The Palestinian State: Parsing King Abdullah

Last week I suggested the reason Palestine had not yet declared statehood might be the lack of a viable security plan, rather than ineffectual leadership. What does have to be in place before Palestine can declare statehood?

No one in the world is more motivated to achieve peace in Palestine than Jordan’s King Abdullah. What does the King say?

Last week in Canada, King Abdullah made the following statement:

What happens on the ground in the next days and weeks is obviously critical, but the parties do not act in isolation. The international community can and must help shape the strategic direction of events. It begins by keeping the focus on the central objective. And that is a final settlement, which can stop an expansion of violence and clear the way to thriving, stable, civic life.

Days and weeks. This is a change from his remarks to the BBC at the side of the G-11 summit in May:

There is a historic opportunity to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement, and achieve it now, this year, before any more generations suffer, before any more destruction takes place.

Clearly the King is not speaking hypothetically. This is not a leader given to hyperbole or saber-rattling. Jordan’s King is pragmatic, practical. He chooses words carefully. In May he expected a settlement within the year. Now he is talking in terms of days and weeks. In all of my lifetime there has been war in Palestine. I cannot remember anything else; I cannot imagine anything else. But this King, who is both well-educated and savvy to the Arab street, thinks a peace is possible, workable, doable, now, this year, if not sooner.

And why not?

But what about the question of security? Don’t Israeli troops have to withdraw before Palestine can declare Statehood? The obvious from U.S. history is “of course not.” America declared independence long before the last British soldier departed.

But what does Our King say? Ah, he chooses his words so carefully…

There must be a timetable that plans for, and sees to the finish line, the establishment of a Palestinian state. And it must expedite Israel’s implementation of required action, including a withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and an end to occupation.

Is he saying Israel needs to be out of Palestine in order to have peace? No, wait, read it again. It says the establishment of the Palestinian State must “expedite” not “precede” an end to occupation.

And look again at King Abdulla’s remarks to the BBC during the G-11 summit:

If we don’t have a Palestinian state, can we ever have peace between the Arabs and the Israelis?

and the last part of the first statement above:

And that is a final settlement, which can stop an expansion of violence and clear the way to thriving, stable, civic life.

The previous Roadmap called for decreasing violence as a prerequisite for a Palestinian state. The results were not pretty, with each side blaming the other for the latest round of attacks and counterattacks that continually set back the timetable for statehood. Now King Abdullah is saying the opposite: a Palestinian State must come before peace.

What else did the King say in Canada? His vision for the Middle East, which is economic rather than ideological, was vintage Abdullah:

Achieving peace is only the beginning. Peace can only be sustained if the people of our region have the opportunity to lead a productive and satisfying life. For that to be possible, the economies of our region must maximise their potential. There are opportunities for investment in infrastructure, for participation in a growing private sector and for developing markets.

What did the King NOT say? That was said by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government was the first to cut off assistance to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas won a majority in the legislature eighteen months ago.

But at the same time though, if I can be frank, I think Canada and others need to do two things vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority: One is obviously to indicate our support for a moderate government and negotiated solutions, but the other is to impress upon those authorities the necessity for reform and better governance. It is our view that the Palestinian people did not vote for extremism. They voted against problems in governance and those have to be addressed.


Related posts:

Palestine Independence: Who would provide security?

Remarks by King Abdullah 5-21-07 to Nik Gowing, BBC World, at the side of G11 Economic Forum

The elephant in the room: Is this why Palestine leadership won’t declare independence?

Hamas: forget “Palestine First”


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