His Majesty delivered this speech to assembled members of the three branches of government as part of his ongoing efforts to promote dialogue between the government and opposition. Two days prior to the speech, he met with members of the opposition at the Union of Professional Associations.
In his address of May 20, King Hussein outlines shortcomings as well as achievements of the three authorities of the state, and urges a new era of cooperation and understanding between government and opposition. His Majesty also urges more coordination between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
Commenting on the deadlocked peace process, the King says that peace will ultimately prevail, despite the current Israeli governments disregard for the Palestinians and arrogance toward the United States. Likewise, King Hussein says that while in the past, Arabs provoked the world with irresponsible talk, now the opposite is true and Israel is turning the world against it. His Majesty again calls for direct dialogue between Iraq and the United States, and urges Palestinians to stay united behind their leader, Yasser Arafat.
Address to Members of the
Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches
May 20, 1998
(Translated from the original Arabic)
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.
This is a blessed evening in which you meet in this house, the house of the Jordanians and the house of the Arabs. I hope that there will be good results for achieving further understanding of our state of affairs and of the challenges and the perils we face and the attempts to achieve the needed cooperation among the various chains of the state and the society.
We have a legislative branch that makes plans, and I very much hope that cooperation between the legislative and executive branches takes another form in the future to have dialogue and discussion take place on every draft bill. We also must seek the assistance of the judiciary in this. Draft bills should not be submitted to the House of Deputies unless they are carefully studied, are convincing, and fulfill all the conditions.
This is because we have a host of issues that need to be tackled. We have hundreds of issues whose laws should be reviewed or that need new laws. I believe the current process is a slow one that will not meet our needs if we pursue the course that we are following now.
At the same time, this country should be a state of law. We must take care of the judiciary. I am honored to sponsor the three branches of power. We must offer our judges and our judiciary all the support so that no one will be above the law and so we become an example and a model for others in this world. There has been much negligence in this field for a long time, whether in the field of preparing the young men, sending them on scholarships, or sending them out to the world to become acquainted with all that is new, or even in training them to assume their responsibilities and perform their duties in the first place. God willing, we will be on the threshold of a new, good, and constructive beginning. Then, every citizen and individual will enjoy security, stability, and tranquillity.
With respect to the executive branch, there was my last meeting with my brothers in the Professional Associations Complex. I read in one of the papers that after inviting me, they began their preparations to welcome me. I told myself that there is no need for preparations and let us go and participate with them in the preparations to save time. The meeting was a good and encouraging one. I can say that the overwhelming majority are enthusiastic and promising people. Our discussion was frank and clear. It became clear that there were old demands and proposals for specific laws that have been piling up and that have not been settled.
His excellency the prime minister, who is always honest with himself and with everyone of us, said that he was not acquainted with those proposals in the first place. This is another gap that must be tackled in the future. This will not take place only through correspondence, but also through follow-up, contacts, and search. Every issue will be addressed on time and as required. God willing, the result will be well and improved.
We reminded them that in terms of size, they represent about 80,000 of the country's intellectuals in various fields of knowledge. We also noticed that in most cases, there were low voting percentages in their elections. That may indicate some frustration about what they can offer in terms of serving and lifting the level of the profession in the true sense of the word. Or there might be some other reasons.
In this field in particular, we discussed the parliamentary elections, because some say that only a small percentage of eligible voters went to the polls. In my view, this will continue to be the state of affairs for some time to come. Since the revival of our parliamentary life, it was clear that just as with the trade unions, there were people with certain mentalities, ideas, and affiliations who could not distinguish between the work for which they were elected and entering politics or any other fields at the expense of what they can offer.
In our parliamentary life, I believe the problem is that we are still waiting for matters to develop toward the formation of parties. This may take twenty yearsI do not know exactly how long; however, it is a process of transition from a stage of electing an individual trusted by his fellow citizens, brothers, and kinsfolk, to a stage when this individual is part of a larger group. Consequently, voting will be for a group on the basis of the thought it offers and the policies it adopts. Frankly speaking, this cannot be achieved through twenty-three parties. We must therefore pass through the stages that will lead us to the desired ideal situation.
The security of the country is of extreme importance. Everybody's cooperation and alertness to the dangers facing the country under all circumstances are necessary and important. We are observing, following up, and encouraging the performance of the agencies responsible for security. At the same time, they must enjoy support, encouragement, appreciation, and respect to enable them to continue performing their tasks. I believe that we are in a stage when many things will be reconsidered. What are the true reasons of unemployment? Is unemployment caused by nothing but the presence of non-Jordanian workers? Must serious decisions be taken with regard to the education process to cover certain gaps?
