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Official website of His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein
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Speeches
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
At the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, Houston
Houston, Texas, US
9 May 2002

Secretary Baker,
Ambassador Djerejian,
Friends,

Thank you for your kind welcome. It is a privilege to join you today at the Baker Institute. Like its namesake, this institute has earned a global reputation for great ideas and public service. I am delighted to be invited to share in your work. I am especially honoured that we are joined today by leaders who have been great friends of the Middle East. Secretary Baker, and Ambassador Djerejian have long understood our region's critical role in the world, and they worked closely with my father to advance the cause of peace and development. I look forward to more years of their wisdom and support. Our discussion today is in fact a catch-up session.

Last September 11th, I was actually on an aircraft on my way here to speak, when I got the first news about the World Trade Center attacks. Our meeting, like so many others, was postponed. I think the fact that we are together today, continuing our dialogue, tells a story about what our nations have achieved in the last six months. As many have observed, the terrible events of September 11th opened a new chapter in history. But equally clearly, it is not the chapter the terrorists planned to write. Instead of falling into chaos and demoralisation, the international community pulled together. The result was a new global alliance against terrorism and all it stands for.

I am proud to say that Jordanians have played an active role on the side of justice and peace. It is a role completely in accord with our Islamic heritage, our Arab desire for freedom, and our national history. For decades, Jordan itself has faced significant terrorist threats. I and other Jordanians have spoken publicly and repeatedly against extremism. In the worldwide fight against terror, our country came out early, and we are still beside you. Now we need to stand together to resolve another serious threat to world peace, a crisis that puts the Middle East at ground zero, and demands of all of us, an urgent response.

Last September, when I was last scheduled to be here, Israel and Palestine were deeply trapped in violence. On both sides, despair and cynicism were hardening. The chain of action and reaction threatened the future, not only of Palestinians and Israelis, but of the entire region, a region that is part of the economic, political, and indeed, the spiritual lives of people around the world. Since then, the situation in the Middle East has become even graver. Today, we stand on the knife's edge, and the danger is not only to the region, but to the world. The violence, confrontation and occupation that we have recently witnessed tell us plainly: the Middle East needs a new approach to peace. The incremental negotiating model, in which parties gradually build confidence, and slowly move towards an undefined outcome, this model has run its course.

To say this, is not to diminish the importance of the advances we have made in the past few decades. The Madrid Conference, spurred by the direct personal leadership of President Bush and Secretary Baker, set a standard for results. Palestinians attended in a joint delegation with Jordan and discussions began on vital, practical concerns. The Oslo process that followed bridged gaps, broke taboos, made gains. As recently as last year's Mitchell Commission Report and the Tenet Cease Fire Agreement, leaders across the region were expressing a strong, shared desire to break the impasse and move forward.

But, ultimately, for the Middle East peace process to achieve lasting peace, for Palestinians and Israelis to invest their lives and energies and trust, the people on the ground need to see results: real security; viable independence; a future of hope. And today, no one can dispute that this hope has sharply eroded. In its place, misguided perceptions have grown on both sides: that suicide bombings are a productive road to freedom, for instance; or the equally mistaken idea that tanks can subdue a legitimate, popular cry for independence.

How do we get back on track? Today, I believe we need less process and more peace. A peace that resonates with both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples – credibly addressing their fears, concerns and hopes. A peace that is independent of the wills and whims of different leaderships. A peace that once again focuses on timely, practical results. Sceptics might argue that this is not possible, given the hardening that has emerged in public opinion on both sides. To these I respond that if today's crisis has made the divisions deeper, it has also made the issues clearer than ever before. Indeed, even while the conflict rages on, there is an internalisation process in the minds of peoples on both sides, of the proposed solutions for these thorny issues. Both peoples are exhausted and are ready for peace, a peace that will allow an Israeli mother to send her child on an errand to the local supermarket without fear, a peace that will allow a Palestinian mother to deliver her newborn, alive, at a hospital and not at an Israeli roadblock.

To end today's violence, conflict resolution must replace conflict management. This requires an approach that focuses sharply on the ultimate goals and principles of peace, as well as strong, timely, effective international leadership to bring that resolution about. The fact is: that given present conditions, neither Israelis nor Palestinians are capable of taking the steps needed to reach a reasonable final compromise. Only the international community – under strong American leadership – can guide the parties across the divide.

