Jordan’s Abdullah: Israel realizes need to revive Mideast peace talks immediately

In interview with Washington Post, Jordanian King says ‘cautiously optimistic’ about progress in recent low-level talks, adding Israel must choose between ‘apartheid’ and democracy.

By Barak RavidTags: Middle East peace talksBenjamin Netanyahu

The recent parliamentary vote in Egypt proved to Israel that it cannot afford to delay peace talks forever, Jordanian King Abdullah II told the Washington Post late Monday, adding that he was „cautiously optimistic” of the progress achieved in recent low-level talks.

Abdullah’s comments came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to negotiate with the Palestinians immediately and has given the Palestinians a position paper earlier this month containing 21 points on which there is domestic political consensus, as a prelude to potential talks.

„I’m ready to get into my car at any time and go to Ramallah, even if it’s more than a small headache for my security guards, but Abu Mazen isn’t ready,” said Netanyahu, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking with the Washington Post following his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, Abdullah spoke of „baby steps” taken toward a renewal of direct talks, adding that he was “cautious about saying that I’m cautiously optimistic.”

According to the Jordanian king, talks between Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and top Palestinian negotiator discussions have been “both good and tough,” and that there was a change sides would „start throwing initial passes at each other” to setup direct talks.

The Jordanian king added that both sides were interested in moving things ahead, citing Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections, in which Islamist parties won an overwhelming majority, as a measure against Israeli foot-dragging.

„The more the Israelis play with kicking this down the line, the more they are in danger of losing what they think is the ideal future Israel,” Abdullah told the Washington Post, adding that „waiting is the worst mistake the Israelis can make.”

„It wasn’t until the elections in Egypt that suddenly Israel awoke. . . . Now I think there has been a big shift in the way the Israelis look at the issue, and it is imperative for them . . . [to] get the Israeli-Palestinian issue off the menu,” Abdullah said.

The Jordanian king warned the two sides of the possible ramifications of missing the chance for peace, saying that if „we haven’t crossed that line, we’ll cross the line sooner or later where the two-state solution is no longer possible, at which point the only solution is the one-state solution.”

„And then, are we talking about apartheid or democracy?” Abdullah asked.

Finally, the Jordanian king said he was aware the time was not right for a significant American peace talks push, adding all sides can’t expect for the Americans to wade in, full-weight, unless we have enough of a package where the outcome is somewhat predictable.”

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the visiting Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas that the United Kingdom would do everything in its power to promote Jordanian-backed efforts to restart the peace process, for which he said time was running out.

„We think that time, in some ways, is running out for the two-state solution unless we can push forwards now because otherwise the facts on the ground will make it more and more difficult, which is why the settlement issue remains so important,” said Cameron.

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg condemned Israeli settlements Monday as „deliberate vandalism” of efforts to establish a Palestinian state, some of Britain’s strongest comments yet on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Israel criticized Clegg’s remarks as „gratuitous bashing.”