This interview appeared in Al-Ahram, Egypts largest newspaper, as well as in Jordans second largest newspaper, Al-Dustour. In it, His Majesty responds to critics of the Jordan-Israel peace treaty by outlining the steps Jordan followed in coordination with other Arab parties before signing the treaty. He points out Egypts pioneering role in choosing peace, and stresses the need to build a climate of confidence and trust between Arabs and Israelies before tackling difficult issues such as Jerusalem. Concerning Jerusalem, King Hussein explains his wish for the holy sites to be above sovereignty, for the city to be a capital for Palestinians and Israelis, and to serve as a symbol of peace among the children of Abraham.
Interviewer: Ibrahim Nafi
February 19, 1995
(This interview is translated from the original Arabic)
The Arabic version will be available soon.
Nafi: How do you view the future of the peace negotiations in the region in light of the recent clear Israeli intransigence? In the near future, is it perceivable that such important parties as Syria and Lebanon will join the negotiations?
King Hussein: Without doubt, I am concerned over the current developments and various possibilities regarding the peace process both at present and in the future. Let us recall the beginning of this process. We, along with Egypt, had the same starting point at the Madrid conference: namely, we accepted Security Council Resolution 242 and also Resolution 338, which focused on holding negotiations to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, in order to reach a solution according to the basis of this resolution.
Egypt played a great role and offered much for the cause of peace. At a certain phase, Egypt chose the path of peace through its own capabilities and efforts. Later, all parties concerned decided to proceed along the path of peace and meet in Madrid. For us in Jordan, the peace option was demanded by all sectors of the Jordanian people, so we decided to move along the same path.
We provided an umbrella that would allow our Palestinian brothers in the camps to determine their fate on the [Palestinian] national soil. This was in harmony with our decision of 1974 which was supported by the Islamic World. This decision directly terminated our responsibility toward the Palestinians and granted it to the party that represents the Palestinian Arab people [the PLO]. From this premise, we went to Washington and discussed the Jordanian-Israeli agenda. However, we only approved and signed this agenda after we were surprised that our Palestinian brothers had discovered another way; namely, direct negotiations with Israel, and after they announced an agreement known as the Oslo agreement. Afterward, we signed the agenda. We always insisted that negotiations must lead to peace, rather than making peace first and negotiating all points later.
Sir, why did matters take some time? Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli dimension, we wonder why our Palestinian brothers agreed with the Israeli side on the principle of reaching a phased solution. I believeand I could be mistakenthat the main reasons are that the process needed confidence-building measures and peoples acceptance of this idea as well as a change that can be brought about by peace in terms of changing the situation which used to prevail to another situation that should prevail; namely, returning rights to their owners.
At the same time, it was necessary to take into consideration peoples living conditions and the change, which should be tangible, so the people can live a better lifeI mean the sons of the West Bank and Gazaby establishing the organs that can represent the Palestinians before the world, which is ready to send aid and help change peoples lives from what they used to be to what they should be. I believe that things have moved this way.
Considering the current phase, we should know to what extent objectives have been achieved, and whether anything has obstructed and postponed matters on any side. We pray to God to grant us all success in removing these obstacles and not to make us proceed on a path that will lead us to despair, confusion, and wasting everyones chance to live in just, honorable, and lasting peace which will achieve all the peoples objectives.
While viewing the current situation, it seems to me that there is a problem related to credibility. Regarding the situation itself, is this the atmosphere we were all searching for after the Oslo agreement? If was expected that an atmosphere of reassurance and comfort would be created to encourage the peace camp to move forward. No, this is not what was expected. I cannot hold a specific party responsible for the current atmosphere. However, we all are responsible, and all parties should assume their responsibilities, so this opportunity will not be wasted in anyway whatsoever.
Nafi: Has the recent Washington five-way meeting among Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and the United States achieved any progress? Or are we to say that its failure to come out with clear decisions has bolstered the doubts of Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian brethren?
