Today I want to talk about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has almost defined the modern history of my region. But I do not want to talk about missed opportunities. I want to focus on the urgency of not missing any more ... and on why, and how, the United States can lead.
The United States has a stated, strategic interest in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Few crises in history have presented such a potent mix of threats—from the regional instability and violence it promotes, to the worldwide divisions it has caused, divisions actively exploited by extremists. But, there have been equally few situations where a just solution could bring such powerful benefits—not only to the parties, not only to the region, but to the world as a whole.
Yet time is not on our side. Every day we lose makes the conflict much harder to resolve. And that is a danger to all of us.
I know this is understood by President Obama and his team. The President gave early signals that Middle East peace will be a priority for the United States. We in Jordan welcome his commitment and engagement. And we are not alone. Every country in the Middle East, and perhaps even the world, sees the United States as being the key to achieving peace.
Through its own focus, through its own resolve, the United States will set the standard. Events are already testing American credibility. These include the Israeli voices for turning back the clock on negotiations—to disestablish the established agenda for peace. And they include extremist voices in the Arab world that preach war. I hope that the United States will make it clear that it will not accept retrograde movement. The elements of a settlement are known; the agenda for negotiations is agreed; there is a clear objective: Two states, each sovereign, viable and secure. Such a settlement is a vital US interest, and it is equally vital to your interests that the world sees the United States lead the way.
Indeed, the groundwork is there. The two-state settlement has been agreed by the parties and the entire international community. And for seven years, against all provocation, the landmark Arab Peace Initiative has held. The initiative lays out the parameters of a comprehensive settlement—ending the occupation ... creating a Palestinian state ... and providing security guarantees and normal relations for Israel. Muslim countries around the world have also expressed their support. This offers Israel a place in its neighbourhood and more: acceptance by the one-third of the United Nations’ members—that’s 57 countries—that still do not recognize Israel.
By its unanimous voice, by its serious approach, the Arab Peace Initiative is the most important proposal for peace in the history of this conflict. We have made our choice: a comprehensive peace that meets the legitimate needs of all. Israel now has to make its choice. To integrate into the region, accepted and accepting, with normal relations with its neighbours. Or to remain fortress Israel, isolated and holding itself and the entire region a hostage to continuing confrontation.
Any Israeli effort to substitute Palestinian development for Palestinian independence cannot bring peace and stability to the region. The path for peace can go only through the two-state solution. No other solution can offer the justice that people demand and expect. And no other solution can give people a reason to take the risks peace requires.
A high-level US effort is needed to regenerate bilateral negotiations. And when the parties get to the table, US support must continue. Where there is deadlock, let the United States break the impasse by proposing its own creative solutions. The focus must be a final peace agreement; one that reflects the only viable solution to this conflict … the two-state solution, which will open the door to comprehensive Middle East peace.
Allow me to touch on some areas where creative US leadership can advance that goal.
First is in understanding the region-wide framework for action. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not take place in a vacuum. Regional crises and events are deeply interconnected. Successful policy must be part of a holistic approach. This includes a division of labour with regional partners. One example is the work Arab states are already doing to encourage Palestinian reconciliation. International support will advance this effort. In this and similar actions, US policy can help empower the region's forces of moderation.
A second key area for US leadership is reinforcing the foundation for peace. Development aid will not succeed if it is designed as a substitute for Palestinian independence. But independence will be most successful when it delivers opportunities for fruitful, normal daily life. Benefits and incentives need to be devised that will create and sustain the conditions for co-existence and progress.
A third area for US leadership is in the powerful messages your actions can send—especially by your response to Palestinian suffering. Signals are delivered when the United States ensures relief and rebuilding in Gaza and provides humanitarian aid in the West Bank. But signals are also sent when your country acts, or fails to act, against the daily hardships of West Bank life … against illegal settlement building … against Israeli actions to force Jerusalem's Arab, Muslim and Christian population out or threaten Muslim and Christian holy sites. The US commitment to Palestinian statehood must be unambiguous, in deeds as well as words. This is central to America's standing, not only in the region, but the entire Muslim world.
I believe that peace can succeed—and we should settle for nothing less. In that effort, I pledge Jordan's continued partnership. And just as we ask the parties to do, let the friends of peace, too, think ahead, to the strategic picture. Ten years from now, meeting here, we could be, we should be, talking about the challenges of life after peace ... and how to advance our new era of global co-existence. But to do that in the year 2019, we must also be able to say: our countries did what needed to be done, back in 2009, with courage and action.
* His Majesty King Abdullah II is the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This article is an extract from a speech given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC and is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from the Royal Court of Jordan.
Source: Jordanian Embassy, 24 April 2009, http://www.jordanembassyus.org/new/jib/speeches/hmka/hmka04242009.htm,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
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