This interview was conducted by one of the Arab worlds most well-known journalists, Jihad al-Khazin, and appeared on the front page of the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper. It was also printed in the Jordanian Al-Rai newspaper. In the interview, King Hussein addresses a number of inter-Arab issues. Specifically, he comments on the state of Jordans relations with Syria, the Syrian position vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the possible nature of Jordans future relations with a Palestinian entity.
Interviewer: Jihad al-Khazin
February 20, 1995
(This interview is translated from the original Arabic)
The Arabic version will be available soon.
Al-Khazin: Following the conclusion of the peace treaty with Israel and the start of implementing its provisions, what in your opinion are the most important obstacles to normalization of relations between the two countries on the popular level?
King Hussein: We do not believe that there are obstacles that cannot be overcome with time. Some of us might have opinions on normalization that have to do with personal feelings. I believe that the vast majority of the people realize that there has to be progress on what was agreed upon as a basis for changing the peoples way of life in terms of responding to their needs in the forthcoming stage. This can only come through working in this new atmosphere on the basis of two aspects: The first is a sense of security in the present and the future, something that was missing in the past. The second is that many opportunities have been made available by the new circumstances. We have regained our land and water and now we have recognized international borders. I believe some time will pass before expectations for a fast change materialize because most of these expectations have to do with big projects. An economic conference was held in Casablanca and another will be held in Amman this year. I believe it will be possible to highlight certain projects and things would consequently move in the right direction.
Al-Khazin: In your opinion, will the foundering Palestinian-Israeli settlement affect the implementation of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty and the development of bilateral relations?
King Hussein: I have said and will reiterate our eagerness to have the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty be just a corner in the big building, the building of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the whole area. We hope that work will continue on the other tracks to achieve such a peace.
Al-Khazin: It seems that Israel has not fulfilled all of its commitments to the Palestinian side under the Declaration of Principles for security reasons as Israel says. Does Jordan fear that Israel might evade some or its commitments to Jordan?
King Hussein: With respect to the commitments to Jordan, everything that has been agreed upon, so far, has been implemented. The withdrawal from the land. The question of water is on its way. Everything is proceeding in accordance with what was agreed upon with respect to all the other aspects and the topics in the working agenda and the arduous and difficult negotiations. We had insisted that no peace treaty be signed before completing negotiations on these topics.
As an observer, I have a remark to make on the Oslo agreement, which is revolving in a vicious circle, if we are to reach a solution: For example, it seemed to me that when they agreed that the five-year period would be the period when steps would be taken to tackle the major problems, what they wanted was to have a different atmosphere than the one we have at this stage in terms of security, stability, and giving the people a feeling that there is a new situation that will make them attain the desired results. This has not materialized as planned, and now to talk about immediately initiating the tackling of the big issues, the final status negotiations, is something we will watch with concern to see how things will proceed toward the desired solution. At the same time, I repeat that we in Jordan are ready to support our brothers with all we have once we understand what they want us to offer. I believe that the new Jordanian-Israeli situation could support the Palestinian-Israeli track and any Arab-Israeli track. We could offer support and assistance in the future if the brothers need this help, but we will not impose ourselves. We will only respond to any call on any topic.
Al-Khazin: Regarding what you have said about direct engagement in final status negotiations to break the current logjam, do you support this course and are you ready, within this context, to deal with the idea of establishing a confederation or unity with the Palestinian entity?
King Hussein: Never. Personally, I will absolutely not deal with any of these ideas before our Palestinian brothers and kinfolk have restored their rights on their national soil in an atmosphere of absolute freedom and before they have decided to launch a dialogue to discuss the shape or formula they wish to have. This cannot be done in advance. I maintain a stringent position on this issue just as was my position in talks with Israel, that we would not sign a peace treaty and then start the negotiating process. We negotiate and if we reach agreement on all points, we will sign the peace treaty. Here, the issue concerns our kinsfolk, brothers, and the nearest people to us. We are the nearest to them. However, we an sick of doubts, skepticism, and the atmosphere we have been through. This cannot be done unless they have reached such a position on their land in which they can exercise their rights and express themselves freely. Then, everything will be possible.
