Jordan Places Hopes on Obama’s Mideast Peace Plan

The optimists among observers and analysts covering the Middle East crisis is that the 61-year-old conflict between Arabs and Israelis is slowly coming to a close, the key word here being slowly.

By Claude Salhani

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Published: Fri 7 Aug 2009, 11:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:45 AM

In fact, very, very slowly.During the past six decades and counting, more than 20 peace initiatives have been launched, pieces of which have been accepted,other bits rejected, and overall none have managed to completely resolve the dispute.

And while some progress has been made — two of the five frontline states, Egypt and Jordan, have signed peace treaties with Israel — the conflict has gotten more complex, more complicated and more convoluted with time.Not to mention more dangerous as well as more violent.As we have pointed out before these columns, what began as a dispute over real estate has turned into a religious war.

Still, the optimists believe that peace is just around the corner. Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, is one of those optimists.

“The majority of the people of Israel want peace,” said the Jordanian minister.And at the same time, he said that the majority of Arab youth was tired with the state of war, or the state of no war or no peace.

While overall, the Jordanian minister is correct in his assessment of people being tired by war, some however, would disagree with that statement.

On the Arab side some argue that the continued building of settlements by Israel in the West Bank hampers the peace process. If Israel is truly serious about peace, they say, then why are they dragging their heels and obstructing the peace process by building more settlements.

Israel, of course, argues back that those are not new settlements, but ‘natural growth settlements.’

On the Israeli side are those who question if the Arabs, particularly groups like Hamas will ever be capable of making peace with the Jewish state? Many in Israel are convinced that would never be possible. And without Hamas on the peace bandwagon, cessation of hostilities in the region would never be possible.

This is where Egypt’s role comes in, said the Jordanian minister.As proof that the Arabs are serious about peace — even the Syrians, said the Jordanian minister - is that in spite of all that has been going on, all the ups and downs of the peace process, the Arab peace initiative first introduced at the Beirut Arab League summit in 2002 remains on the table.

“At the beginning,” said the Jordanian minister, “the Israelis didn’t even acknowledge the existence of this proposal, but things are beginning to change.”

Speaking to a group of journalists in Washington on Tuesday, the Jordanian foreign minister said his country is looking to President Obama’s “committed vision” of peace-building in the Middle East to produce a plan that will bring the parties in the conflict together to address all the issues and help get them across the finish line.

“This time the world cannot afford to have another failed process,” said Nasser Judeh. “We need to see an end to the Arab-Israeli dispute,” Judeh said.

“The United States has an ‘essential and crucial’ role to play in bringing peace to the Middle East,” Judeh said, adding that Jordan fully supports the peace initiative undertaken in the Middle East by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US special envoy Senator George Mitchell.

“We take serious heart in the fact that the president and the administration engaged in this from day one. During his first hour in the Oval Office he made calls to leaders in the region. It is clear that the president attaches a lot of importance in achieving peace in the Middle East,” said the Jordanian minister, adding that Jordan was heartened by the fact that Obama tied the Middle East peace process to US national interests.

“We have seen so many failed attempts and false starts and getting to the finish line without being able to cross it over many decade of hostilities and war and destruction and lost hopes and shattered aspirations,” said the Jordanian minister.

“The US has to use its leverage and credibility,” to solve the difficult issues, said the foreign minister.

On the thorny issue of continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank - be they “natural expansion” or not, that remain illegal under international law.

Judeh said, “The Arabs of course will find it very difficult to resume negotiations if settlement actively in such intensity is continued, if unilateral action is continued in Jerusalem. Jerusalem,” he added, “is a very, very sensi-tive issue.”

However, said Judeh, the Arabs should not lose faith in the momentum. The Jordanian official said he hoped that Mitchell¹s plan, “which he holds very close to his chest,” will be laid out soon.

In the end, said the Jordanian minister, “the peace plan that will work is not going to please everybody.” The peace treaty that will finally work will be displeasing to all parties.

Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times and a political analystin Washington.

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