King Hussein: Although I am not fully aware of all that happened at that meeting, it was generally a positive meeting and showed eagerness to advance the peace process. However, I say that neither I nor anybody else has the right to interfere in any bilateral relationship, be it the Palestinian-Israeli relationship or any other relationship. Still, my brother President Mubarak and I, as well as all our brothers and those who want to move from the current situation to a better situation for our peoples and their stability, are trying to support the efforts to establish peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but without going into the details.
The question of was it possible for the five-way meeting to arrive at a new mechanism? Personally, I do not believe so. The meeting was aimed to follow up the negotiations and support the peace process.
Nafi: Now if we view a clear problem, such as the settlements problem, will Israel continue to build settlements for a long time to come despite the big problem this poses to the peace efforts?
King Hussein: Sir, my opinion is clear. The whole issue is based on Resolution 242, which provides for the restoration of the occupied territory in return for peace and the inadmissibility of the occupation of territory by war. This is clear. Our position is clear and has not changed. Because we are a direct party, we say that our position states that the territories must be returned in full and Arab sovereignty over them, including Jerusalem, must be secured. Besides, there must be a special status for the holy places and the city must become the city of peace for all believers in the Almighty God. This is an unchanging position. But, at the same time, there are numerous problems. For example, yesterday marked the [first] anniversary of the Hebron massacre. Such an event should not have happened in an atmosphere which was supposed to be one of peace in view of the Oslo agreement and the move toward peace. Likewise, the numerous events and explosions and killings which took place should not have taken place. Had they not happened, we would have been in a better situation to lay down the sound foundations for the continuation of the peace process and addressing the settlements and other issues. I am not saying that an issue like this cannot be addressed. Yes, it must be raised. However, the whole atmosphere is not the one which we had expected to crystallize at the beginning of the peace process.
Nafi: Regarding the issue of Jerusalem, does Your Majesty believe that the Palestinian Authority must do something tangible in this regard? What is your specific stand on the question of Jerusalem being the capital of a future Palestinian state?
King Hussein: In accordance with the Palestinian-Israeli agreement, the question of Jerusalem is postponed until the final status negotiations. And it is being said that final status issues will be discussed immediately in the current stage, without waiting for the final stage.
At the beginning of my statement, I tried to indicate that the current situation is frustrating. The process should have taken some time so that people would have been psychologically prepared for the situation, which, regrettably has not crystallized yet and only a little of which has been achieved. We notice that instead of trust, there is mistrust, instead of reassurances, there is disquiet, instead of comfort, there is anger. There is blood that has been spilled and there are many problems. Is it logical to raise this issue now? What results can be reached?
Regardless of all that, the objective must be clear; land in return for peace and the restoration of Palestinian authority over the Palestinian soil.
Regarding Jerusalem, sir, its western part has been the capital of Israel since it was established regardless of the countries which recognized this. However, the Arab side (of Jerusalem) could be the symbol of peace between the two parties and both parties would achieve the required situation in it. This might happen one day, God willing, as a result of the negotiations thanks to the Palestinian efforts, Israel, or the efforts of others. The issue of the holy lands is another topic of discussion. Once again, I would like to reiterate that we, as Hashemites and Jordanians, do not have any objective in or ambition toward Jerusalem.
What took place was only an Israeli recognition, in the Washington Declaration and then in the [Jordanian-Israeli peace] treaty, that Jordan will continue its supervision during this period. Whether or not this issue has been mentioned in the Washington Declaration or elsewhere, this issue is sensitive for us, as well at for the Islamic world and the entire world.
The question which I would like to address to our brothers: What could have been said about the Washington Declaration, or the treaty, had the issue of Jerusalem been ignored?
The issue of Jerusalem will be tackled with time in accordance with the Palestinian-Israeli accord. We will continue to carry out our duty toward the holy places until a satisfactory and accepted solution is reached. We only want to do our duty, nothing more nothing less. At the same time, my personal feeling regarding the Islamic, Christian, and even the Jewish holy places is that they should not be placed under the sovereignty of this or that country, or any side. My personal feeling is that the holy places should unite all believers in God who should have the same rights. The Islamic holy places, for example, should belong to the entire Islamic world. Interfaith dialogue will turn Jerusalem, this small city and small land, as God wanted it to be, into a destination for all worshippers. Otherwise, tragedies will recur. I believe this view will be accepted by people and all parties. This will help solve other problems.