Al-Khazin: Do you agree that the common and intertwined Jordanian-Palestinian interests require further institutional coordination and maybe a Jordanian partnership with the Palestinians upon discussing the final status of the occupied territories and Palestinian citizens?
King Hussein: We welcome this. We have always called for coordination and not differences. The Arab Palestinian people on the Palestinian national soil are our kinsmen and brothers. We will deal with and support them with our utmost energies and capabilities.
Al-Khazin: But, does Jordan accept to be a partner with Palestinians in the final-status talks?
King Hussein: Never.
Al-Khazin: Obviously, the Jordanian-Israeli peace is warmer than peace between Egypt and Israel. How would you account for this phenomenon?
King Hussein: I think it is difficult for an individual to determine the characteristics of the Egyptian-Israeli relationship and to judge whether it is warm. However, as far as we are concerned, the situation is totally different, be this due to land, geographical proximity, scores of issues and dimensions, and for our desire to give our Jordanian people the opportunity to realize their ambitions, goals, and aspirations. There is a future, security, and stability that would provide all opportunities for Jordanians to achieve their goals.
There is a peace treaty which we signed. We am committed to this treaty and we will implement it with all its details. We hope that it will bring good to all and we hope that it will be part of the comprehensive peace process in this region.
Al-Khazin: What do you think of the Alexandria summit?
King Hussein: I do not have any objection to any Arab summit. On the contrary, we welcome it.
Al-Khazin: And the Cairo summit?
King Hussein: It was held at the kind invitation of His Excellency brother President Mubarak. It was my pleasure to attend. I think it gave the impression that the atmosphere, thank God, was as we wished for ourselves and for them. God willing, relations in the future will be as good as they used to be in the past.
Al-Khazin: It seems that there is a big difference between Egypt and Israel on renewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] in April. What is your opinion?
King Hussein: I believe that the elimination of mass destruction weapons, conventional and nonconventional, and the prevention of their development in this region is fundamental. It is our hope that agreement will be reached on eliminating these weapons in the entire region and on identifying the features of the region. The question is not only restricted to Egypt and Israel. God willing, we will reach such a comforting situation in which these weapons and their dangers would be removed.
Whether Jordan will sign the NPT or not is not related to the attitudes of Egypt and Israel. Our position has nothing to do with any other position. Our position is a principled one: We call for the elimination of these weapons and commitment to this by all parties in this region.
Al-Khazin: The Syrian-Israeli negotiations are deadlocked, and the Syrians are claiming that Jordan moved too fast toward normalization with Israel. There was also newspaper criticism. What is Jordan's position with regard to such criticism?
King Hussein: During my last meeting with Syrian President al-Asad, I did not hide anything from him. Things were stable. I told him that Syria can afford to move slower than us. I also told him that if conditions are right, we will move toward peace and that we support a comprehensive solution. We continue to call for a comprehensive solution. My relationship with President al-Asad goes back a long time. He is a brother and a friend. I believe that he will be fair in his positions, God willing. As for the accusations against Jordan, there are many, and there is nothing new in that. We have become used to such accusations from time to time. However, we hope that Arab relations will not be governed by such considerations and that we will not reach that level in making accusations. It is very early to level accusations of treason and agentry and then totally reverse them overnight.
