September 26, 1979
JIM LEHRER: One year after Camp David, Robert MacNeil talks to a man who says it won't work -- King Hussein of Jordan. Good evening. The Palestinian autonomy talks between Israel and Egypt hit a sour note today in Alexandria, Egypt. The two sides, with U.S. representatives looking on, clashed over a recently announced Israeli decision to allow its citizens to buy land in occupied Arab territory. There were already problems over the degree of autonomy to be granted the 1.2 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, now occupied by Israel. Arab leaders say there will never be peace in the Middle East under any formula until that Palestinian question is resolved. One of the key figures who says that is King Hussein of Jordan.
The King addressed the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, and he repeated his criticism of the Camp David process. It's a criticism that has not won him friends and favors at the White House, including no invitation to meet President Carter. Robert MacNeil asked King Hussein about that and other things in an interview this afternoon at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Here is that interview.
|Relations with President Carter.|
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Your Majesty, are you going to be seeing President Carter on this trip?
KING HUSSEIN: I do not believe that I'll be having the pleasure of meeting with President Carter on this trip. It wasn't in my plan, and no arrangements have been made.
MAC NEIL: I see. Were you invited and you refused, is that what happened?
KING HUSSEIN: No, I never asked, because my main purpose was to come to the United Nations, and I never received an invitation to go to Washington, either.
MAC NEIL: I see. And you didn't seek to have an interview with the President, is that correct, or did you seek and were you turned down?
KING HUSSEIN: No. I did not seek an interview, a meeting with the President, and he did not indicate that he wished to see me on this visit.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: As you're probably aware, in the American press there's been a good deal of speculation in the last couple of days about why you are not seeing him or he is not seeing you. Do you feel you're being snubbed?
KING HUSSEIN: No. I suppose it is up to the President; his time, his commitments do not permit him to give me this measure at this time. But in any event, my main purpose in coming over to the United States this time was to go to the United Nations.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Where you made a major speech yesterday.
KING HUSSEIN- I made a speech there yesterday, yes
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Could I just stay on the question of your relations with the U.S. at the moment? As you're probably aware, there are sort of various interpretations swirling around of why you and Mr. Carter are not availing each other of this opportunity to get together, and one is that American officials have said, 'We don't want to see King Hussein unless he has some new plan or something new to suggest on the question of the peace talks in the Middle East.' Have they communicated that to you?
KING HUSSEIN: No. I haven't received such a communication, and in any event, plans seem to stem from other quarters rather than Jordan. We may have opinions regarding the situation as it is, the dangers, the future; we have a genuine desire to contribute what we can with the rest of the world at the right time, with all the parties concerned in the area for the establishment of a just and durable peace.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Plans stemming from other quarters. Are you talking about Egypt and Israel and the American government?
KING HUSSEIN: That is possibly the case at this time.
ROBERT MAC NEIL :Excuse me for harping on this a moment, but another suggestion that I saw printed in Newsweek magazine quoted an American official -- just let me look at my note here -- as saying that you, Your Majesty-, "had the curious idea that you could insult the President of the United States and then be greeted in Washington as if nothing had happened." Did you happen to see that comment, and do you have a comment on it?
KING HUSSEIN: I saw the comment, and I never had any ideas; but more than that I have never in my political life spoke my feelings regarding any person in a position of authority, let alone the President of the United States.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: So you don't feel you have insulted the President.
KING HUSSEIN: I don't think this has ever happened.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: What transpired at your meeting with Secretary of State Vance on Monday?
KING HUSSEIN: It was a very cordial meeting, and we had an exchange of views on developments in our part of the world and the rest of the world.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Are you going to see Robert Strauss, the President's special ambassador on the Middle East, during this visit?
KING HUSSEIN: No.
|U.S. - Jordan relations.|
ROBERT MAC NEIL: How would you describe the state of Jordan's relations with the United States at the moment? Cooler than they were, obviously.
KING HUSSEIN: Yes, this is probably the case at this stage...
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Why?