We must pay more attention to these issues and give them their due consideration so as to serve the generations to come, especially in the areas of health and services in deprived regions. Thankfully, we have good infrastructure that is available everywhere, However, it seems to me that we are still in a position where each one of us needs to be a constant supervisor.
If I agree with my brothers on something and leave the issue while trusting that it will be carried out, then it is usually carried out; however, sometimes when one of usbe it I, my brother Hassan, or the prime minister, or anyonefollows up the issue, we find that it has been ignored or delayed. This raises the need for accountability, reprimand, and supervision so that we would be able to function effectively.
I now move on to our situation in this part of the Arab world. I believe that our country has been done a lot of injustice. The leadership of the Great Arab Revolt before itwith its men, and their aspirationswas also done injustice because they were let down. This lead to the nation being in its current state of disarray. No fair human can say that a single family or tribe experienced what the Hashemites went through or offered what they did throughout this long journey for the sake of Palestine, Arab unity, and a promising and prosperous future for the Arab nation.
Today is the age of satellites. Anyone who has the capabilities can fabricate any fictional story for any purpose. One such recent story says that the Jordanian Arab Army did not do anything in 1948, whereas the Jordanian Arab Army saved the West Bank and its jewel, Jerusalem. This story was made under the pretext that it did not resist the Israeli attack on the Egyptian army and did not rush to save the Egyptian army. Such talk is inaccurate and very shady. A 4000- to 5000-strong army that fought the battles of Bab al-Wad and Jerusalem and preserved the West Bank, could not have done more than it did then. This is one example. Another example is the battle of al-Karamah, which was not simply about a village, or a population gathering, or a camp. The battle stretched from the north and reached the northern part of the Dead Sea. The maps found with those killed showed that the aggression was targeting the hills of Salt and Amman. We do not deny that our Palestinian brothers fought back with all their strength when they were attacked in al-Karamah, but it was a battle that was stolen; meaning that the credit was given to one party, while another country and army were neglected.
I personally sent President Jamal Abdel Nasser a cable in which I said: "From this day forward you will hear of us, but you may not hear from us; we are in a battle and all our forces are taking part in it." At around 10:00 or 10:30, a cease-fire was requested and we refused until the very last Israeli soldier retreated to the other side of the river [Jordan]. Indeed, this took place at around 1900 or 1930 after they [the Israelis] encountered dire losses. Their attack indicated a great deal of arrogance and over self-reliance on their part. This is perhaps due to earlier developments, but that was the first Arab battle that yielded that kind of output.
Before the disaster of 1967, during my first meeting with President Abdel Nasser concerning the situation, our choices at the time were these: We either fightin other words we surrender the command of the Arab Legion to the unified commandor else let the domestic situation explode and then Israel would lay hands on the West Bank, which is what it wanted, and perhaps the East Bank as well. There were choices before the Gulf of Aqaba was closed and the Egyptian forces entered the Sinai. We could have called for an Arab summit or consulted with each other one way or another; but it was a trap and we fell in it.
Jamal Abdel Nasser (may God have mercy on his soul) was very distressed about it and he told me something that was rather harsh and perhaps I mentioned it a few days ago. He said before the Revolution Command Council, and I quote: My brother, because of us you lost the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza as well. Go kiss Lyndon Johnson's hand and beg him to return the West Bank and Jerusalem. I told him: I will beg to no one; I never have. With God's help we will work hard to regain our lands. He then promised this: Let them (the Israelis) stay in the Sinai an in the Suez Canal and let the canal remain closed. I will accept no changes in the status quo until we regain the occupied lands. We went into a war and we lost it; we have to pay the price. There is one condition, howevernone of us should sign a peace treaty with Israel alone, and any solution must be part of a comprehensive settlement.
This I say today for no other reason but to remind the rest of the veterans who are still talking about the Arab unity in terms of one person who can lead this nation to a bright future that none of us will be around forever, none us is immortal. Our evidence is that the pledge that Abdel Nasser made one day was revoked after he passed away. At any rate, we were not the first state to sign a peace treaty with Israel. This is part of our life, of our existence. Before 1973, this country faced an offensive by our brothers, which, I think, was unjust. This offensive aimed at stopping this country's armaments and its provisions despite its most serious position. It was a state of no war and no peace and we were expecting it to explode in one form or another at any moment; however, we were surprised by the (1973) attack. We did not know about it before it was launched. Perhaps from the military, theoretical, and realistic viewpoints, we would have had exploited our only opportunity to make a drastic change in the equation had there been the required coordination, trust, and cooperation, given the overconfidence of Israel at that time in terms of its strength and resources. Yet, we fought in Syria when our right flank was exposed, and within our limited resources and capabilities, until things came to a conclusion. The operation was later described as an activation operation. It led to the Egyptian-Israeli treaty.
