Wednesday, September 30, 2015

King Abdullah II and his solution to the Mid-East Conundrum

The Mid-east is usually described in terms of turmoil.  We like to think that it is far away and doesn't affect us, but in a global world that is less true every day.  In every conflict there is by definition at least two viewpoints and in the Mid-East it should be acknowledged there are many more.  We mostly listen to very few perspectives and ignore and even dismiss most of the other views.

The Western powers have had a big stake in the oil kingdoms of the Middle East and going back further our religious ties have resulted in lots of violence.  The problems of Palestine have a long history, but really it has been brought to global attention with immigration of Jews back to the area starting in the early years of the twentieth century after suffering persecution mostly in Europe.

In the United States there are big concerns about immigration.  It seems to be most concerned about Latin Americans and Muslims.  Palestine faced a more overwhelming immigration with Jewish immigrants actually becoming the dominant demographic.  The British terminated their Mandate after a number of terrorist incidents (involving a future Israeli Prime Minister, Menachim Begin) deferring to the United Nations who advocated a two state solution.  There are many disputes over the exact details, but there can be no mistake there was an Israeli effort to expel Arabs and resistance from their part.

King Abdullah II recounts his family and Jordan's role in the unfolding conflicts.  His perspective might not exactly reconcile with other versions more commonly heard, but they have the ring of truth.  His mother was American and he was educated in England and America.  First king to have only one wife.  She is of Palestinian origin, but lived in Kuwait for much of her upbringing.

Palestinians as well as other refugees were accepted, but all too often Jordan had to deal with trouble makers.  The PLO under Yassar Arafat used to attack Israel from Jordan and after awhile tried to overtake the Jordan government.  Jordan provided asylum to Saddam Hussein's daughter.  They have since taken in a large number of Syrian refugees.

Ariel Sharon and Benjaimin Netanyahu were two Israeli rulers who gave lip service to the two state solution, but in the end found ways to sabotage the notion.  In fairness to them if a lot of Israeli voters did not share their feelings they would not have been in a position to block efforts.

Unlike in Britain the first newborn royal child is not automatically heir to the throne and in this case an uncle was named, but when the time came, Abdul had proved himself in the military (and a bit diplomatically) and was named Crown Prince.

9-11 changed everything.  The American priority was to punish the perpetrators and then extended a war into Iraq.  The Palestinians ended up being classified as terrorists in many American minds.

After the Iraq invasion of 2003 Jordan attempted to be neutral, but had talks with American politicians and military leaders.  King Abdullah tried to advise Paul Bremer against de-Baathification and dissolving the Iraqui army to no avail.

Trying to be a moderate does not protect from assassination attempts.  King Abdullah II has been fortunate to have an intelligence agency that has been able to warn him in advance.  Some of his relatives and colleagues have not been so fortunate.

The key plank of the book is the two state solution be implemented as soon as practical.  As King Abdullah II states, "Al Quaeda won't disappear the moment a Palestinian state comes into being.  But it will have a harder time finding new recruits and winning support for its criminal actions."  King Abdullah recognizes there would have to be all sorts of confidence building steps and reassurances, but the goal has to be to arrive at an independent Palestine.  Arabs at one time had offered more economical connections such as connecting railroads through Jordan and Syria which in turn would allow rail transport from Israel to Europe.   Better communications and accessibility would benefit all.

Aside from excessive violence against Palestinians the big obstacle is the continuous settlements in occupied territories.  On the Palestinian side there is not unity and of course there are many who would try to sabotage negotiations.  Israelis and their sympathizers have a very strong lobby.  In addition there are evangelicals in the States who strongly believe the Jews must control Jerusalem before the second Coming of Christ.  There is genuine fear amongst the Israelis and they are supported by many Jews who see Israel as a sanctuary.

My feeling is that if Israel is to survive as a Jewish state they will have to accommodate the Palestinians and to a lesser extent Arabs and Muslims in their neighbourhood.  They are justifiably afraid, but too many have a feeling of entitlement in that the occupied lands are theirs to fulfil Biblical dictates.

Note that this book was written in 2011 and I don't see much progress towards his objectives.  The settlements continue to expand.  Many of the key elements of obstruction remain in place.  It may already be too late, but if more people read this book they would understand the situation better and realize there is urgency.

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