Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Jumana Ghneimat
Al Ghad
10 August 2014
(Translated from Arabic)

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, in light of the rapid regional developments, allow me to start with regional issues and their implications then move onto some concerns on the national fronts. The most pressing issue at present is Gaza. The Israeli aggression has lasted for over a month. Your Majesty called for an end to the offensive and constantly warned of its consequences. In light of current Israeli policies, the targeting of women, children and civilians and the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the aggression, how does Your Majesty see the Jordanian role in this crisis?

King Abdullah: Our martyrs, among the people of Gaza, “are alive, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord”, God willing. The pain and suffering that we have been witnessing and living through during this aggression, which has indiscriminately taken the lives of innocent people, refutes Israel’s claims that the war is justified. First and foremost, Israel is responsible for the aggression on the strip. The world bears the responsibility of ending an occupation, which is the last of its kind in modern history, and to end denying our brotherly people their right to establish their own state on their national soil, as well as ending an ongoing unjust siege and Israeli settlement activities that undermine peace prospects. What has and continues to take place in Gaza is a Palestinian appeal to the entire world, calling for an end to occupation, destruction and killing perpetrated against a people seeking freedom, security and dignity.

This latest aggression on Gaza is the fourth wide-scale assault since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the strip in 2005. It is the bloodiest and most devastating in terms of casualties, especially among women, children and the elderly − entire families have been massacred. Our heart goes out to Gaza and its people. We share their tremendous pain and emotions. At the same time, we have to look at what has happened, and continues to happen, rationally. It is innocent civilians − particularly in Gaza − who are paying the price, which is completely unacceptable from a moral and human standpoint. The international community must hold Israel accountable for what it has committed; and the Palestinian people, especially our brothers and sisters in Gaza, have the right − first and foremost − to review and judge what has taken place.

Jordan could have easily captured the headlines during the aggression, by issuing populist statements and slogans. Instead, we have been working diligently to end the Israeli offensive, alleviate the suffering and guarantee the flow of aid to our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Jordan continues to exert all possible efforts from the very start; and we supported the Egyptian initiative, which has proven to be the only realistic option under the circumstances.

We will continue to provide relief aid to Gaza and bolster support for the Jordanian field hospital to continue its operations there. We will also continue to coordinate the entry of aid convoys carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies, which helps save lives, treats the injured and alleviates their suffering. Throughout history, we have utilised all our capabilities in deeds, not words, for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We will continue to do our utmost to remain the lung Palestinians breathe through during occupation. Palestine remains our central cause, and this is our historical and national duty towards our brothers. The sacrifices of the Jordanian army’s martyrs on Palestinian soil speak for themselves and are known to all, and we cannot accept any attempts to belittle what Jordan has done to serve the Palestinians and their cause.

We will continue to use Jordan’s good relations with others, and its international presence at such forums as the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, to bring the aggression to a complete halt and prevent any recurrence, guarantee the success of efforts to reach a lasting truce, mobilise international efforts to rebuild Gaza and provide a conducive environment to re-launch conclusive final-status negotiations to reach a peace that is based on the two-state solution, relevant international terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative, and which fulfils the aspirations of the Palestinian people and honours the sacrifices of their martyrs.

It is also important to recognise that the aggression on Gaza has exploited the vacuum resulting from the halt in final-status negotiations based on the two-state solution. Such a vacuum threatens to allow the violence to continue, escalate and reoccur, a matter that we have constantly warned against. We also have stressed that Jordan − within the Hashemite custodianship over Muslim and Christian Holy sites in Jerusalem − will continue to stand firm against Israel’s unilateral policies and measures and will work to end repeated violations of Al Aqsa Mosque’s sanctity and attacks against worshipers.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, is there a chance for peace and the two-state solution, in your opinion, after efforts to resume talks between the Palestinians and Israelis have collapsed, and after the failure of US administration’s latest attempt to broker a peace deal between the two parties? Moreover, has the US administration, in your opinion, done enough to reach that goal? Who is responsible for the failure to make progress and what will be the consequences of this failure in the future?

