A responsibility to make peace

Op-Ed by His Majesty King Abdullah II
International Herald Tribune
21 June 2006

War has a terrible cost. But peace also has a cost, especially when generations of conflict demonstrate that the only path to peace is the acknowledgement and settlement of painful and legitimate grievances.

To achieve peace, patterns of fear, resentment, mistrust and indifference to the suffering of others must be broken. Sides that have long defined themselves in opposition to each other must create a new psychology. Societies and individuals alike must reorient themselves to a future that rewards productivity and cooperation, not confrontation.

The psychology of conflict is difficult to break. But history, including that of Europe, shows that even the bitterest adversaries can make the transition when peace delivers on its promise - when human energies and material resources once drained by hostilities are channelled toward building national infrastructure, strengthening education, health and other social services, and promoting good governance; when stability invites inward investment and participation in global markets, bolstering economic opportunity and growth. As entire societies become stakeholders in the new status quo, peace becomes self-reinforcing.

It was for this reason that my father, the late King Hussein, often said peace is a gift that we give to future generations. And this was Jordan's vision for the region when our country took the tough decision to make peace with Israel in 1994.

Historically, Jordan has led the region in reform and development, but our newfound stability and security was a key factor which enabled our long-term success. We seek, and are achieving, economic growth with new opportunities for youth; good governance; civil society based on Islamic values of tolerance, compassion and equality.

People everywhere in our region – Arabs and Israelis – deserve an era of regional prosperity, of partnerships that deliver jobs, better education, a clean environment, stability. Yet no country in the Middle East can realise its full potential while the region is in conflict.

It is time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to recognise the enormity of the responsibility that they bear, not only for the future security, stability and prosperity of their people, but for the well-being of our entire region. Elected leaders on both sides must recognise and announce that there is no unilateral solution to the conflict between their two peoples that guarantees lasting peace and security.

A negotiated two-state solution leading to a viable, independent, contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side with a secure Israel is the only solution to this conflict. Both sides must therefore act decisively to create the conditions necessary for a return to negotiations, abandoned more than five years ago.

For Israel, that means acknowledging its partners for peace: the Palestinian people led by President Mahmoud Abbas and the entire Arab world, which in 2002 sought comprehensive peace with Israel in accordance with international legality. Without this, neither region-wide acceptance of Israel nor real peace will be forthcoming.

Likewise, the Palestinian leadership must recognise that only negotiations on the basis of the roadmap can alleviate the Palestinian people's suffering and restore to them their internationally recognised legal rights.

The international community, for its part, must work to avert a humanitarian crisis. Allowing the impoverishment of millions will not only exacerbate humanitarian suffering, it will also aggravate the security crisis of Palestinians and Israelis, making a return to negotiations even more difficult.

I was serving in the Jordan Armed Forces when Jordan and Israel signed the historic peace treaty, and as a soldier I was proud that Jordan's leadership had achieved an honourable peace that ended a nearly 50-year-long state of war between our countries.

More important, as a new father I understood my own father's words and vision with much greater clarity. I felt, like millions of other Jordanian parents, that this was a first step toward the future we envisioned for our children.

Today, as a leader, I understand that the future generations of whom my father so often spoke have arrived; more than half of the population in our region is aged under thirty. It will not do for us to tell them that peace is a gift we can give to future generations. It is a promise that we must fulfil for them today, or risk condemning them to a future of violence, fear and isolation.

It is time for nations and world-renowned figures alike to stand behind the commitment to peace, as a group of Nobel laureates and other leaders are doing this week at the Petra II Conference. Real peace agreements are not just written on paper, but also inscribed on hearts. For that to occur we must help people on both sides believe that making a difficult peace is far less costly than continuing a destructive conflict.