This interview was conducted in Amman by Euronews correspondent Giacomo Mazzone for the "Prisma" television show. In the interview, His Majesty looks back on Jordans road to peace with Israel and ahead to the type of Middle East envisaged in the future. He calls for a dialogue between Iraq and the United States as the means to work towards lifting UN sanctions against Iraq. His Majesty comments on the need for more democracy, pluralism and human rights in the Arab world. Asked of his concerns about "fundamentalism" in Jordan, King Hussein points out that this phenomenon is not confined to the Muslim world, and that it is a political phenomenon and not a true manifestation of religious faith.
Interviewer: Giacomo Mazzone
July 1, 1995
Mazzone: Welcome to this episode of "Prisma." This week we have with us the pleasure of having as a host King Hussein of Jordan. Our program will be about the Middle East problems and the Jordan situation today. Good morning.
King Hussein: Good morning to you, sir; thank you so much.
Mazzone: Thanks to you. The view is that all the world is looking to the Middle East carefully in these days again because a lot of events are expected or are on the way to arrive. When you started among the others this peace process three years ago, you expected this would come so slowly and with so much troubles?
King Hussein: I don't know that it has come so slowly. As far as we are concerned here, I believe that looking back at a year since the Washington Declaration, we have covered a tremendous distance in terms of the fact that we have an international boundary with the State of Israel for the first time, and we are looking after it, both Jordanians and Israelis, without the presence of UN observers or peacekeeping forces. It has recovered to Jordan its lands that were under occupation. We have also worked out our rights in terms of water in the contexts of Jordan and Israel, and much has been done in that direction. And many of the barriers have disappeared and people move between the two countries. And I believe that in time what will be achieved is a peace between people. We have a peace treaty but now we are in the process of peace building.
So, sometimes I feel that maybe it is a fact that we are moving too slowly in terms of all the years that we have lost in the past to give our people the opportunity and the chance to live the kind of life that we never had. But at the same time, I believe that we have covered enough ground to be proud of so far.
Of course on the Palestinian-Israeli track, we are fully supportive of the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the people of Palestine and its leadership, and we certainly will do whatever we can through the opportunities presented now through peace between Jordan and Israel to help all concerned move toward the establishment of peace. We hope that the Syrian track and thereafter the Lebanese track which is connected to it will also move soon and that what we have achieved will be a cornerstone in a comprehensive peace in this region.
Mazzone: There was a withdrawal, from the occupied territories, of Israel that was scheduled in these days and that will not happen and will be delayed. Which are, in your opinion, the main obstacles, internal political reasons for Israel or real problems?
King Hussein: I hope that this will be only a very temporary hiccup in terms of the process and I hope that negotiations will continue directly between the two parties concerned with the support of all of us to ensure that Palestinians recover their rights on their legitimate soil. I believe the subject is redeployment, initially is one of the steps that eventually lead to the recovery of Palestinian rights on all of the soil which is subject of question, and I hope that something will happen rather soon. I think that probably there has been some adverse effect of the result of acts by those who are opposed to peace on both sides. The Hebron massacre, the other terrible incidents that occurred, have, unfortunately, adversely affected public opinion in both areas. But on the other hand I feel very strongly that in fact, what should happen is that all should ensure that the peace camp, which is the overwhelming majority of people, has the final say and continues with serious dedication to resolve all problems and give people hope and confidence in a future, which is their right.
Mazzone: Somebody has the opinion that this is a race against the time, against the watch, because the Israeli Government has not in front of them a lot of time because the next elections are not so far. Do you think that if the peace process will not arrive to a solid basis, this could be under discussion with the next Israeli Government?
King Hussein: I certainly wish and pray for rapid progress because unless that is achieved, those who believe in peace, those who belong to the peace camp, will have their spirits dampened by lack of progress. And the dangers are tremendous, in addition to the fact that in the area there will be Israeli elections and there will be simultaneously American elections coming up. So there may be other factors that could slow or make it impossible to make progress. That's where, I believe, that we have a window of opportunity which is not limitless and I really hope that we'll see some progress before then.
