Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Susanne Koelbl and Maximilian Popp
Der Spiegel
15 May 2020


Der Spiegel: Your Majesty, how does a king rule in a lockdown?

King Abdullah: I am complying with our social distancing rules, but I do travel from the north to the south visit the security forces. I try to strengthen the morale of the people. We've had no new infections for nine days last week. We have quickly got the virus under control. 

Der Spiegel: What have you done better than others?  

King Abdullah: None of us leaders will get an A-plus for the management of the crisis, but the government very early on sealed off the country. All those entering Jordan were quarantined directly from the airport into hotels. Meanwhile we are in the position to helping others all over the world.

Der Spiegel: What are the consequences of the virus for world politics?

King Abdullah: It brings new uncertainties. Health and food security are becoming high commodities. Europe has fertile agricultural grounds, they will be hoarding food supplies, understandably. We too have begun to invest heavily in storing our wheat and we've got another year-and-a-half, we're quite comfortable. But what happens after that? In many places, the danger of people starving to death is greater than the danger from the virus itself.

Der Spiegel: There are two million refugees in Jordan. Many citizens were already poor before the crisis. Do you fear riots? 

King Abdullah: We are all under economic pressure. Refugees get the same education and health services in Jordan as all other citizens. That is of course a challenge. Day labourers are the worst affected. How do you secure the income of these people if at the same time you have to keep businesses closed? The military and police deliver food and medicine to the residential areas. But we will have a recession for two years. So how quickly we spring back in 2020 and 2021 depends on how smart we are in opening up sectors. 

Der Spiegel: What is the way out of the crisis? 

King Abdullah: The world is not the same since this pandemic. We should all start looking at each other with different eyes. There are trade pacts between the West Coast and the East Coast in the USA that ensure that the states supply each other. Something like this is also needed at the global level. 

Der Spiegel: In reality, Jordan is surrounded by states that are hostile to one another. In a few weeks' time, the Israeli parliament plans to discuss US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, which includes the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. What would it mean for Jordan if Trump’s plan for the Middle East were to be implemented?

King Abdullah: Is now, in the midst of the Corona pandemic, really the time to discuss whether we want a one- or two-state solution for Israel and Palestine? Or should we be discussing how we can fight the pandemic together? The two-state solution is the only way for us to be able to move forward.

Der Spiegel: Power politicians like Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu want to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Trump and appropriate large parts of Palestine.

King Abdullah: Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean. What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Der Spiegel: You would suspend the peace treaty with Israel?

King Abdullah: I don't want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East. 

Der Spiegel: For the rulers in the Gulf, the fight against Iran now seems more important than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Do you feel betrayed?

King Abdullah: Jordan has faced challenging times before. But let me be very fair to my dear friend Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and others: At meetings of the Arab League, the proposal for a one-state solution is still vehemently rejected. When the one-state solution plan was addressed six or seven months ago, His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia said that no, we are with the Palestinian state.

Der Spiegel: Germany is your country's second-largest supporter after the USA. What do you expect from Berlin?

King Abdullah: I have known Chancellor Merkel for a very long time. The Jordanian-German relationship is at an all-time high. We have an excellent working relationship, including our military and security services. Germany understands what the right decision is on the Israeli-Palestinian question. We will be allies and friends, I believe, on this issue going forward.