King Abdullah: In light of the aggression on Gaza, and the violence, destruction and rising death toll that we have witnessed, we can expect international pressure to move forward in resolving the conflict. Conflicts take us to the negotiating table, and an opportunity to end the conflict permanently might present itself. Peace is the only solution. Otherwise, we will be talking about a fifth, sixth and seventh war on Gaza, where the Palestinian people will be the victims and Israel will still be unable to guarantee its own security.

The two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict and establish security and stability for the entire region. Israel’s security will not be achieved without a genuine pursuit of comprehensive just peace and the two-state solution, and without the establishment of a sovereign, geographically contiguous, Palestinian state along the 5 June 1967 lines, according to international accords and the Arab Peace Initiative, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and an economy that has the potential to grow and prosper. This is the only way for Israel to guarantee its security and gain the acceptance of the region and the entire world.

However, if the peace efforts fail, the international community as a whole would be responsible. More importantly, everyone will pay the price of failure, especially future generations, before whom we are accountable. We must build on the efforts and constructive work of the US administration, especially its Secretary of State John Kerry, to resolve the region’s central cause. We hope that there will be a chance soon to resume final-status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. As I said before, Jordan’s efforts will focus on finding a suitable platform to work towards that end.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, let us move our discussion to Syria, which recently held presidential elections, consolidating Bashar Assad’s position in power. Despite this, the situation there is constantly deteriorating and the moderate opposition is unable to offer a strong alternative, while extremists are building a strong presence. Are we facing a protracted conflict in Syria? And how can the Syrian people overcome their plight?

King Abdullah: There is no immediate or military solution to the Syrian crisis and growing extremism complicates it further. The developments we are witnessing are a recipe for disaster and intensify the spill-over of the Syrian crisis into neighbouring countries. I fear that what is taking place in Syria is the beginning of a protracted phase of killing and destruction, which we have warned against repeatedly.

The only workable solution is a political one that involves the national moderate opposition and the regime. A continuation of the status quo threatens the unity of Syria and sets the stage for an open sectarian conflict, where Syria and its people, including the regime and the opposition, will be the biggest losers.

The persistence of the Syrian crisis without a solution has turned extremism and the influx of militants from various countries into a major challenge facing the region and the world, while the crisis continues to worsen, tearing Syria apart and shedding Syrian blood. However, attention should also be geared towards reaching a political solution that ends the suffering of the Syrian people rather than focusing all international attention on combating terrorism and extremism, which can only be stopped if the tragedy that has produced and nurtured it ends. Therefore, both courses must be pursued equally and in parallel. The time has come to reach a unified Arab and international position that embraces a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian crisis.

For these reasons, all parties who can influence the regime and the opposition must encourage them to come to the negotiating table in order to reach a political solution that includes all components of the Syrian community, so that all will be partners in resolving the crisis and building the future. Accordingly, a political process should be launched based on national reconciliation and adopting political reforms through which Syrians can find a way out of the current situation and allow for the rebuilding of Syria. In the absence of a political solution, and if this stalemate persists, Syria will accelerate its descent into a failed-state scenario, fragmentation will take root, and the spill over into neighbouring countries with a similar demographic composition will be much faster. This is a reality we are starting to see vividly. The protraction of the crisis will escalate into a region-wide sectarian conflict and strife (fitna) that will undermine our nations’ (Umma) prospect for prosperity and progress.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, Jordan is hosting over one million Syrian refugees, and their number is rising every day. In the meantime, the international community is not providing enough assistance to enable Jordan to handle the cost of hosting refugees. When will Jordan reach a point where it cannot carry the refugees’ burden? Moreover, should a new wave of brotherly Iraqi refugees come to Jordan due to the current situation in their country, what would Jordan’s options be?

King Abdullah: Jordan, as always, takes action, rather than settling for words, in upholding its Arab, national and humanitarian duties towards our refugee brothers, who have lately been Syrians, without one-upmanships and false slogans and based on the principles of the Great Arab Revolt on which Jordan was founded. Jordan has embraced these refugees in these difficult circumstances and carries an additional burden that takes its toll on its resources. However, our capacity to carry this role has limits that we cannot exceed.