Anyhow, sir, the issue is not in our hands and the responsible side is known. We support and help, to the best of our ability, the peace process to achieve its objectives.
Nafi: Your Majesty, is there a possibility of establishing a confederation between Jordan and the Palestinians?
King Hussein: I cannot propose, accept, or agree on such formulas. The discussion of such an issue will be useless before the Palestinian people restore their national soil and decide freely on the formula they want in their relations with Jordan. This is despite the fact that our relations are distinguished. In my view, any Palestinian or Israeli proposal willin realitycast doubts after the efforts that have been exerted.
Nafi: Now, the Islamic Resistance Movement in Gaza and the West Bank hints that a Palestinian civil war would erupt as a result of the practices carried out by the Palestinian Authority against the movement's opposition activities. What is Your Majestys comment on this?
King Hussein: I am very sorry for all that is taking place and I am very pained by this.
Nafi: Some believe that Jordan is normalizing its relations with Israel hastily, whereas Egypt and other Arab states believe that, at present, priority should be given to achieving the comprehensive peace. What is your opinion?
King Hussein: We are with the comprehensive peace. However, sir it is known that our brothers in Egypt made their move, that the Palestinians also moved, and that we all moved from the same starting point in Madrid. I say that until 1974 Jordan used to emphasize the need to implement Resolution 242 and regain all the occupied territories.
Now, however, and in light of what happened in the peace process, it is meaningless and unjustified to say that Jordan should stand idly by until all the issues are resolved, after which Jordan can address its own issues. Had this happened, no one would have cared about Jordan's state of affairs. We were duty bound to regain our own territory and water, and we have regained them in full, praise be to God.
Regarding the normalization of relations, it is difficult for Egypt, for example, to talk about the specifications of normalization. Matters were going on in a certain way. However, the current atmosphere and concept differ from the atmosphere that prevailed at the outset of the moves designed to achieve peace. Here in Jordan, things are different in terms of our situation on the ground and peoples state of affairs.
Having regained our rights, our objective now is to build Jordan, enable its sons to lead a decent life, remove the differences among its citizens, and create a new atmosphere. How can this be achieved if [Jordanian-Israeli] relations are not normal? In other words, people should be aware of the dividends of peace and search for what can be done in the future in light of peace. Changing peoples lifestyle in times of peace is not easy. People know that there can be either war or peace, so half a peace is inconceivable.
The Syrian and Lebanese brothers joined us in the peace process in Madrid. Fraternal Egypt was in the lead and it endured and offered much, and we do not deny its credit. I do not see any justification for the atmosphere of criticism and accusations against Jordan in this regard because we found out at a certain phase that we should negotiate. We thus held direct negotiations and achieved results. Some, however, may have a different opinion, which is up to them.
We seek a comprehensive peace, and no one can perceive a comprehensive peace without Syria or Lebanon. God willing, a comprehensive peace will be achieved, and we are ready for everything that can support the peace march.
Nafi: What is your assessment of the oppositions role in Jordan regarding the cause of peace?
King Hussein: I believe there is much exaggeration about the oppositions role. The political climate in Jordan is democratic. The decision to go to Madrid resulted from the national conference which comprised all forces representing the Jordanian people. Moreover, matters passed through all constitutional phases. There might be opposition. We, however, have a national charter to which all have contributed. All schools of thought exist in Jordan, and it is a basic thing for the minority to respect the opinion of the majority.
Nafi: Let us return to the tracks of negotiations in the Middle East problem. Can we say that the chances for a peaceful settlement with Jordan were greater than those on other tracks? Or is this settlement itself facing dangers?
King Hussein: The dangers are there. There are parties that want to undermine any chance to achieve peace. Those parties may stand to benefit from their stands or it may be that they are convinced of their stands. However, my wish and hope is that the overwhelming majority may not be denied the peace chances made available to them. I hope that the peace advocates will be the winners.
