that caught my attention was on moderation and it comes during a time when people have claimed the voice of moderation to be dead:
Those who want the voice of reason to prevail in the region have to address the causes of the crises. Moderation should accomplish something for people to believe in it. Otherwise, people will have no choice but to reject the voice of moderation and embrace other means to defend their rights.Ã¢?Â
The rest of the interview was similarly interesting and I’ll post it here simply because the Jordan Times does not have an archiving system. It’s worth a read.
Ã¢??Achieving peace through ending occupation of Arab territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state is the only solution,Ã¢?Â he said, adding that there will be no solution in Lebanon without an agreement with the Lebanese government.
Ã¢??And there will be no solution in Palestine without restoring Palestinian rights. We reject the Israeli prime ministerÃ¢??s unilateral plans. We think the US knows that now, and the Israelis must realise it as well.Ã¢?Â
The King said since peace negotiations in recent years did not achieve comprehensive objectives, Ã¢??the need now arises to reevaluate the peace process and rebuild it on the basis of respect for international legitimacy resolutionsÃ¢?Â.
Ã¢??The entire world must know that the Palestinian problem is the core issue in all that is happening, and without a just solution that guarantees the return of the land Israel occupied in 1967, the region will pay dearly and will never calm down,Ã¢?Â King Abdullah warned.
Ã¢??The problem lies in the need for the world to acknowledge that Palestinian territories were occupied and should be restored and that the Palestinian people have legitimate hopes and aspirations to establish an independent state. The entire world should work to ensure such a state is established. War will not solve anything.Ã¢?Â
Ã¢??The Arab peoples see Hizbollah as a hero because of its fight against aggression and they will support any efforts to ensure the return of their rights,Ã¢?Â he said.
Ã¢??This is a fact that the US and Israel have to realise: As long as there is aggression, there is resistance and there is popular support for this resistance,Ã¢?Â the Monarch said.
Ã¢??The international community should shoulder its moral and political responsibilities and the US should acknowledge that war will not bring anything but more woes, violence and extremism.Ã¢?Â
The King spoke about his contacts with the leaders of the US, France and Germany, in addition to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Ã¢??I talked to US President George Bush and asked him, Ã¢??What guilt have the innocents committed? Why should Beirut airport and LebanonÃ¢??s infrastructure be bombarded?Ã¢?? I told Bush and French President [Jacques] Chirac that Ã¢??protecting Lebanon is your responsibility.Ã¢?? Regrettably, what we initially sensed from those contacts was not encouraging,Ã¢?Â he said.
What they wanted, he continued, was a package of solutions that guarantee IsraelÃ¢??s security and push back Hizbollah off the Israeli borders.
Ã¢??But I think that the picture is different now. Those calling for a ceasefire are more heard now than before.Ã¢?Â The King, who said he made no contacts with the Israelis about the crisis, added the US has a big responsibility to shoulder in solving the crises in the Middle East.
Ã¢??The Arab peoples realise that the US is biased towards Israel. They also believe that the Middle East will never enjoy security until the Palestinians enjoy stability, restore their rights and build their state. Addressing the root causes of the conflict is the sole means to solve them… if the US wants respect and appreciation in the Arab world, it should quickly move to find a just solution to the Arab-Israel conflict.Ã¢?Â
Ã¢??Voice of moderation weakenedÃ¢??
King Abdullah said IsraelÃ¢??s policies have contributed to the rise of extremism in the Arab world at the expense of moderation. The war in Lebanon has added to that, he said.
Ã¢??Yes, the war has weakened the voice of moderation… From the very beginning, there was room for diplomatic solutions instead of this destruction and these catastrophes suffered by Lebanon, but nothing happened. Here we are facing a new war: Killings in Lebanon and killings in Palestine and despair in the entire region. People do want an end to the usurpation of rights and the occupation…Those who want the voice of reason to prevail in the region have to address the causes of the crises. Moderation should accomplish something for people to believe in it. Otherwise, people will have no choice but to reject the voice of moderation and embrace other means to defend their rights.Ã¢?Â
The King said he understands peopleÃ¢??s rejection of moderation under the circumstances.
Ã¢??I understand that, amid this fury, moderation will be weakened, especially that Arab moderate stands have not paid off, for reasons beyond our power. But we should not fall into despair and we will keep working and do all that we can to restore Arab rights.Ã¢?Â
He warned that options are limited. Ã¢??It is either a peace that restores rights, ends injustice and gives people hope, or a cycle of violence and hostility whose price will be paid by Israel, the US and the Arabs.Ã¢?Â
Ã¢??We are angryÃ¢??
King Abdullah said he shared peopleÃ¢??s anger.