Although we highly appreciate the support offered by Jordan’s friends, the world has fallen short in supporting Jordan, as the scale of international support does not meet the severity of the crises we are facing and the huge burdens we are carrying, especially the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis, exemplified in the increasing waves of refugees, which create unprecedented financial pressures, depleting infrastructure and basic services offered to Jordanians, with the international community failing to keep up with the rapid ramifications of increased influx.

Let the world remember that Jordan is the third largest host of refugees in the world. This has taken its toll on our people, our Treasury and our country’s infrastructure. The Zaatari refugee camp is the second largest in the world and the number of Syrians living in Jordan nears 1,400,000. The economic cost of hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan in 2014 alone is around $3 billion, according to UN estimates. This cost includes covering the basic needs of refugees and the development of infrastructure for host communities. This number has been rising annually since the crisis erupted and refugee waves began.

In addition, the direct and indirect cost of hosting refugees on the Treasury for 2014 alone is around $1 billion. This burden also increases every year, and is manifested in additional pressures on the health, education, water and infrastructure sectors as well as subsidising basic commodities. Moreover, Jordanians are facing more competition in finding jobs and securing housing. Prices are rising as well as security burdens − and their costs − are increasing too.

I have seen these pressures and their effects first-hand, through my constant visits and town hall discussions across Jordan, especially in the north and northeast, where the majority of Syrian refugees are and where the effect of the crisis on local communities is most acute.

The international community and our Arab brothers are needed to work seriously to secure the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people by providing aid for them inside Syria and stepping up support to both the countries and their local communities hosting refugees. We will not waver from our humanitarian and national roles, but Jordan will not hesitate for a moment to take any necessary measures if its security and stability are threatened. There are many available options, but we will not delve into any details at this time. Our first priority is to protect our borders and our people. I assure all Jordanians that we are ready to deal with all possibilities, and the brave armed forces and security institutions are exerting heroic and historical efforts in protecting Jordan. History will bear witness to their valiant efforts as they heed the call of humanity and Arabism, and safeguard the homeland with their lives as they always have.

Al Ghad: As Your Majesty has made clear, the Syrian and Iraqi situations are intertwined. How do you see the situation in Iraq unfolding? Do you think that it is on the same path as Syria or is there a chance for a political solution and internal settlements? If so, what do you think is the ‘secret formula’ required to secure a political solution and are there any risks of dividing Iraq into statelets?

King Abdullah: We deeply believe in the unity and foresight of the Iraqi people and their ability to overcome challenges, and we are keen on maintaining the unity of all components of Iraqi society. We believe that marginalising any component of the community means marginalising stability and giving way to extremism and threatening the unity of Iraq, its land and its people.

Iraq has and will remain a support for Jordan, as we will remain a support for Iraq throughout history. Today, Iraq is in dire need for an inclusive, national political process in which all can participate without exclusion of any component, to reach consensual solutions as achieved in the country’s presidency and parliament, and we hope that will also apply to the premiership.

The next Iraqi government, regardless of who is named prime minister, has a historic responsibility to implement just policies that involve all in sharing power and building the state. It must enroot a sense of stake-holding that makes all Iraqis feel they are real partners in shaping their country’s future. The Iraqi people’s interests lie in their unity, to which any threat is a danger to all nations of the region.

As for the interconnectedness between the Syrian crisis and the situation in Iraq, the fact that the Syrian crisis has continued unresolved led to a spill-over into Iraq, exemplified in the rise of extremist movements in the country’s west, as I have warned before. As such, the continued absence of an inclusive political process and a government that represents all components of the Iraqi community will nurture the environment supporting extremism and terrorism, which will further complicate the chances for resolving the Syrian crisis.

Jordan’s efforts are based on its keenness to preserve Iraq’s unity and safeguard the interests of all its components. All segments of the Iraqi community should rest assured that Jordan’s stances and actions will be in their best collective interest because we believe we are for all Iraqis and our interests lie with the interests of the Iraqi people to be strong and united.

Jordan supports Iraq’s efforts in bolstering its internal front and we stand firm against extremism and terrorist organisations. We will continue these efforts while addressing all segments of Iraq’s community on equal footing.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, you have frequently warned of the danger of sectarian strife in the region and the threat of extremist and apostatising (takfiri) ideologies. Is the region heading in that direction today and will extremists of all sects end up controlling the fate of its peoples?

