The Quest for Peace

Missed Opportunities of the Past

He (King Abdullah) realized, with his penetrating foresight and political awareness, rare qualities in his time, that this region has no option but peace—that wisdom dictates upon us to address the causes of conflict with realism, and awareness of its scope and long-term consequences. Did the nation need half a century, and a number of catastrophic wars to realise what Abdullah Bin al-Hussein realised then?

Address to Mo’tah University
Karak, Jordan
May, 1996


My grandfather King Abdullah, and my great-uncle King Feisal of Syria and, later, Iraq, had hoped that the aspirations of the Arab inhabitants of the lands liberated during the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, and of the Jewish settlers in Palestine, might be compatible, provided certain conditions could be satisfied.

This was not to be. Rivalries and suspicions between the players in our region, and the catastrophic situation of the Jews of Europe, combined to end the dream of my forefathers. The unity of the Arab lands was frustrated, and the Jewish state of Israel was born in violence.

Address to the Parliamentary Assemby of the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, France
September 25, 1995


With regard to the past, let me only reap its lessons as we remember missed opportunities and superficial policies governed by emotions and lack of rationality. History objectively and sincerely written will have its say for future generations, and the Arabs and Palestinians will bear their share of responsibility together. For this moment, however, and indeed along the whole range of the struggle, no one, in our view, has the right to denigrate the sacrifices and suffering of the Palestinian and Arab nation or the sanctity of shed blood—Palestinian and Arab alike.

Address to the Nation
October 12, 1993


First, let me remind you of a fact I previously made reference to, namely that no observer closely scrutinizing the graph line of the Palestinian issue can fail to notice its steady decline. To be sure, what could have been achieved out of any peace opportunity has always proved to be less than that offered by the previous one. This, indeed, has been the trend since the thirties, despite the justice of the issue. If there is any significance to this it can only mean that our grasp, as Arabs and Palestinians, of the regional and international situation at every peace opportunity has always fallen short of what was required. Indeed, we have failed to deal with the events within the framework of what is possible and reasonable and have, consequently, lost one opportunity after another. This led to a situation whereby 65% of the West Bank territories have been confiscated by Israel, and where the plight of the Palestinian people today is one best described as dispersion and uncertainty in the diaspora and increased suffering and hardship in the occupied territories.

Address to the Jordanian National Congress
October 12, 1991


The new trust which has developed between Jordan and the PLO after the decisions of the Arab summit at Fez (Saudi Arabia), culminating in the February 1985 accord between the Government of Jordan and the PLO and subsequent understandings, has provided the Palestinians and Jordan, for the first time, with the means by which a peaceful alternative can be realized.

In effect, the Palestinians are turning from a past, despite the injustices, to a future which will protect their lives, restore their liberty and permit their pursuit of happiness—all of which your nation considers to be rights that are universal and inalienable.

These are the reasons why the new Palestinian position is such an historic breakthrough—and opportunity. If we fail to seize this opportunity, the alternative is fore-ordained: further shock, deeper resentment, greater frustration and sharper rejection—not only by the Palestinians, but the entire area. Failure is bound to encourage and strengthen extremism on both sides. That is why time is essential and success imperative.

Address to the American Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC
May 31, 1985


How long shall we heed those among us who say: “leave it for future generations”? Is this not a clear abdication of responsibility? Is each generation not responsible for the era in which it lives? What makes them believe that the circumstances of future generations will be more conducive to achieving what they are avoiding working on now? Can they stop time and progress for the enemy and keep them moving for themselves? What wisdom or morality is there in leaving future generations a heavy legacy which is apt to grow more onerous than to recede? And will the Palestinians, who are lost in a sea of suffering under occupation, accept this kind of argument when they know better than anybody else the import of granting the enemy even more time and of the resulting impact on their existence and future? The least that can be said about this argument is that it constitutes an escape from responsibility. The least that can be said about its advocates is that they are a breed which believes that the earth is coterminous with their own existence. This is not the way the world goes.