Mazzone: One of the edge of this window is the start or the beginning with the negotiations on the future of Jerusalem. That seems quite a hard task for everybody. What is your view of the future of this holy town, holy for many religions and a lot of people all around the world?
King Hussein: My view for Jerusalem is that Arab Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and is therefore a part of the occupied territories. But if we are talking about peace in this region, I have very, very strong feelings that it is time that we approach this subject on two levels. One, Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, and the other, the dimension which is the spiritual one, as regards the children of Abraham and their descendants, as regards the followers of the three great monotheistic religions. And Jerusalem, in terms of the old city, the holy city, thus, in my view, should be under the domain of not any particular side. It should belong to all believers in God and should be above the sovereignty of any nation, and beyond that, western Jerusalem has been the de facto capital of Israel. Eastern Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian people, in terms of the future. If that ever happens, we shall see the beginnings of the coming together of the followers of the three great monotheistic religions and we shall see also Jerusalem become a symbol of peace between not only Palestinians and Israelis but Arabs and Israelis as well. This is something I've tried to put across as much as I could and this is my belief in the best way to resolve it. But in any event I would not like to step on anyone's toes or to speak of something which is outside my jurisdiction at this stage. There is an agreement between Israel and the PLO and the Palestinian people and their leadership to discuss Jerusalem last. And I will do whatever I can to help in that process at the right time.
Mazzone: So in your view in the future it could be possible to have two capitals in the same town without creating a new Berlin?
King Hussein: Indeed. I feel that it could be a point that attracts all the followers of the three great religions in terms of the old city itself.
Mazzone: Apart from Jerusalem, another difficult point where in this peace process, the relation with Syria. That, according to some opinions, this could be one of the point on which there will be some news soon.
King Hussein: I hope so.
Mazzone: Probably you have better sources than me.
King Hussein: I would like to have any particular sources that are more than you would have access to, but we are certainly hopeful that the new dialogue will lead to a progress in the resolution of that dimension of their problem as well. And I hope very, very much indeed that the more direct contact between the two parties occurs with the help of the rest of the world, the greater the opportunities will be to remove the barriers of fear and suspicion, and maybe eventually to arrive at a solution. But essentially, any problem between two parties has to be resolved between them although the world has a great interest, and the United States in particular, and I hope they will continue to help towards that end.
Mazzone: And you think that the difficulties that remain are on the military side or as you said a question of feeling of reciprocity trust?
King Hussein: I don't think that there are problems that are insurmountable if there is vision and there is the commitment to act in the interest of our peoples and generations to come. I hope that difficulties will be overcome.
Mazzone: And what kind of political entity do you see in your future as a neighbor of Jordan in Palestine?
King Hussein: That is something that is up to our brethren in Palestine to decide. I believe that nothing can be preplanned. There is no point in discussing any formula. When people are under conditions of freedom they enjoy democracy, pluralism, respect of human rights, they are masters in their own home, then is a chance for them to decide what kind of a relationship they should have with those who are closest to them in this region.
Mazzone: Are you willing to give them a wish? Not only for them because . . .
King Hussein (interrupting): I think that relations will always be very, very strong and always be very, very special. But anyone who suggests that there should be a certain plan or certain formula at this stage would be probably causing more harm and damage to these relations between these two peoples who are so close together, and who are almost members of the same family than anything else. Palestinians want to have their say regarding their future on their own land, and we respect that and support it. And therefore, there is nothing we say can except to help them as much as we can with no other ulterior motive whatsoever.
Mazzone: But there was a moment in which seems that a confederation among Jordan and Palestine could be forecast.
King Hussein: That was a Palestinian suggestion, and as far as we are concerned, we will not look at anything until such time as people are people to express themselves freely, and to determine exactly how the relation should be.