Our brothers in Egypt offered many sacrifices and led the nation through battles and they chose to follow the road to peace. All parties concerned as well as Israel proceeded from the same point in Madrid. Through world support, we provided an umbrella for our Palestinian brothers to enable them to move and have their say about their future and fate. We held talks on the agenda of the Jordanian-Israeli negotiations. We suspended the signing of this agenda until we were surprised to see that the Palestinian brothers and the Israelis have reached the Oslo accord. Therefore, we signed the agenda, then we began the arduous negotiating process that led to the results we have achieved. However, I will discuss this issue from another aspect. There are those who believe that Jordan should be the last to handle any issue. In fact, Jordan has tolerated a lot and has always been in the forefront. Jordan offered what nobody can deny even if it had been the last in line. In the absence of coordination, which, unfortunately, never existed in its required form, Jordan managed to solve everyone's issues and problems. Who would have worried about Jordan? What would have been Jordans fate in relation to the Arab-Israeli formula? I do not see any justification for this. The human being lives with his own conscience and with his God, and meets his approval, in which case his conscience will be clear. We are working for the future, hoping that people will have good memories of us. Jordan is a democratic country. The peace march was agreed upon before it began and peace is the objective and desire of the great majority of people.
Al-Khazin: You have proposed the idea of granting Palestinians residing in Arab countries the nationalities of these countries without relinquishing their right to their Palestinian identity or their right to repatriation and compensation. What is your perception of a final solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees and displaced people in Jordan and the Arab region?
King Hussein: Then an two parts to the answer. The first deals with the displaced people. There is an arrangement for a mechanism to deal with this issue through a Palestinian-Jordanian-Egyptian-Israeli committee. Then there is the broader issue of refugees. The solution is linked to international legitimacy and to the right to compensation and repatriation. Moreover, the solution to this issue is linked to a decision by the United Nations. Until something crystallizes, we, in Jordan, regardless of our origin, are, frankly, one family and will remain as such. We will maintain national unity. Everyone enjoys the same right and is performing the same duties. However, if anyone chooses a different situation at any stage, then he is welcome to do so.
Al-Khazin: Do you feel that Jordan has overcome the crisis in its relations with the Gulf states due to its position during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? Where do these relations stand nowadays?
King Hussein: Praise be to God, the relations are much better than they were before and they are moving in the right direction. We hope that they will regain their warmth and will be restored to their previous level.
Al-Khazin: Does Jordan feel more secure after signing the peace treaty with Israel or are there still threats that justify Jordan's efforts to modernize and develop its Armed Forces?
King Hussein: Jordan needs to modernize and develop its Armed Forces so that it can protect itself, its democracy, and its regime. It also needs to do so so it can perform its duty in this region if it is needed on the regional level as well as its duty as the fifth country in the world in terms of the size of its participation in UN peacekeeping missions and as the second country in terms of the size of its contingent serving in former Yugoslavia with the UN peacekeeping forces. Jordan is continuously being asked to take part in similar operations in the future. This is attributed to the fact that the Jordanian soldier is a professional soldier who is performing his duty and is gaining a great deal of good reputation for us and for the Arabs as a whole.
Al-Khazin: You talked about your Armed Forces future regional tasks outside the kingdom's border. How would you describe those tasks and their nature against the backdrop of the trend toward a comprehensive peaceful solution in the region?
King Hussein: Jordan has for years played a major role in training a large number of cadres for sisterly Arab armies. It had the honor of fulfilling its duty toward its brethren when it was asked during the first Kuwaiti crisis [in the 1960s] and in sisterly Oman. Therefore, there is a role. We are still speaking of one nation. We cannot forget this at all. But the important thing is that Jordan will not be a force that will threaten anybody. The basic thing is that Jordan has the right to exercise its right to self-defense.
Al-Khazin: Is Jordan still calling for the formation of an Arab deterrent force from Arab League member states? What are the most important threats to the Arab region?
King Hussein: Threats are numerous. But as for the call you have mentioned, we froze it a long time ago. We proposed an Arab legion. I do not believe our proposal was inappropriate. One day we might adopt the idea again.
Al-Khazin: Do you believe that Iraq should participate in the peace settlement to ensure its comprehensiveness? To what extent is Jordan prepared to play a role in this regard?
King Hussein: Iraq must be part of this region and part of its Arab nation. My concern and pain is for the Iraqi people and their suffering. Nothing more, nothing less. But sooner or later, Iraq must once again become part of this region. The suffering of the Iraqi people--I repeat, the Iraqi people--must end.