For its part, Jordan has reached out over many years to take the risks for making peace and attempting to sustain it. My country has a significant stake in peace. We have a tradition of leadership as a stable, moderating force within the region. We have direct interests in major aspects of the negotiations, such as defending the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees on Jordanian soil. And we have other concerns. Although Jordan succeeded in achieving 4.2 per cent growth in GDP last year, compared to 2.1 per cent in neighbouring countries, experts tell us that the regional situation costs us at least one per cent per year in real growth. That drain impacts a whole range of national priorities, from making sure families get food on the table, to building our technological infrastructure, to giving our children the education they need to succeed. Let me be clear. We will never see a truly stable, prosperous Middle East until the Arab-Israeli conflict, and in particular, the Palestinian-Israeli situation is solved. Towards this goal, we have taken the risks for peace, but we cannot stand alone. It is our collective responsibility to unite against those who do not want peace to prevail.

Today, I call upon the United States to seize this historic moment to create a new peace alliance for the Middle East. Under its umbrella, a U.S.-led coalition of European, Arab, and other countries would provide the support that is needed – security, economic, and political – by both Israelis and Palestinians. The parties must be told in no uncertain terms that while suicide bombings will not be rewarded, neither will occupation. Most important, the peace alliance would bring its clout to the bargaining tables, brokering a comprehensive, fair and lasting deal. That deal must aim for the finish line – not the half-way markers, not the rules for pit stops. It should protect the core interests of each side without breaching non-negotiable concerns. It should be based on clear, credible principles of justice. We must ensure that any mechanism that is adopted not only re-launches negotiations on final status issues, but more important, completes them within a reasonable timeframe. This mechanism must translate the visions articulated in Madrid, Kentucky and Beirut, and at the United Nations and the White House, into a detailed time-line, a plan of action that would rekindle hope and make it reality.

I believe that a strong basis for such a deal was articulated at the recent, precedent-setting Arab Summit in Beirut. There, Arab states articulated a vision for peace that explicitly recognises the interests of Israel while it fulfils the hopes of the Palestinians. Through a collective peace treaty with every Arab state, Israel would receive the security guarantees it needs. The Jewish character, security, legitimacy, international recognition, Arab acceptance, and peaceful future of Israel would be positively addressed. At the same time, the Arab states would have their core requirements met: an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands, the guarantee of independence, freedom, dignity, equality and security for the Palestinians, and an agreed solution to the refugee question. I believe that this is the kind of fair deal that could stick. Both Israel and Palestine would be ensured of their viability, security, and territorial integrity. The Jerusalem question would be answered, by providing for a shared open city to all faiths. There would be an agreed solution to the refugee problem that is fair to Palestinians and that does not threaten the sovereignty of the Israeli state. And international backing, under US leadership, would provide the level of trust that a fragile new peace would require.

Friends,

More than seven years ago, my father, His Late Majesty King Hussein, concluded a treaty of peace with Israel, establishing normal relations between our countries. Now, for the first time, all Arabs have directly addressed Israeli citizens as neighbours who deserve to live in dignity, security and peace. We told Israelis at the Arab Summit in plain language: “We want to permanently welcome you in our neighbourhood. Look at the Arab peace proposal seriously, for the sake of the present, and for the future for all our peoples.”

I believe that many Israelis are listening. Despite the difficult situation, this initiative has been endorsed by over 55 percent of the Israeli public, and has won wide international support. But success will require more. It will require American leadership. Only the United States has the political and moral authority to bring people together to take the risks that peace requires. In the Middle East, an active US role is indispensable, not only to guide the Palestinians and the Israelis out of conflict, but also to protect your own vital national interests and those of your moderate allies, allies who are a bulwark against extremism in our region and around the world.

And so I ask the American people, all the American people, to give this proposal a chance. Far too much is at stake to go on as we are. The wake-up alarm has rung. We must not set the clock back, but instead, rise and seize the day.

Mr. Secretary, just over ten years ago, at Madrid, you reminded participants, that “negotiations do not guarantee peace. But without negotiations, there is no way to produce genuine peace and no mechanism to develop understandings that can endure.” Today, peace demands new approaches and new mechanisms. But our overarching goals remain the same: peace, freedom, and opportunity for all human beings. It is a mission at the heart of the American enterprise. And today, more than ever, the world looks to the United States to lead.

Thank you very much.