KING HUSSEIN: I wouldn't know, really. I couldn't give any idea as to why it should be that way. I believe that we've had a friendship that has lasted over many, many years, and we always felt close to our friends in the United States, and we do. We feel that we have common objectives, and we uphold the same principles and lofty ideals, and, well, maybe it's a temporary phase that will pass.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Is it true, as reported, that you are considering canceling an arrangement to buy some 300 American tanks and are considering instead buying the tanks elsewhere -- namely, in Britain?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, we had asked whether we could obtain these tanks-, we are told, only very decently, that there is a possibility. But then we have found what we needed elsewhere, and it meets more our requirements, and so we are not probably going to go for these 300 tanks.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Is it true that the United States refused to supply a special highly advanced form of night vision targeting on these tanks, which they do supply to Israel? Is that correct, and is that why you went to look for the other tanks?
KING HUSSEIN: It probably is in part the reason why we looked elsewhere, but more than that it was a delivery date that would have been not what we would have accepted and wouldn't have met our requirements, for example two and a half years from the time when an agreement was reached; and some equipment wouldn't have been available with the tanks at the beginning.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: I see. Would this incident of the tanks be evidence of a desire on your part to separate yourselves a little bit from the United States and not to be leaning so heavily on the United States?
KING HUSSEIN: No, our belief has always been that any arms that we need for our legitimate self-defense become Jordanian arms as soon as we receive them in our country. And in any event, it is in our interest to look around and see what is best suited for our needs and try to get it.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Among American officials here in the State Department, as recently as last week there's been an expectation that when you came here you would be bringing some new plan by which the Middle East peace process could be widened. Have you such a plan in mind?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, I have general ideas. I believe that maybe we within the Arab world itself should think more of what we can present as not necessarily an Arab plan but as the format for a just and durable peace. We should be in touch with friends throughout the world. I believe these consultations are going on in the area, and it is very important within the near future to regain the momentum towards peace. I believe that this can only happen within the United Nations and with the contributions of not only all the parties concerned in the area, but the rest of the world as well.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: What negotiations are going on? You said a moment ago some were going on. Negotiations towards an Arab peace initiative, is that what you meant?
KING HUSSEIN: Not necessarily an Arab peace initiative, but to eventually define the Arab position in a clearer manner. We have said at the Baghdad summit conference that we seek peace, a just peace, a durable peace. And we hope we will be able to make our contribution towards that end.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Are you ready, or nearly ready, to propose a confederation of Jordan and the West Bank, which is now occupied by Israel?
KING HUSSEIN: No. In any event, our basic position is one of demanding that the people of Palestine, under conditions of total freedom, exercise their legitimate right of self-determination. Whatever they decide, we would be able to live with and would accept.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Do you personally like the idea of such a federation?
KING HUSSEIN: I don't think that I have the right to propose any final solution. I do not believe that anyone has the right too speak on behalf of the Palestinians and impose on them his thoughts or ideas. I believe that they must regain their freedom and then exercise their right of self determination.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: But you have the right to an opinion, surely.
KING HUSSEIN: I have a right to an opinion, yes.
|An independent Palestinian state?|
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Some people have speculated that that opinion, your opinion, right be that you would prefer to see a federation rather than an independent Palestinian state occupying what is now the West Bank.
KING HUSSEIN: No matter how events move already, I believe that it is the right of the Palestinians to make the choice and to make their feelings known to the world. And so I'll never suggest, myself, what should be the future.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: President Carter said recently that he had never met an Arab leader who supported the idea of an independent Palestinian state in private. Do you?
KING HUSSEIN: If that is their choice, by all means.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: You do support the idea of an independent Palestinian state if the Palestinians themselves choose that.
KING HUSSEIN: Yes.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Why was a Palestinian state never created in the twenty years in which the West Bank was in fact controlled by the Arabs? Why was that?
KING HUSSEIN: The Palestinian problem was never resolved during that period of time. It isn't resolved now. And when the East and West Bank of Jordan formed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1950, it was a part of our constitution that said very clearly that this unit that came to exist did not interfere with in any way or deny the Palestinians their rights on their Palestinian soil in terms of an eventual solution.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Some people have wondered whether it is not in Jordan's interest right now to maintain the status quo, just keep things just as they are: your capitalists thriving and prospering, you are receiving large amounts of aid or subsidy from other Arab countries; why would you want to disturb things by seeing perhaps an independent Palestinian state on your borders which might threaten your security by, people speculate, behaving in a radical way towards Israel?
KING HUSSEIN: Nothing could be further from the truth. Our genuine desire and all our efforts are directed towards an eventual solution to the tragedy of the area. And we do not thrive on misery.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: You do not thrive, at present.