Ã¢??We are all angry. When I saw the crime of shelling BeirutÃ¢??s airport, I was shocked and furious. I directed officials to immediately make contacts to help rebuild it. I also gave directives to send Jordanian planes to Lebanon despite stumbling initial contacts. I told the chairman of the joint chiefs-of-staff: Ã¢??Go to Lebanon, even if there was risk of targeting our planeÃ¢??.Ã¢?Â
Ã¢??We watch the scenes of killing and destruction in Lebanon, a country that we consider a model of progress, democracy and openness in the region, and we feel enraged when we see such a barbaric war waged against it. No one would accept what is going on in Lebanon. These criminal acts are deplorable and totally unjustifiable.Ã¢?Â
The King reiterated that the Israeli massacre of children and women in Qana was a heinous crime that breached all international conventions, and Ã¢??the magnitude of IsraelÃ¢??s aggression has exceeded every limit and must stopÃ¢?Â.
He added that JordanÃ¢??s voice was the strongest in condemning the war from the beginning.
Ã¢??We have spared no effort in attempting to influence the US and to work with Europe and the Arabs to end this war instantly. Besides, we are coordinating with our Lebanese brothers on daily basis to help relieve their suffering. We shall not shirk our responsibilities towards our brothers and shall not stand aside just watching. Our contacts are continuous to bring an end to the crisis and contain its repercussions. The voice of reason must prevail in the end.Ã¢?Â
On the possibility of recalling the Jordanian ambassador to Israel and expelling the Israeli envoy in Amman, the King said the peace treaty Jordan signed with Israel has served the interests of Jordan and the Palestinians, and could be useful for the Lebanese. He said Jordan will do its best to serve national interests and assist the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples.
The King referred to the humanitarian aid Jordan has dispatched to Lebanon, including nine planes laden with relief assistance, the facilitation of aid bound for Lebanon, provided by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other parties, including UN organisations, and the Jordanian field hospital set up in Beirut, which has so far dealt with 2,500 cases.
Ã¢??Is that enough? No. But we are doing all that we can and will always do our utmost,Ã¢?Â the King said, adding that Jordan will not take part in a proposed international force to be deployed in south Lebanon.
The King, meanwhile, said Jordan was working with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt to crystallise an effective and influential Arab stand.
Ã¢??[This is] because we fear marginalisation of the Arab role and because we care about Arab blood and the Arab future,Ã¢?Â he said.
King Abdullah stressed that Jordan is basically against Ã¢??axis policiesÃ¢?Â.
However, he asked: Ã¢??Should we be blamed that we meet and consult [with Arab leaders] to serve our nation and peoples? I have made contacts with several Arab leaders to emphasise that we need a unified stand to speak in one language. I said more than once that if the West, including the US, finds no Arab side to talk to, they would definitely find someone else, who would speak for the Arabs. Do we need others to speak on our behalf? DonÃ¢??t we need a united Arab stand that would earn us the respect of the world around us? WhatÃ¢??s most worrying is that things are getting out of the hands of the Arabs and, consequently, the situation becomes more complicated….Ã¢?Â
King Abdullah warned that the absence of such a unified stand means betrayal of the Arab peoples.
Ã¢??We shall all regret the state of loss, fragmentation and division that would plague the region. The enemies of the nation would find a fertile ground to trigger sedition and wage wars on our lands to make sure we remain weak and our decision-making and potentials easily controlled,Ã¢?Â he said.
Ã¢??I believe that a new chapter of Arab cooperation has started, with all of us bound by fear for our future.Ã¢?Â
A joint Arab stand is necessary, regardless of any alarming regional alliances, he said.
The King ruled out a Ã¢??sectarian warÃ¢?Â between Arab countries and Iran, and urged all parties to stand up in the face of any one who tries to provoke religious conflicts.
Ã¢??We care for our Shiite brothers and are keen on the unity of the Muslim nation. Any one who tries to sow the seeds of sedition between the Sunni and the Shiites is a criminal… I am the descendent of Al al Bayt and unity in the Islamic ranks is a message I advocate and defend.Ã¢?Â
Jordan safe Ã¢??for nowÃ¢??
King Abdullah told the Arabic dailies that now there is no direct negative impact of the war in Lebanon on Jordan, but reiterated the call for radical solutions to the regional conflicts.
The entire situation in the region is not acceptable, he stressed.
Commenting on the idea of a Ã¢??new Middle EastÃ¢?Â brought up by the US administration, he said that any plan that does not respond to the needs and aspirations of peoples and their right to self-determination will fail.
Ã¢??The Palestinians should restore their rights and establish their state, security should prevail in Iraq and Lebanon, and international resolutions should be implemented.Ã¢?Â