Address at the Opening of the 17th Session of the Palestine National Council
November 22, 1984


Repeated attempts have been made to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, but they have all failed because people of goodwill have lacked the decisiveness to undertake effective ation to preempt the work of those who do not want to see peace and justice prevail.

Address to the European Parliament
Strasbourg, France
December 15, 1983


The Arabs often overreacted to the injustices they so deeply felt. Their relative weakness and humiliations in the past, frequently prompted more rhetoric than reason. Contrary to Arab desires and interest, their overreaction at times detracted from efforts to resolve the problem, and unwittingly contributed to the stalemate the Arabs sought to end.

On the other hand, Israel’s convincing military victory in 1967, and subsequent military superiority, left her exultant and confident. More importantly, it left her with little motive or incentive to do anything but sit on the occupied land and reject any attempts to compromise her conquest. It was a program for motion without movement. This had the apparent appeal of a simple, riskless, short term policy. But nothing is that simple, and short term policies usually prove short sighted. We are approaching the 10th anniversary of Israeli occupation and stalemate. Time is expiring, and the risks are now enormous. The world urgently needs a long term Israeli policy for peace.

Address to the World Affairs Council
Los Angeles, USA
April 6, 1976


At the Rabat Conference, in November 1974, the sole responsibility for negotiating any settlement of the West Bank, or other Palestinian issues, was transferred from Jordan to the PLO. Prior to that, Jordan felt a special responsibility for the return of the West Bank to Arab hands, and was quite prepared to arrange for an Israeli withdrawal. Israel refused. So, that opportunity was lost.

Address to the World Affairs Council
Los Angeles, USA
April 6, 1976


Over the years there have been many attempts to find solutions to the problems of the Middle East. None so far has been successful. In such situations, there are three alternatives. The easiest and by far the most dangerous is the policy of procrastination of drifting from one danger to another. This eventually winds up in the second alternative, direct confrontation. We have experienced this many times. And we know that it solves nothing. The third alternative is the one that holds the best hope for eventual peace, negotiating under the auspices of an outside mediator. We have committed ourselves to outside mediation with the conviction that the world will realize that what it is seeking—peace in the Middle East—will finally be dependent on the restoration of the rights of the Palestinians and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from all Arab territory that they are currently occupying.

Address to the National Press Club
Washington, DC
December 10, 1970


My grandfather (King Abdullah) still hoped in his heart that some solution could be found whereby the Arab and Jewish struggle for independence would not end in disaster. He alone, of all the Arab statesmen of the thirties, realized that unless a solution was found, the situation would inevitably get worse for the Arabs. He realized that once partition became a fait accompli, the disaster would continue for a long time.

He therefore suggested to the British government the establishment of a state comprising both Transjordan and Palestine. The main points of his memorandum to the British were: (a) the Jews in such a union should be given local autonomy in certain areas; (b) they should have full administrative powers in these areas; (c) they should be represented in Parliament on a pro rata basis, and the state should have Jewish ministers; (d) Jewish immigration should be restricted to a reasonable number.

For this plan he was bitterly attacked by other Arab states, but as he wrote on June 5, 1938, in reply to one critic: “The number of Jews in 1921 did not exceed one hundred thousand. There are now nearly half a million. They own the most fertile lands and have infiltrated everywhere. Zionism is built on three pillars—the Balfour Declaration, the European nations trying to get rid of the Jews, and Arab extremists who will not accept any solution but only weep and wail while they appeal to those who will never help them.

“I am informed that the Jews have demanded the continuation of the British mandate so they can buy more lands and bring in more immigrants. Palestine is falling into the hands of other people. The only remedy is to act quickly, stop the danger, limit the attacks, and think later how we can remove these threats completely. Procrastination will kill Palestine.

“I believe complaints are of no avail. I believe that by uniting Palestine and Transjordan, I could put an end to the catastrophe. We would be able to run the administration capably; we would have an army to defend ourselves; we would close our doors to illegal immigration. I would like to know whether you have a more efficient solution than I have been able to foresee.”

Nobody had. But nobody would listen to the advice of the only man who did foresee the perils that lay ahead.

p. 119-20, Uneasy Lies the Head, 1962