Nafi: Given that the Jordanian and Palestinian tracks have achieved speedy progress toward an agreement, can it be said that through these two experiences, Israel wants to give an example of Israeli-Arab relations as Israel wants them to be? Or is it true that the limited number of problems on these two tracks has helped achieve speedy progress?
King Hussein: Regarding the Jordanian-Israeli track, the past stage has witnessed mutual respect which enabled us to restore our inalienable territorial and water rights, and we have arrived at the situation at which sisterly Egypt arrived years ago. Therefore, there is credibility and the atmosphere is favorable, despite the attempts by numerous quarters to spoil what has been achieved. Regarding the others, I have no right to criticize or interfere, but I would like to ask: Has all that is in the Oslo agreement been implemented?
Nafi: There has been renewed talk about the Jordanian option. What is this option? On what specifically is it built?
King Hussein: The Jordanian option is for Jordan with its entire population to maintain its national unity and for the children of this country to continue building their country until a time comes when everybody will decide whether he has any other option. Then, everybody can make his own decision and sign with whomever they want to sign. As for the Jordanian option in the sense that the issue be resolved at the expense of Jordan, this is rejected. The issue is one of Palestinian rights over the national Palestinian soil.
Nafi: There has been a lot of talk about a Middle East market. A meeting was held in Casablanca and another meeting will be held in Amman. What are the joint steps that can be taken within the framework of this market? What is your vision of the objective behind its establishment? Will that cancel the role of the Arab League?
King Hussein: The Arab League is dear to us. It is our league. Our hope is for the Arabs to work together to enable it to arrive at a position which would enable it to play its role on Arab and regional levels.
Had we awaited the Arab League to achieve progress in the Middle East, that would not have been possible. It is known that we have repeatedly tried through the Arab League, but none of the agreements has been implemented.
I believe that we should review the issue of the Arab League until it reaches the required standard.
Regarding the Casablanca conference and the big headlines which accompanied the call for a Middle East market, the Amman conference will focus on specific issues and on what will be done in the future with the participation of the whole world on a larger scale.
Nafi: Your Majesty, would you give me a satisfactory answer to an old and new question: How can we achieve Arab reconciliation? Why has this reconciliation been obstructed since the Gulf war?
King Hussein: All issues which were related to the Gulf crisis should have been resolved within the framework of the Arab League and Arab community and we should have avoided any differences. I did not support the occupation of Kuwait, the aggression against it, or its annexation. I had reviewed this subject with you. What we feared in terms of effects did happen. We can see this in the current Arab situation. This is what we feared but it happened. However, we can learn from what happened in the past. The most important thing is to concentrate on reviving inter-Arab relations. We are ready and we hope that all will have the same readiness to restore these relations. Our relations with sisterly Egypt before 1990 achieved a great deal for us, for Egypt, and for our Arab nation. Now, praise be to God, we are opening a new chapter and we want it to have the same warmth which existed in the past. We want our relations to be based on mutual respect, absolute confidence, and strong cooperation. God willing, our future hopes are great.
Nafi: Is there a magic force to save the current situation and to achieve reconciliation?
King Hussein: Sir, we will continue the attempts. I believe that all the circumstances will force us to concentrate on cooperation and achieve integration. The question is whether we are up to the level of responsibility. God willing, time will prove that we can meet the level of the responsibility.
Nafi: Egyptian-Jordanian relations are entering a new phase. Your Majesty, what are the methods to strengthen these relations?
King Hussein: Relations will continue to move ahead through direct contacts, cooperation, and consultations for the wellbeing of both countries and the Arabs.
Nafi: What is your opinion regarding President Mubaraks initiative to rid the region of mass destruction weapons, and how do you view Egypt's stand calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?
King Hussein: In fact, I understand the circumstances of our brothers in Egypt. I believe this issue should receive extreme interest. Even the Jordanian-Israeli treaty notes this issuenamely, conventional and nonconventional mass destruction weapons. However, I believe that all efforts must be geared toward defining the features of this region and demanding everybodys commitment to free the region from these weapons and not to use them.