Mazzone: And you think that this time is still far off because . . .
King Hussein (interrupting): I hope, in terms of the solution to the problem, I hope that we are close to it. And I hope that Palestinians will recover their rights. Here in Jordan we are all members of one family, but the question is Palestinian rights on Palestinian soil, and under their leadership, I hope they'll succeed in achieving that.
Mazzone: So when the election will arrive finally in Palestine, you think that will be the right moment to discuss all these topics with the new government?
King Hussein: I believe that when the right moment comes, we will have already worked togetherwhich we are doing now to the best of our abilityand then it will have to be worked out exactly what kind of a relationship it would be.
Mazzone: Somebody is afraid about this election, because in this area democratic elections for some countries of the region that are not used to having democratic elections could see it as a threat.
King Hussein: Well, I certainly do not view it as a threat. I view the absence of democracy as a threat. I believe people cannot stop the clock nor turn it back, and as long as people do not feel that they are important, do not feel that they have rights in shaping their future, then there is more of a threat. And I hope that what we are doing in Jordan, as a result, will be a positive example to many others in our region. And it is only through the creation of institutions representing people and their hopes and aspirations that one can really guarantee stability and moving away from the tragedies of the past to creating greater complementarity, cooperation in the region and for the people of the region in a future that would be their right and would be worthy of them.
Mazzone: Democracy means also that as happened recently in Algeria that fundamentalists could overcome in a moment or in another. The Algerian Government reacted very badly to this and Westerners were frightened about this. What would be your reaction?
King Hussein: I believe, sir, that what you see and what we see at times which causes us great pain, is a reflection of a situation of despair of people. It has an effect definitely in terms of the economic dimension, whenever that is not addressed in terms of the needs of people, in terms of the quality of life of people. But there is much that is done under the cover of the so-called fundamentalism which has nothing to do with our religion or our faith or our beliefs. And I feel more and more compelled to do whatever I can to defend Islam and its true face and its true image and true message than had ever been the case in the past in terms of so much abuse that has occurred of late. And I believe what we are seeing is politicized religion, not true religion, not true faith in many cases. But in any event, I really hope that the answer would be in greater democracy, in greater freedom, in greater respect for human rights, so that people can weigh in, and I believe that the overwhelming majority of people will create the answer in the face of extremism everywhere. And incidentally, fundamentalism, as it is called, is not confined to the Muslim world. It is something that we are seeing in different parts of the world at this stage. Let's hope that a dialogue between the followers of the three great monotheistic religions and the resolution of their differences, which should not be there in the first place, would help towards putting an end to this extremism that we suffer from.
Mazzone: It exists the fundamentalist problem in Jordan?
King Hussein: Not to any troubling point. Here, it is out in the open, we have a dialogue, and I believe that the overwhelming majority of people are the guarantee against any extremism in the present or the future.
Mazzone: You stressed the importance of the economic development in the area. When you started the peace process, you asked for help to everybody, to the more rich countries of the globe. You have seen some concrete results of this call?
King Hussein: We have seen some concrete results. We are promised more in the future. But we are also preparing for a major summit conference, an economic conference here in Jordan towards the end of the year, where I hope we will present before the world and those who wish to join us, the possibilities and the potential of being partners in building the future of this entire region in the context of peace. And I hope that in any event within the next two, three, four, five years at the most, this country would have made such strides and a change in the quality of life of its people, as to really answer all those skeptics once and for all as to the merits of peace and security for all the people or a continuation of the delving into the darkness that threatens everybody in this entire region which was what was happening over so many years. Peace obviously has to bring about with it a change in the quality of life of people, and I hope that this will be possible.
Mazzone: My last question. Euronews has the majority of its viewers in Europe, and Europe has made some promises to you to the people that live in this area. What do you expect from Europe and what do you think that Europe could concretely do in the future?
