Jordan Must Be More Proactive in Advancing Mideast Peace

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan can and should do more on its own to promote lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. King Hussein, who made peace with Israel in October 1994, was a bold and courageous Arab leader who recognized the potential for his people and the region in embracing reconciliation with Israel. Sadly, his successor son, King Abdullah, has failed to match his father as a force for progress on the peace process. And with Jordan contributing significantly to the U.S. war on terrorism, revealed most recently by the death of a Jordanian intelligence officer in an attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan, the U.S. is less eager to fault, much less criticize, Jordan’s role in the peace process.

Abdullah’s latest lost opportunity occurred in a February 7 interview with CNN during which he again saddled the United States with the responsibility of pushing peace in the region, saying, “We are waiting for the U.S. to give its undivided attention to this issue.”

The U.S. faces several challenges in the region, such as the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and the increasing profile of the group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, linked to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner approaching Detroit. U.S. attention to the Middle East cannot be “undivided” and Arab leaders, including Jordan’s Abdullah, must take it upon themselves to advance the cause of peace in their own right. After all, their countries have the most to gain from a region at peace, and it is not unreasonable to expect them to make peace their priority. Waiting for the U.S. to give the peace process its “undivided attention” is simply impractical.

On CNN, Abdullah warned that if a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not found soon, the region “will be doomed to many decades of instability.” Abdullah’s pessimistic, doom-and-gloom attitude blaming outsiders for the region’s difficulties rather than having Arab leaders accept some responsibility themselves is unhelpful. Instead, he should advocate for measures that are likely to make a two-state solution more desirable and attainable.

For instance, Abdullah could recognize Israel’s legitimate security concerns, which help to explain its hesitance to agree prematurely to the creation of a Palestinian state, rather than make light of its security posture. “Our challenge … is reaching out to the Israeli public and saying, ‘Do you want to continue being Fortress Israel? We want a two-state solution so that you can be accepted into the neighborhood,’” Abdullah told CNN.

Abdullah’s remarks suggest that he does not fully appreciate Israel’s security needs and that Israel is a “fortress” precisely because the Palestinians have failed to crack down on terrorists operating from within areas they control. Therein lies the justification for the West Bank security barrier, border closures with Gaza, and checkpoints in the West Bank. Israel fortifies itself with barriers and closures because it has to, not because it wants to.