Jordan’s King Abdullah II best summed up the importance of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, which ended last Sunday evening, with a serious attempt to revive the peace process in the Middle East.
For the seventh time in ten years, the forum was held on the Jordanian bank of the Dead Sea. The forum this year was distinguished by its concern over the importance of finding job opportunities for Arab youth and by its attempt to exit the dead end regarding the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Jordan has a king whose words are not ordinary. He tries to explain the challenges confronting Jordan without resorting to any forms of tergiversation. He simply tries to tell his people about issues they may like and issues they may dislike, including his announcement that reforms are a whole package and that these economic and political reforms are a Jordanian necessity due to the pressures the kingdom is subjected to. The first of these pressures is the Syrian situation and the increased influx of Syrian refugees. The latter currently amounts to ten percent of the kingdom’s population. It is expected that this percentage will increase to reach 20 percent before the end of the current year. Can a country with a scarce amount of water and natural resources confront such pressures?
Internal and external pressure has not limited Jordan’s ability to take initiatives; hosting the world economic forum was an indication of this.
Jordan, more than any other country, realizes that there is a need for serious discussion that addresses every Arab states’ problems as well as the region’s problems, beginning with religious extremism, establishing educational programs, conducting political reforms and addressing unemployment, especially amongst the region’s youth.
Achieving positive change
Therefore, during his concluding statement at the forum, King Abdullah II found it a must to state that the “region is distinguished by an unprecedented ability to achieve a real positive change. Let us work together on the right path. We are witnessing new projects and a creative spirit in every country and every sector. Therefore, let us overcome whatever is left of challenges and provide opportunities and better living conditions that people everywhere deserve.” His statement is on people everywhere, on problems that link the world’s countries together, whether on the economic or the political level.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process
The forum also provided an opportunity to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For the first time in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, there were around 500 representatives from Israeli and Palestinian civil society, as well as prominent businessmen, making calls for peace on the basis of “the two-states solution.” It is certain that Jordan played a major role in supporting this initiative in which Mr. Moneeb al-Masri, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council and former Jordanian Cabinet Minister, supports the Palestinian side. Al-Masri delivered a moving speech that served as a testimony of tolerance made by a successful man from Nablus who believes in peace, who knew both the Nakba and the Naksa, and who was present during all peace efforts before and after the Oslo Agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not hesitate to support the Palestinian-Israeli initiative which Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Shimon Pereze also blessed.
When closely looking at Abbas’, Kerry’s and Peres’ statements, some aspects implying optimism emerge, especially the point that the American secretary of state is aware of the great capabilities of Palestine and has promised to provide four billion dollars to improve the situation in the West Bank. Kerry has not hesitated to note the political dimension’s importance in any solution, knowing that he did not clearly indicate the 1967 borders as a lynchpin of any peace negotiations that may lead to establishing an independent Palestinian state.
But Peres was extremely mysterious when he addressed the issue of establishing a Palestinian state as per the 1967 borders. There were only two useful statements in the Israeli president’s comment. He spoke positively of Abbas saying: “You are our partner, and we are your partners.” He at the same time commended the Arab initiative, approved during the Beirut summit in 2002 upon an initiative made by King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz. After around ten years, there is an Israeli recognition of the Arab peace initiative and its importance. Is this a sign of a new atmospheres in Israel? Or is Peres’ statement’s only aim to please the Americans and do not necessarily have the agreement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is in fact the man making Israeli decisions?
Jordan’s importance lies in its ability to provide momentum to the peace initiative, to make sure the Arab Spring does not become the grave of the Palestinian cause.Khairallah Khairallah
In all cases, the world economic forum confirmed that there is hope in reviving the peace process. It’s a Jordanian and Arab interest considering the Israeli aim is to make the world forget that there is a cause called the Palestinian cause - a people’s cause before anything else.
Amidst all that has happened and what is happening, the Jordanian role cannot be overlooked. Jordan has an interest in not turning the page of the Palestinian cause. This is why it revived the latter from the Dead Sea. There, and for the first time in a very long time, there is an American determination to once again focus on the cause that was the Arabs’ first cause, or rather the most important cause in the Arab region before events in Iraq and the Arab Spring.
Jordan’s importance lies in its ability to provide momentum to the peace initiative, to make sure the Arab Spring does not become the grave of the Palestinian cause.
In the end, Abdullah II bin Hussein cannot be overlooked. The man capable of making the Dead Sea a source of life cannot be underestimated!
This article was first published in the Arabic online newspaper Elaph.
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including AlMustaqbal and Rosa ElYoussef.