From the snow-capped mountains of Davos, Switzerland, King Abdullah of Jordan has sent a clear and an unequivocal response to those calling for a Jordanian role in the West Bank within the framework of a future settlement. He told his interviewer, in a televised dialogue at the World Economic Forum, that Jordan will never assume such role and that the Jordanian military will not replace the Israeli army and deny Palestinians their aspiration for a viable state of their own.
The king brushed off Israeli promoters of the so-called Jordan Option, or Jordan is Palestine, and reiterated his belief that the only path that the world must focus on is the two-state solution. A close ally of the US and a vocal supporter of the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the young king told Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Newsweek that he was pessimistic for the first time about the prospects of finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He kept going back to the Palestinian question as the core of Middle East and regional instability tying it to the rise of terrorist movements in the Arab and Muslim worlds, to the increasing frustration of the region's youth and to the perceived threats coming from Iran.
He also appeared to admonish the US and the Obama administration, for failing to move forcefully on the issue. He said that unless a clear mandate is adopted by the US within the coming month, US credibility will be questioned. A month is a short time indeed for Washington to re-examine its positions and heed the king's call by issuing a clear mandate on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the peace process.
But Abdullah, who has exhibited keen understanding of the Palestine question and regional conflicts in the past, spoke from a position of authority and knowledge. He wanted the US to appreciate the element of time less than two months before the next Arab Summit convenes. He hoped the US would understand that without solving the Palestinian issue, other challenges in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Iran and elsewhere will continue to fester.
The king warned of crossing an invisible line after which the viability of the two-state solution will suffer, allowing militants and extremists on all fronts to pounce and further destabilise the region. Again he referred to the Israel-Palestine issue as the core and that failing to resolve it will only give extreme forces the ammunition they need to recruit young and disenfranchised Arabs and Muslims to the cause of militancy. Moreover, he linked such failure to growing fears of the rise of Iranian role and influence in the region.
Lack of a resolution
Another important link the king made was between the growing frustration over the lack of a resolution of the Palestine conflict and the hijacking of the Muslim faith by extremist groups. In that sense he said all Arab and Muslim countries have a responsibility to protect "our faith" from such elements.
And by resolving the Palestine conflict, the king said the countries of the region, Jordan included, can then concentrate their efforts on reforms, education and expanding the middle class, the latter being instrumental, in his view, in promoting change and adopting reforms.
For years the king had been a strong supporter of Palestinians' struggle to rid themselves of Israeli occupation and create their independent state on their land. His rejection of a future Jordanian role unveils fresh efforts, by Israel and maybe the Americans, to go around the two-state solution. The current Israeli government, with its Likud and right-wing roots, has been more than lukewarm about US efforts to resume negotiations leading to that conclusion. Instead there has been talk about economic peace in the occupied territories and a Jordanian-Israeli security arrangement.
The king is obviously unwilling to entertain such proposals. On the one hand he wants to keep the focus on the two-state solution, being, in his view and that of the international community, the only way towards a workable settlement. And on the other he wants to shut the door firmly before any attempts to drag his country into a role in the West Bank that could eventually revive "conspiracies" about the Jordan Option and Jordan being the eventual Palestinian state.
On the other hand, the king wanted to apply some sort of pressure on the Americans, who have recently resumed their mediation role in the peace process, by asserting the inevitability of focusing on the two-state solution, and by underscoring the element of time.
It is no secret that such course is currently under threat, mainly because of Israel's refusal to halt colony activities or its readiness to address final status issues such as Occupied Jerusalem, refugees and borders.
The question then remains: How far are we from crossing that invisible line of no return? By expressing his pessimism the king certainly believes that we are almost there. His frustration is understandable. The Obama administration has failed to live up to its promises. US President Barack Obama had omitted the Middle East peace process from his recent State of the Union address and focused only on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
But the king knows what we all believe in and have repeated time and again; without solving the core problem of the Middle East, other geopolitical challenges will continue to mushroom. The US is the only party that has failed to realise this.
Osama Al Sharif is a veteran journalist and political commentator based in Amman.