King Hussein: We hope and expect our many friends in Europe to be our partners. We are close to them and they are close to us and our future is interlinked in a very major way and we are proud of the relations that exist between us and our many European friends, and we would like to see them develop and grow, and beyond that in terms of stability in this region, I believe it is important to Europe as it is to us and progress as it will enable us to complement each other in every way. So, we really hope and count on our European friends to help in the times ahead. And we see our future as being one which brings us close partners and friends.
Mazzone: United Arabic states?
King Hussein: United Arabic states, Arab states, when that is possible, it will happen.
Mazzone: You think that the European model could be once applied to this area? The European Union model, I mean?
King Hussein: I have always believed in that and preached that over the many years that have passed that the example that Europe presents could be an example that should be followed in this part of the world. After all, we have far less reasons to be divided than what had been the case in Europe, and to live Europe's experience to see their achievements in terms of our friends there, to see the European parliament, to see the changes and the impact on the worldthis is something that definitely calls for us to hope that this will happen in our part of the world as well, and unity, when it comes here, should come as a result of the creation of institutions that guarantee continuity, cohesion, and complementarity and this will have to be a unity of equals as well. And I really hope that we are nor too far from seeing that.
Mazzone: What do you think that Europe could do for the Palestinians? In general for the area but for the Palestinians probably there is a special effort to do.
King Hussein: They need a lot of help and a lot of support. They have suffered, they have many needs and again the situation is teetering between the majority who are moving for peace and have taken great risks for it, and worthy ones, in my view, and those who are opposed to it. So something has to happen to change the quality of life of people, and every support should be given to ensure progress for the complete resolution of the problems and the beginning of a comprehensive era of peace in this region.
Mazzone: There is another people in this areathey are many but let us say another nation in dire straits in this moment is Iraq because of the sanctions of the United Nations. What you think could be the right way to sort out this situation?
King Hussein: I believe Iraq is very, very important. It is an important country, it has a great history, it has a great people, it has a great position within the context of this region and this area, and I really hope the suffering of the Iraqi people will come to an end before long. Iraq must be a vital part of this region, and hopefully of the peace process within this region and I think enough is enough. People have to be given their chance to live as human beings, and not to continue to suffer in the way they have over so many years.
Mazzone: But the general opinion is that the Americans would continue to keep the pressure on the country if this country will not change its leadership. Do you have this feeling?
King Hussein: That is a very interesting situation then because . . . (pauses) I mean you have one of two alternativesand I have said that to many peopleeither the world adopts a very new policy and philosophy and comes out straight to say that as long as a certain regime or a certain leadership is in a certain country, as long as that continues, then they will be faced with what Iraq has been faced withwhich is a very dangerous precedent and I do not think that people will readily accept that. Or you have to begin to have a dialogue to get out of this situation and deal with it; and I do not look very happily at the UN playing the role of a quarter that gives anesthetic every now and then and talk to people that is false. I think that enough is enough and the people of Iraq cannot continue to suffer the way they have.
Mazzone: The image of the Arabs around the world.
King Hussein: Of the Arabs?
Mazzone: Of the Arabs and the Arabic countries, probably is not correct. What you think that has to be done to improve it?
King Hussein: I think a lot depends on us in the Arab world to try to improve our image. I think that we have done ourselves a great deal of damage over the years, the way we have portrayed ourselves. And I really hope that this will be addressed by us within the Arab world. I think that many of the Arab people feel angry about that and I do not think it is right to blame others but to blame ourselves and I really hope that the Arab nation will regain the position it once held in this world of respect by its own deeds, its own actions, and its openness to the world, and hopefully, its movement toward unity and cohesion and complementarity.
Mazzone: Thank you very much for this conversation and we all hope that the future of this region will be a lot better than has been in the past. Thank you for listening, for watching this "Prisma" program and we shall see after the summertime because "Prisma" will take a vacation, a rest. Thank you for watching Euronews.