King Abdullah: Among the most devastating wars in history are those waged over sectarian divisions and the rejection of others because they tear the social fabric of countries and dismantle their institutions, forcing destructive sub-identities that reject pluralism, diversity and acceptance of others. The leading minds of the nation (Ummah) and the region must stand united against extremists to prevent them from hijacking the region’s destiny and the future of next generations and wasting their energies. With that in mind and out of the belief that we − as Hashemites − are a uniting rather than a dividing factor, we have sponsored many inter- and intra-faith dialogue initiatives that promote the values of moderation and coexistence, based on the true image of Islam. These initiatives include The Amman Message, A Common Word, World Interfaith Harmony Week, the recent General Conference of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought and “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians” conference. They exemplify the values that Jordan espouses and the efforts it is exerting in response to the challenges we have foreseen and warned against and to ward off dark destructive ideologies with an enlightened counter-thinking, based on our heritage of pluralism that reflects the real, positive image of Islam.

Here we also reiterate our warning of the danger of using religion for political goals. We reaffirm the need to cast away the discourse of sectarian violence and divisions, and rise with our Arab and Muslim communities through participation rather than majoritarian rule, and by adopting the values of democracy and Shura − the epitome of political consensus in Islam.

I also stress the need to protect all religions and sects with historical and deep-rooted presence in our region − especially Arab Christians − and safeguard the freedoms of worship to avert the spread of segregation and negativity among members of various religions and sects. We also warn against the blind religious oppression we have been witnessing, the latest of which has been against indigenous Arab Christian communities in Mosul. These practices are not even remotely connected to Islam.

The region’s countries − with their public and private religious, cultural, educational and media institutions − and moderate Islamist movements  share the religious and historical responsibility to develop a clear position against extremist and apostatising (takfiri) movements by fighting fundamentalism and instilling an enlightened, moderate religious awareness among our youths.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, since your Accession to the Throne, you have skilfully led Jordan through internal and external crises and challenges. Do you feel that we are currently facing the most dangerous crisis?

King Abdullah: Jordan has indeed adeptly navigated difficult crises and challenges, but it is important to examine the reasons behind that. Jordanian citizens’ foresight and sense of responsibility towards building Jordan into an oasis of stability are behind the country’s steadfastness and resilience.

Another important reason is our sense of strong unity as a nation, as citizens and leadership have always stood united against all odds. Another key reason is the value system that the Jordanian Hashemite Monarchy has committed itself to in serving our people and working tirelessly to safeguard their dignity, all strengthened by Jordan’s values system of patriotism and Arabism in support of our Arab brethren. All these contribute to the make-up of a national Jordanian identity that is devoted to protecting the stability of Jordan, safeguarding its achievements and honouring its moral duty towards our brothers and neighbours.

Jordan has been destined to be surrounded by challenges historically, and we have been able to face and overcome them. We have been through tougher circumstances than what we are dealing with today. Jordan is much stronger than some may think, and I have confidence in Jordan’s stability and resilience, and our ability to turn challenges into opportunities by addressing them with composure, awareness and a responsible sense of patriotism. Our institutions are working night and day to develop necessary plans to deal with various challenges.

Let us all remember that Jordan’s resilience, stability, and international presence are not by coincidence. They are rather the fruits of decades of hard work and sacrifices based on the values of moderation, openness, respect of humanity and a genuine conviction among Jordanians that they are stakeholders in this endeavour. This has enabled us to play an active role at international forums as a positive partner in building peace and promoting dialogue. It has also made Jordan an oasis of safety and stability, where those suffering from oppression and seeking safety, find dignity and shelter.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, Jordanians are concerned about the potential repercussions of the various developments around us. In Your Majesty’s opinion, what should state and community institutions do to bridge the gaps within our internal front to make it stronger and more coherent in the face of dangers threatening the countries of the region?