KING HUSSEIN: No.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: You've met a number of times recently with Yassir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and most recently in Havana at the non-aligned conference. Have you two been working towards the idea, preparing the ground, that you, King Hussein of Jordan, might represent the Palestinian people at enlarged peace negotiations, joining the Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. peace talks?
KING HUSSEIN: No.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: That has not been considered?
KING HUSSEIN: No.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Are there any circumstances under which you would feel free to or want to join that peace process that is now going on, the so-called autonomy talks?
KING HUSSEIN: Not the process that is ongoing, I do not believe it's going to lead to the kind of peace that we are all seeking; and in any event, the Israeli attitude is very, very clear in that regard. It's an autonomy -- and I haven't stated that, Prime Minister Begin has done so -- that takes into consideration people and not land. The land, as they claim, is Israeli. And this can never be the basis for a solution.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: What would be your price, Your Majesty, to put it crudely, your price for agreeing to take part in the talks that are now going on?
KING HUSSEIN: I don't think that I will ever take part in the talks that are ongoing. I do not believe that the foundation is right. I believe that probably with the rest of the world and with all the parties concerned, and in particular the Palestinians, maybe something could be done; but not as things stand.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Could the present formulation be modified in some way to make it something that you could join?
KING HUSSEIN: The sort of question that we've asked time and again, that we asked before the adoption of Security Council Resolution 242 and then accepted 242, believing that it would be implemented, and since then has been very clear: Was Israel willing to withdraw from all the territories occupied in June of '67? Was Israel willing to grant the Palestinians their legitimate rights of self-determination under conditions of freedom on Palestinian soil? We believe that if that were the case we would have already had peace in the area. The answers have always been negative. And until we get some clear answers as to what the end result of any process is, we cannot, we feel, after all these years, blindly move into a situation that would not lead us anywhere.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: American reporters on the West Bank have written stories recently to the effect that Palestinian leaders there have changed their minds about the peace talks that are going on with Egypt and Israel and the United States and would be willing to join the talks concerning their own future autonomy if they got a green light from you and Mr. Arafat. What do you make of that report?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, I suppose people are entitled to their opinions, but I will never impose my wishes or desires on any of my brethren in the occupied territories.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: As far as you're concerned, are Palestinians in the West Bank free to take part in the talks if they wanted to?
KING HUSSEIN: They obviously are not held back by me, but I do not believe that they will, because these talks aren't leading toward an end in terms of their rights as a people on a land that is theirs.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: They say also that they're afraid to identify themselves as people who would like to take part in the talks because they fear being assassinated by Mr. Arafat's PLO. Is that a realistic fear?
KING HUSSEIN: Who says that?
ROBERT MAC NEIL: They are quoted, these anonymous Palestinians are quoted by American reporters as saying that.
KING HUSSEIN: I can't answer based on such a question.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: I'm sorry?
KING HUSSEIN: I can't answer based on such a question.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: The United States says that it will not negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it is willing to recognize the right of Israel to exist and willing to abandon violence. Do you see the PLO moving in the direction of American wishes?
|The issue of recognition.|
KING HUSSEIN: I really wonder how anyone can expect the Palestinians to take such a step without, at least simultaneously, Israel recognizing their legitimate rights on their soil. I don't think that it is fair to expect the Palestinians to move when Israel does not even recognize that they exist.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Do you, when you meet Mr. Arafat, do you urge him and his organization to abandon the violent part of their activity?
KING HUSSEIN: We talk on all matters, and I try to give him the best possible advice which I believe is in the interests of the people of Palestine and the people of the area. And as far as violence is concerned, I don't know where we start, really. If there was genuine progress towards the establishment of a durable peace, I'm sure that any reason for violence would disappear. But a people have been uprooted from their lands; some of them are still under occupation; they are daily the subject of attacks in Southern Lebanon. Isn't this violence also, that should be stopped?
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Do you believe that the violence as a matter of policy on the part of the PLO is justified, at present?
KING HUSSEIN: I would hope that there would be no reason for violence in our area and that we could move towards peace as rapidly as possible. I do not justify violence of any form, but I'd like to point out here that a people have lost everything and they exercise a right that others have exercised elsewhere in the world: to oppose injustice and to seek freedom.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: What do you think of the movement in the United States on behalf of some black political leaders, since Mr. Andrew Young's resignation, to open a further dialogue with the PLO? How do you see that development?
