Middle East status quo is untenable

Op-Ed by His Majesty King Abdullah II
The Hill
27 April 2010

During my recent trip to Washington, I had the pleasure of meeting President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and numerous other members of Congress. Our meetings recognize 60 years of American -Jordanian partnership. During these decades, American support has helped us address some of our most vital development challenges, expand our trade horizons, and create opportunity for young Jordanians.

I speak for all Jordanians when I say we are grateful for your assistance.

Together, we have also confronted common threats, worked to advance global stability and carried a message of tolerance and understanding. Our partnership is as strong as ever, and growing. Today, it is imperative we marshal the goodwill and trust between us to put Middle East peace-making back on track.

In the Middle East, there have been no real negotiations that could lead to comprehensive peace for a whole decade. The result has been an alarming erosion in the credibility of the peace process and its advocates. The status quo is untenable. The current stalemate threatens a new round of violence that will spare none of us.

Next month, Israelis will mark 62 years of statehood, while Palestinians will mark the 62nd anniversary of rights denied. Today, Israel is no closer to the security and acceptance it desires than it was six decades ago, and occupation is still the reality for millions of Palestinians. Jerusalem is a tinderbox that can ignite our region and inflame passions around the world. There is widespread concern that holy sites and the future of Muslim and Christian Jerusalemites are threatened. This strikes at the spiritual heart of billions of people worldwide - Muslims, Christians and Jews. Meanwhile, Israeli settlement building continues to consume the land of a future Palestinian state, and with it, the only viable solution to this conflict: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel.

On both sides of the Atlantic, there are voices that say this conflict can't be resolved. These voices should not prevail. The alternative to peace is renewed conflict on different fronts. Only restoration of hope through progress toward a settlement will protect the region from falling into the abyss of war.

American leadership can be a game-changer. That is because the people of the region, Arabs and Israeli alike, still hope for peace, and because they still recognize the US as the one power able to bring Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table.

In the region, we know President Obama is committed to a comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace. His declaration that Palestinian-Israeli peace is in the U.S. national security interest highlights the extent to which the United States recognizes the great impact this issue has on America's global leadership and credibility. Terrorist groups, which preach hatred for America and target American interests and lives in the region and beyond, have made the Palestinian issue their rallying cry. They exploit the legitimate frustration of Arabs and Muslims over the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to serve their illegitimate criminal agendas, and to raise anti-American sentiment in a region where the United States is fighting terrorists and extremists on more than one front. Solving this conflict will deprive these groups of one of their most potent appeals.

Jordan will continue to help lay the groundwork for effective American engagement. We have long accepted our responsibility in this regard. We have worked closely with the United States to give the peace process a framework for results and to build the ties and institutions for peace.

With all Arab states, we have stood behind the Arab Peace Initiative, which supports negotiations toward a two-state solution that will secure Israel's future. This hand of acceptance is reaching out from the 57 Muslim countries, one-third of the United Nations, that support the initiative.

Until the United States is able to bring its full weight to bear on the parties to get them back to negotiations, I see two vital jobs for the friends of peace in America. One is to help the parties walk back from areas of contention. The other is to help the Israeli and Palestinian people remain focused on where they want to be in ten years — on the peace, security and prosperity they want for themselves and their children — and to use all our efforts to get them moving towards that goal.

Right now, the United States is trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in proximity talks. The Arab League has supported these talks.

We encourage the parties to get this process moving as soon as possible, with a view to transitioning quickly to direct, effective and serious negotiations that can deliver a final settlement.

But left to their own, the parties will not be able to resolve the conflict. At some point during these negotiations, the United States will have to weigh in with its own proposals to move the parties forward.

Time is not on our side, and now is the time for the parties to transcend short-termism and to work for a future in which Palestinians and Israelis enjoy peace and security. The end game is clear. But the journey toward it has taken far too long, and has caused more suffering than the peoples of the region should have to endure. The alarming reality is that as the viability of the two-state solution is being compromised by new facts on the ground, we are faced with the prospect of a different end game, where war and conflict will dominate the region's future. That is a future that neither Palestinians nor the Israelis want. It is the duty of us all not to doom them to it.