King Abdullah: What I have just described has shaped the national Jordanian character, with an inclination towards safeguarding the country’s stability and achievements. It has also created a national legacy of positive bonds between the leadership, the people and various national institutions, giving us the confidence to face crises, owing to the united internal front and the fact that deep down we are all aware of Jordan’s interests and its ability to deal with the regional complications around us. We must continue to build on this legacy. Jordan has indeed gone a long way in this direction by speeding up democratisation and adopting evolutionary reforms that expand participation and the sense of stake-holding and offering fair economic opportunities for all.

Having differences of opinion and expressing them is not a sign of internal weaknesses. It is a sign of diversity that enriches Jordan. Our strength lies in translating this diversity into political participation and active citizenship within the public sphere, producing leaders that become decision makers in Parliament, government and all other state institutions. The citizens then hold these officials accountable through ballot boxes.

I am aware of the calls for turning to national dialogue committees to address challenges and consolidate the internal front. I want to make it clear that we are keen on reaching the highest degree of national consensus over key junctures, especially those related to reform. However, this should be done through the tools of active citizenship and public discussions within the constitutional establishments represented by Parliament and its relations with the government. These are the genuine democratic tools to moderate national debate and build consensus. Parallel tools such as national committees are only resorted to exceptionally and after exhausting the described constitutional tools or for the sake of reforming them, which is a step that Jordan has already undertaken and completed successfully through the last wave of reforms.

I am also aware that some are citing the situation in Maan as a sign of internal weaknesses. This view is wrong and those who adopt it are unaware of the situation on the ground in Maan and its national history. Maan and its citizens have contributed honourably to the founding of Jordan and its renaissance. Their patriotism is genuine and deeply-rooted. Unfortunately, a small, limited group of outlaws, who do not represent the people of Maan have been distorting Maan’s reputation by breaking the law and undermining the standing of the state, with the latest such incident involving the assassination and martyrdom of Second Lieutenant Nart Nafesh, who died for his country.

These outlaws are disrupting daily lives of Maanies and perpetuate a security situation that delays the government’s implementation of the economic and development projects that the people of Maan have called for. It is imperative that public opinion in Maan rejects the practices of outlaws and isolates the perpetrators to support the efforts of security institutions in restoring law and order and bringing the calm necessary to push the wheel of development and investment forward so that the governorate reaps the benefits it deserves.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, have the deteriorating regional developments made you reconsider some reform steps? What can Jordan do? Should it speed up reform or think twice before taking new reform measures to avoid uncalculated risks?

King Abdullah: Every time I am faced with a similar question my answer is always and unequivocally the same: we will not allow using difficult regional challenges − be they the Israeli aggression on Gaza, the conflict in Syria, the turmoil in Iraq or the danger of extremism − as an excuse to hesitate or regress in the reform drive. This is what I believe in − in deeds and words. The media should genuinely believe in our determination to move ahead with reform and must stop promoting any excuses arguing for a halt in reforms.

Let me remind you that in my continuous interactions with Jordanians from all walks of life, I have always taken the initiative of discussing reform issues and the importance of keeping it a priority, challenging them to think of the next practical steps that we need to take, including the laws required to push reform forward.

Jordan’s reform path is built on what Jordanians see as reform priorities and goals. And we move as fast as we need to ensure sustainable success. This brings to mind how, at the time when some Arab spring countries were rushing to hold elections as a gateway to democratic transformation, Jordan was charting its own path and experience that meets its needs and builds on the cumulative achievements of our democratic institutions. Jordan first amended the Constitution, then reformed key political laws, launched new democratic oversight constitutional bodies, and proceeded to hold free and fair parliamentary and municipal elections in the same year, culminating in a change in the mechanism of forming governments.

I don’t claim that the reform steps taken by other countries were wrong and that Jordan’s approach was the right one. It has, however, proved to be the best reform recipe for Jordan. As regional developments and repercussions of the Arab spring continue to unfold, the Jordanian home-grown evolutionary reform model proved prudent in its balance and gradualism. Some are now even looking to benefit from our lessons and reform experience.