Al-Khazin: The Arab leaders whom I interviewed in the past four months--Your Majesty, King Hassan, President Mubarak, and Gulf leaders--speak of the need to end the suffering of the Iraqi people. But what is practically taking place to end their suffering? Are there contacts with the United Nations or contacts to convince the Americans to ease their objection, for example?
King Hussein: What I say to you and say to all officials in this world is that this situation must not last.
Al-Khazin: Do you expect the sanctions to be lifted this year?
King Hussein: I have no idea. Hopefully, there will be a thaw. That would at least have positive implications for the Iraqi people.
Al-Khazin: Do you believe that the peace process is irreversible?
King Hussein: We hope so.
Al-Khazin: Will Jordan be committed to the peace treaty with Israel and all its articles regardless of the extent of the Israeli commitment?
King Hussein: I believe that the entire orientation is for peace, regardless of the brethrens views toward the timing, formula, or method. Hopefully, everyone is serious in this regard.
Al-Khazin: What is your stand on the policy of dual containment of Iraq and Iran?
King Hussein: We have nothing to do with it.
Al-Khazin: Do you feel that it may lead to the opposite results from those expected from it?
King Hussein: This is possible. Practically speaking, this is a strange theory.
Al-Khazin: Some believe that restoring Jordanian-Syrian relations to normal requires Jordan to freeze its treaty with Israel.
King Hussein: Let us view the matter from a different angle. Had they [the Syrians] moved first, no one would have listened to us had we objected, no matter what we say or do. No, we are not willing to delay the implementation of the treaty. We will implement what we committed ourselves to. There is no doubt about the inevitability of the continuation of the peace process on the other tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli track.
Al-Khazin: Your Majesty, you phoned President al-Asad some time ago to console him on the first anniversary of the death of his son, Basil. Did you talk about bilateral relations?
King Hussein: Not at all. It was a fraternal conversation on an emotional occasion for him and for myself. I was affected by the emotion of my brother and his family. It was as if it was a personal loss for me.
Al-Khazin: The Syrian view is that the Jordanian-Israeli treaty has weakened the Syrian negotiating position with Israel. What is Your Majestys opinion?
King Hussein: Once again I say that Jordan is not a card in anybodys hand. It never was and never will be. Regarding the peace process, Jordan moved along this path, preceded by others. We and our brothers began from the same point and we hope this march will continue. It is unacceptable that anyone forces us to adjust our policies and situation in this country in accordance with what suits him. Such was the case with Israel when it insisted that we sign a peace treaty before completing the negotiations and we rejected that. This is our position vis-a-vis any side that thinks of Jordan as a follower and not a sisterly state. We should act on the basis of balanced relations when we talk about the Arab world and Arab relations so that we can achieve our goals.
Al-Khazin: The Jordanian-Israeli treaty has not then weakened the Syrian position?
King Hussein: I do not see why the peace treaty with Israel should weaken the Syrian negotiating position. On the contrary, it could be a precedent for moving in the right direction.
Al-Khazin: There are Arab differences over the Iranian role in the region. What is the common Arab position regarding Iran?
King Hussein: Regrettably, such a mechanism does not exist. For example, all the Arabs have played a role in paralyzing the Arab League and hindering its ability to perform its duties. They have also weakened the Arab summit institution, which we hope will be reactivated. Our relations with Iran are good and based on respect. We have no problem. We were careful that relations are developed on the basis of understanding on the highest levels that would define the red and green lines. Relations are normal at this stage.
There are many problems in this region that need to be tackled. If we the Arabs have better relations, especially at the highest levels of responsibility, I believe the situation will be much better.
Al-Khazin: Israel fears that Jordanian rapprochement with some Arab states will be at the expense of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. What is your opinion?
King Hussein: No. Jordan is part of this nation. It was with it in all its battles. Jordan made sacrifices for the Arab nation and will continue to do so. It is strange that some have the impression that the peace process means that Jordan has separated from the nation.