Later, another problem arose when Iraq attacked Iran. It was logical to assume that Iraq would not be able to occupy or destroy Iran. We rushed to Iraq's side. We were again taken by surprise. We feared for Iraq and the Gulf. We moved to support Iraq within our resources and capabilities and tried to encourage others to stand by Iraq and support a sisterly country that stood by us in various circumstances and extended what it could to support us. The battle ended. Then we witnessed our brothers in the Gulf organizing themselves and we saw the Arab Maghreb (Union) phenomenon. We said now perhaps the rest of us can organize themselves in one form or another. This led to the creation of the Arab Cooperation Council.
In its second year, when I was the chairman and Mr. Mudar Badran was the country's prime minister, we were surprised by the attack on Kuwait. I tried to do the impossible by dealing with the situation within the Arab framework. I tried to leave no room for the outside world to intervene, impose its will, and rob us of our will and our ability to move. I failed. The entire world abandoned us.
Then political moves began on the Palestinian-Arab level perhaps to create something of an equilibrium. We began our moves along with the others. The Madrid conference was then held and we took with us the Palestinian delegation to speak of their cause as they wish for the first time. History will decide if I was right or wrong. I believe that this wronged country, which made great sacrifices, constituted at one time a sort of burden on its brothers. Some of them reached the conviction that Jordan's direct link with Palestine at that time could embarrass them and delay solutions for their problems within the available means. In 1974, therefore, we tried our best to convince our brothers. We told them: Brothers, the West Bank territory is an occupied Jordanian territory. Let us try to regain it. It is just like the Egyptian territory that belonged to Egypt, the occupied Syrian territory, or the Lebanese territory. We do not want this territory to be returned to us. Leave it under UN or any other supervision until the people decide what they want.
As for the Jordanian-Palestinian relations before 1967, it happened that I spoke with a number of my brothers in the West Bank, the late Musa Nasir being one of them. It was clear to me that there were growing Jordanian sentiments within the framework of the one family, as well as growing Palestinian sentiments within this family. So, how could we tackle this situation in a way to safeguard our unity, strength, and capabilities through which we could confront any challenge or danger? Developments were ahead of us, but nothing happened. In Rabat, our brothers made their decision and we accepted their decision after we had explained our views on all dangers. The PLO was elected as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Since then we have been committed to this stand, and we will never change this stand. We were pained not because we were affected by this, but because the PLO was given this responsibility while Palestine was still occupied. There could have been talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state before 1967; however, this is what happened.
From Madrid, we went to the United States and an agenda was set for all the issues that should be tackled, on the Jordanian-Israeli level this time. We stopped detailed talks on these issues until after the Palestinian track was reactivated. We were surprised by the well-known Oslo decisions. We then allowed our delegation to resume talks. Following strenuous talks and negotiations, we reached an agreement on restoring our land, right, and waters. This did not prevent us, nor will it ever prevent us, from supporting the Palestinian people. We are the closest brother to the Palestinian people. We will support them by all means.
Of course, we have a large number of people here, and maybe in this hall, who are against normalization and against the (Jordanian- Israeli) treaty. Let me give you this equation: I believe that any issue that enjoys the support of the majority and passes through its constitutional stages becomes binding. It should be safeguarded and not encroached upon in any way. This is because any attempt to encroach on it will allow others to encroach on other things. Regarding the normalization issue, everyone has the choice, either to normalize or not to normalize. It is not a very disturbing issue. During our meeting the other day, however, someone said normalization and subjection; we understand the meaning of normalization. If you do not want normalization, then it is up to you.
Subjecting others, however, is meaningless and unjustifiable. Regarding the way we look at the situation in Israel in particular, there is a long and thorough study on this. Despite Israel's strength and capabilities, there is a factor of fear and horror that was left by the past and the experiences through which they passed. So, if you cannot remove this you will not be able to get what you want or what you deserve. There is a wall between us. When we move this wall or bring it down, we find that we are all human beings with similar problems, hardships, and tribulations. There are narrow-minded people and extremists on the other side, just as we have narrow-minded people and extremists here. These do not want peace and fiercely oppose it. On the opposite side, the majority of the people have become fed up with wars, shedding of blood, losses, and with the day to day life without knowing what will be the future of one's son, daughter, and the future generations. Both sides have these people, which is why dialogue and discussion are needed, and being able to influence events could have major benefits under the suitable circumstances. No one can say that certain people enjoy specific traits. The same thing cannot apply to all the people. The people are not the same in terms of their ethics, morals, experience, lives, or anything else.