Therefore, Jordan is moving ahead with its reform drive without hesitation, and the final goal and the way towards it are clear. The goal is to reach an advanced state of parliamentary governments where the party-based parliamentary majority with clear programmes is entrusted with forming governments, and the minority − also made up of political parties with clear programmes − takes on the role of a shadow government in monitoring performance and suggesting alternative programmes. The way to this goal is through enhancing the modus operandi of parliamentary blocs, which received a boost with the recent amendments to the House of Representatives’ internal bylaws, along with the need to continuously develop nationally-based political parties with platforms. Realising all of this will increase public participation in the decision making process.

We are facing many challenges, and we have to address our pressing national priorities. We cannot allow regional developments and their outcomes to disrupt our political, economic, judicial, social and administrative reform drive. We should direct our energy and resources towards what can bolster Jordan’s resilience and prosperity, rather than remain captives of regional circumstances.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, what are the required reform steps in the near future?

King Abdullah: We still have a lot of reform work ahead of us. The priority is to continue to develop the laws regulating political life − such as those pertaining to decentralisation, municipal elections, political parties and parliamentary elections − so that these laws are enhanced further with every parliamentary cycle and ahead of each election. Measures should also be taken to implement the decentralisation approach on the ground and enhance public administration performance through an ongoing “white revolution”. Modern economic laws should also be enacted to meet international economic developments. We must also continue implementing the outputs of the Royal Committee for Enhancing the National Integrity System and the recommendations proposed by the National Human Rights Plan and the National Centre for Human Rights.

In parallel, efforts should continue towards enhancing the performance of the House of Representatives through party-based and platforms-oriented parliamentary blocs. We also need to promote the culture and practices of active citizenship, which honours political participation, accountability and the adoption of objective opinions over public issues. These are the main elements needed to ensure the sustainability of this reform model and guarantee the democratic rotation of governments.

The main reform challenge remains economic, particularly poverty and unemployment. It tops the priorities of all Jordanians despite all regional challenges. I hear this again and again in my constant meetings and interactions with all Jordanians at various occasions, and after my long service in the Jordanian Armed Forces, which has allowed me to see first-hand the challenges that the various segments of our society face and the lives that they lead. Securing the prosperity of my people and that of future generations is my top priority.

This has led me to direct the government to develop a blueprint for the Jordanian economy for the next ten years, based on previous successful experiences and capitalising on our competitive advantages. This blueprint has to outline the reforms that Jordan must undertake in the next decade and internalise lessons learnt from the Privatisation Evaluation Committee, so as to improve Jordan’s ability to deliver key future infrastructure, superstructure and necessary public services through public-private partnership schemes.

We count on this ten-year economic blueprint to set the stage for a phase of economic improvement that provides equal opportunities for all. It is the government’s responsibility to draw up the plan, which will function as an economic compass for Jordan’s future, in partnership with the private sector, civil society institutions and other active stakeholders, in a bottom-up approach to reflect the priorities and concerns of local communities and guarantee the highest degree of consensus. This requires doubling efforts by all and a move towards more self-reliance.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, the House of Representatives fears that endorsing a new elections law could open the door to early parliamentary elections. Is this a possibility or are these fears unfounded?

King Abdullah: I have spoken before of the importance of approaching the laws that govern political life as a comprehensive package to be endorsed by Parliament and follow the required constitutional channels for ratification, in a manner that guarantees holding the 18th House of Representatives elections according to its set constitutional schedule. This package includes political parties, decentralisation, municipal elections and parliamentary elections, which are all connected and equally important. The enhancement in the outcomes of the next parliamentary elections hinges on the endorsed laws and their ability to guarantee a level playing field for candidates and equal representation.

In other words, the discussion should focus on identifying the best sequence and timeline to complete these laws, arriving at holding elections for the 18th House of Representatives on schedule as clearly defined in the Constitution. The way I see it, is to proceed in two phases, whereby the first focuses on enhancing local governance by finalizing the municipal elections and decentralisation laws. These two laws are given priority because the date for municipal elections is earlier than parliamentary elections. Afterwards, we proceed with the second phase to finalise the parliamentary elections law.

The rationale behind the sequence to endorse local governance laws first and parliamentary elections law second is in view of the large size of the current House of Representatives and the fact that it has been taking on service-related responsibilities at the expense of its sought national role. This can be addressed by activating decentralisation, whereby local and municipal councils focus on local services enabling the House of Representatives to assume its full legislative and oversight responsibilities at the national level, without having local services dominate the role of MPs.