KING HUSSEIN: What I wish most is for American people to really have a chance to see the problem as it really is on the ground and to realize eventually -- and I hope this is happening -- that there is another side to the story.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: After the Camp David accords just a year ago, there were widespread predictions in the Arab world that President Sadat would fall as a result or would stumble. Yet, to many people, looking at it on the first anniversary, he looks stronger than ever. Does it go through your mind, Your Majesty, that you might have been wrong a year ago and that maybe he is the one to join, that the tide of history may be moving in his direction?
KING HUSSEIN: No, it doesn't.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Can you explain that, why it doesn't?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, I didn't predict that as far as President Sadat was concerned, and it's not a question of individuals, it's a question of a solution that future generations can accept and live with, and hopefully, protect. And that does not seem to have the ingredients offered as they should at this time.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Yesterday in your address to the United Nations you urged that the U.N. Security Council take up this question, have a debate so as to define or redefine the principles for future consideration of a peace settlement in the Middle East. I wonder whether that might not produce specific demands like the creation of an independent Palestinian state that the United States would feel forced to veto, and whether it wouldn't just bring us back to where we are. or where we've been before.
KING HUSSEIN: Why should the United States veto anything?
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Well, going on past performance, that is one of the things which they have either sought to avoid, as Mr. Young was doing in the last session of the Security Council by getting a debate postponed, or by postponing a vote, but by letting it be known that they would veto that because of guarantees to Israel.
KING HUSSEIN: Well, this is the problem, I think, and this is a question I pose to every American. Why are they involved in this way in our part of the world? And do they feel, in all honesty, that they are fair, that they are neutral? And why shouldn't they be? Why shouldn't they seek to be?
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Neutral.
KING HUSSEIN: Neutral, and if not neutral, at least to be in a position to influence events in a positive way in that part of the world.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: You said as much in your speech yesterday, and you also said that the United States could not be an effective force for peace there as long as it remained in support of Israel. Do you see, from your vantage point, United States policy towards Israel changing? Do you see that strong support softening in any way?
KING HUSSEIN: I'm not speaking of the United States' commitment to Israel in terms of Israel's safety and security in the future, but what I question is commitment to support of Israel militarily, politically, morally, while Israel still is in occupation of territories belonging to other Arab states as well as the Palestinians, while Israel denies the Palestinians their rights, while Israel uses these arms regularly in attacks against others around it. In the situation where a final solution is reached, one does not question the right of the United States to guarantee Israel's security; in fact, what we seek is guarantees for our security and our future as well. But if this is the case now, it must surely affect the United States' ability to contribute towards a solution in a positive way.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: The Israelis, of course, many of them, believe that the United States' position has been eroding a little bit, that the support for Israel, the present government, isn't as automatic or as warm or as sympathetic as it was. I just wondered if you, as a neighbor and close observer of all this, if you share what the Israel is see -- in other words, do you think U.S. policy, or U.S. support of Israel is eroding at all, or do you see it as strong as ever?
HUSSETN: I haven't seen any signs of its erosion as yet.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Do you see the possibility that things will change for the whole peace negotiations if there is a change of government in Israel? Are you, as some people suggest, waiting until a Labor government takes over again?
KING HUSSEIN: No, this is not necessarily the case. I believe that as far as Israeli policy is concerned it is almost constant. Maybe some tactics may be different with a change of government, but I believe the basic policies are the same; otherwise we might have been able to achieve peace between '67 and this time.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: So you don't think it matters who is in charge in Israel, that the policy goes on essentially the same?
KING HUSSEIN: Until such a time when everyone in Israel would realize that this is not: the course to follow and that a different effort should be made, in their interest, in our interest, in the interest of the world and world peace.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: You also said in your speech yesterday that the people and the media in Western Europe were overcoming what you termed Zionist control. Do you see that happening to the people and the media in this country?
KING HUSSEIN: I really can't...
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Or are we still in the grip of what you would call Zionist control?
KING HUSSEIN: No, I'm not saying that. But I would hope that what is happening is that many in the United States would be in fact at this time trying to find the realities of the matter andd to have a better understanding of what is happening. And if that happens, I think we are nearer a point when the United States can contribute towards the establishment of peace in our area.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Would you predict that a year from now we would be much closer to the settlement of things in the Middle East or not?
KING HUSSEIN: I honestly can't tell at this stage, but I hope that we will.
ROBERT MAC NEIL: Well, Your Majesty, thank you very much for joining us today. That's the end of our interview: thank you.