The second dimension is something about which we have been dreaming for a long time; how to improve our country if there is any possibility to do so, how to prepare our citizens, and how to provide them with the opportunities they never had. In my opinion, we should try to know everything about what surrounds us, and I still ask the question I asked the other day and that I have asked many times: Why does one donum of land across the river produce tenfold what is produced by one donum east of the river? If we have the opportunity, let us try to improve and to build. If we want to shoulder the big role we have to play, we will not be able to do so unless we can stand on our two feet, depend on ourselves and not need to turn to any party or to the state to assist us in one way or another.
The peace process is faltering. Rabin's departure has changed the equation. The democratic system brought in a new prime minister. We said let us give him a chance, and we still hope he may offer what he can offer on the road to peace. I notice that there is a lack of respect for the Palestinian side, however, a non-abidance by previous decisions and agreements. We have been focusing our attention on Resolutions 242 and 338, the Oslo agreements, the Hebron Protocol, and all the details in order to move to what has been planned to take place later. This is what we discussed with the United States, and, I believe, this is their stand on this issue.
We noticewhile others have the right to reply to itthat the Israeli prime minister is threatening to ignite a fire in Washington. The United States has offered so much military, financial, and material assistance. I believe the last time that the White House was set on fire was during the revolution by the British colonialist rule when British forces entered the White House and set it on fire at the time. I believe he (Netanyahu) said yesterday that if the European Group speaks of the Palestinian territories as being occupied territories then it will deprive itself of the chance to participate in the peace process.
The peace process will go on, and will fulfill its goals and objectives. It will be a just, comprehensive, honorable, and lasting peace. I believe that the image has changed. In the past, we were the ones who used to get away with talk that is not built on solid ground or reality, and provoked the entire world against us. It seems that the opposite is now true. May God help President Arafat: All we want is to support him and convince our Palestinian brothers to stand by him, because any splits or breaks will weaken the Palestinian peoplewith us behindand strike it with disaster.
We must not forget the people of the East Bank over here. They are our people, brothers and family, but anything that happens may have its implications on us. We have old fears that we must always keep in mind. A brother once asked me why our ties with Syria and Iraq are not good. Well, there is nothing to stop our ties with Syria from being good. Regarding our ties with Iraq, I have tried and am still trying and determined, in all the contacts I have heldwhether with the United States' leaders, Great Britain, Europeto stress that there is one unchangeable fact in the Iraqi stand and policy; namely, Iraq's desire to hold direct contacts with the United States. This has been true since 1990. Kofi Annan exerted a great effort and saved the situation, but Iraq, as a people, is suffering. An end must be found to such suffering. If the two sides talked in Geneva right before the battle, why can they not talk now? They can put down all the limitations and conditions they want and discuss everything they are afraid of or have doubts about regarding weapons of mass destruction, which, incidentally, frighten us all. India now has such weapons, and only God knows what is to follow. Small amounts of biological and chemical weapons in irresponsible hands may kill hundreds of thousands of people if they are tapped into water sources. Let them discuss these issues among themselves, because then there would be a commitment and criteria to ensure that each party is keeping up its own end of the bargain; yet, the siege must be lifted. Anyone who imagines that Iraq can be influenced, meaning that this pressure may lead to a new situation, would be speaking in empty and meaningless words. A people, who are able to live, eat, drink, and receive treatmentwhich is their rightare the ones who can then decide how to improve their living standards and affairs in a manner that would help them avoid any future disasters. We are still exerting pressure in this field, and we are doing our best.
We now come to the domestic arena. Sometimes demonstrations break out, and I understand the emotions involved. There is no one who gets more agitated than I do, especially after what we have been through and the setbacks we have suffered; however, we will not despair and will remain optimistic and determined. We are nothing. We will soon be gone, but there will be generations to follow. We have a duty toward them.
The expression of emotion must be in a civilized form, if I may say so. If we want to express support then we can do it through offering material help or taking a certain stand or by offering something that could benefit people. As for disruption and chaos those thankfully no longer prevail and are part of the pastthey are useless and irrelevant.
Moreover brothers, I have known you for a long time, and so has my brother Hassan. You know that we have no barriers between us, nor has this ever been the case. We are one family. The Arab individual is feeling frustrated, and usually feels that he is being denied his humanity or human rights. Each one of you should help us in doing just the opposite here and give everyone the chance to build the future and make decisions by raising awareness and holding dialogue, and satisfaction. Jordan will then be stronger than anyone can imagine. This is one of our objectives and aspirations.
I ask God to help us meet these objectives, and I wish you all cooperation for the good of the country. If any of you see anything wrong then let him point to it in the suitable manner, and if any of you has a question then let him ask. I hope there will be more meetings like this with the aim of serving the interests of the country.