Entrenching parliamentary and governmental stability and their cooperation, supported by an independent judiciary, is a key requirement for gradual cumulative reform that is based on cycles with constitutionally-defined schedules that are known to all, as is the case in all deep-rooted democracies. It is equally important to remember what the recent constitutional amendments have produced in terms of the legal linkages between the electoral process that produces a House of Representatives and the formation of governments based on parliamentary consultations. We must not forget that the voters brought the deputies to Parliament, the majority of which has named the prime minister and gave his government the vote of confidence based on its four-year programme. This constitutional chain cannot be selectively disrupted. There are clear constitutional procedures for dissolving the House of Representatives or for government’s resignation and their legal ramifications are governed by specific timeframes to prevent any constitutional vacuum and preserve the balance between the three authorities. This is not what we are concerned with at present. As a matter of fact, we are focusing on establishing stable working governments and parliaments, whereby the House of Representatives completes its four-year term as long as it maintains the people’s confidence, and the government remains in office as long as it has the House of Representatives’ confidence. This is the basis of modern democratic systems.

To sum up, we are committed to assessing performance objectively and based on the relevant constitutional procedures, not on the whims of Amman’s political circles and some politicians who promote themselves through the media from time to time. National debate should be about the best formula and sequence to complete the mentioned package of political laws rather than delving into unproductive rumours.

Al Ghad: Your Majesty, the Crown Prince HRH Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, graduates from university in two years. What is the role that you envisage for His Royal Highness and what are the responsibilities that you will task him with once he graduates?

King Abdullah: Like any Jordanian father, I strive to instil in my sons and daughters love of their country, its people and taking pride in Jordan’s deeply-rooted heritage and values. I am proud to see Hussein serving his people. He, as Crown Prince, has been pledged to serve his country and its causes, as his grandfather Hussein, God rest his soul, pledged me before.

My responsibility as a King and father, my love for my bigger Jordanian family, my keenness for paving the way for a promising future that we can reach by confident steps through deep-rooted institutions − including the institution of the Throne  − require that I carefully and genuinely prepare and mentor Hussein for the role of leadership, so that he will be capable of serving his country and people and prove to be up to his responsibility towards them, making Jordan − with him and his peers among our one Jordanian family − more resilient, prosperous and democratic.

As I follow Hussein’s journey, I am delighted to see that his educational commitments have not kept him away from his sense of national duty or from following latest developments. On the contrary, the knowledge and experience he is accumulating have motivated him and enriched his sense of responsibility. For my part, I make sure that my son and Crown Prince has full knowledge of the inner workings of decision making, and that he participates in the local and international meetings that I hold to enrich his leadership skills and experience, which will qualify him to assume his future responsibilities.

One of his main constitutional duties includes assuming the position of Regent, whenever his current education commitments allow. Hussein is also interested in youth issues and sponsoring volunteerism and creativity initiatives. He has an innate love for field work, especially military. Once he completes his studies, joining his brothers in arms in the Jordanian Armed Forces will be a key milestone in his career to gain life skills and experience at such a leading institution that brings together the various segments of society, and which has been a life school for me, teaching the values of heroism, altruism and giving.

As father and leader, I see in Hussein a Hashemite leader, well aware of his historical responsibilities and the inevitable evolution of the role of the Monarchy in foreseeing the future. He will not sway from the historical role of the Hashemite Monarchy as a guarantor of the country’s stability, a uniting factor of all its components, and a driving force to advance reform, development and democratisation, guarantee justice, pluralism and freedoms, and work tirelessly to protect the country’s national security.

Al Ghad: Thank you, Your Majesty, for this wide-ranging, comprehensive conversation.

King Abdullah: You are welcome, and thank you for this conversation. I wish you, the family of Al Ghad, all the best as you celebrate your 10th anniversary. I also wish the Jordanian media further progress on a path guided by love for country and seeking further professionalism, objectivity, credibility, responsibility and ethics, in a way that corresponds with advancements realised in the level of freedoms and delivering what our beloved country deserves.