October 3, 1996
After an upsurge of political violence in Israel, King Hussein of Jordan discusses the future of the peace process.
JIM LEHRER: This was the day after the emergency Middle East summit in Washington. I talked earlier this evening with one of the key participants, King Hussein of Jordan.
JIM LEHRER: Your Majesty, welcome.
KING HUSSEIN, Jordan: Thank you very much, indeed.
JIM LEHRER: The Washington Post said in an editorial this morning that the summit was a disaster. Do you agree?
|The summit meeting|
KING HUSSEIN: I disagree. I don't think it was a disaster. I think the disaster was the situation we faced just before this meeting. I believe if it hadn't taken place, we would have been in much more serious difficulty, and I am very grateful to the President and to the administration for inviting us over. I think it helped create an atmosphere, and it brought about a commitment as well, to have talks in the area between the Palestinians and the Israelis with the American participation as of next Sunday, and that these talks will continue until conclusions and results are forthcoming.
JIM LEHRER: How serious was the situation? You said it was--the disaster was over there. Describe the nature of that disaster as you looked ahead to where it might be leading.
KING HUSSEIN: I think it came about as a result of people feeling that, in fact, what I thought was impossible might have been possible. In other words, I always thought and believed that the peace process was irreversible. Yet, unfortunately, over the recent past we have seen a deterioration in our region and particularly with regard to the Palestinians and the Israelis, it was very frightening, and very sad and very distressing, and we kept hearing that whatever Israeli governments before had committed to would be respected and implemented. Lack of progress towards implementation, particularly in the case of Hebron and Ezra, also contributed to a situation which brought things to almost a boil. In fact we have lost as you know Israelis and Palestinians alike in these recent clashes, and conditions on the ground became even worse with troops surrounding cities. So, I believe that this was arrested at least with the meeting here, and with the hope that's generated for the future.
JIM LEHRER: Did you personally believe that they were on the verge of an all out war of great, great magnitude?
KING HUSSEIN: I firmly, I believe that we were on the -- were looking at--and in my case my life's work--that of my dead grandfather's--that of my late colleague, Yitzak Rabin--so many others--that all that was in jeopardy, and I was very, very distressed and very sad about it.
JIM LEHRER: The New York Times said this morning that you spoke with elegant anger to Mr. Netanyahu at these meetings, is that true?
KING HUSSEIN: I think I spoke with honesty and candor, and I don't think he would have accepted anything--or expected anything less than that, nor would I have done anything other than that. I pointed out my views regarding what was happening, the challenge, its magnitude, and what I thought would have come out of that meeting, in particular, reaffirmation of all the commitments with a time limit to their translation into facts on the ground, maintaining the status quo as far as the West Bank and Jerusalem were concerned.
JIM LEHRER: Specifically on the tunnel.
KING HUSSEIN: On anything--
JIM LEHRER: On anything?
KING HUSSEIN: --that upset the situation. And we had many suggestions. I have not suggested getting the UNESCO involved. After all, I think Jerusalem is part of the, of the world's heritage. I don't think that was such a good idea. I suggested an international group--I suggested, in particular, and I hope that this will be examined very carefully--a group representing the three great religions and the religious group--we have been encouraging and we have been working very hard for many years now on dialogue on trying to see where we have the same view on matters, on trying to bring us closer together, and I thought maybe the introduction of such a group to oversee that nothing is done which is wrong, and to bring us closer together would have been a good idea, but again that was deferred. Hebron, of course, was on top of the list and that needed to be addressed.
JIM LEHRER: And that's the withdrawal of the Israeli troops--
KING HUSSEIN: The implementation of the agreement.
JIM LEHRER: --implementation of the agreement. Right. And none of this came off, though. There was no agreement on any of the things that you asked, is that not correct?
KING HUSSEIN: This is quite correct, sir. As we stand, nothing was done, except to commit to movement as rapidly as possible beginning next Sunday. So that's let's hope that--
JIM LEHRER: Was that--it must have been--I won't put words in your mouth--was that a terrible disappointment to you? Did you want more to come out of this than--
|Bringing down barriers.|
KING HUSSEIN: Of course, I wanted more to come out of it, sir. I'm not thinking of Arabs, nor am I thinking of Palestinians, nor am I thinking of Israelis. I'm thinking of all the barriers that were brought down, of young people's hope that you could see in their eyes, the coming together of children, of orphans of terrible wars, of all the hopes of the people coming to realize that without these barriers, they're one and the same and they suffer the same difficulties and face the same challenges and have the same hopes and aspirations. All this to be placed in jeopardy is something that distressed me tremendously.
JIM LEHRER: Did you leave there yesterday convinced that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Arafat understand the gravity with which you looked upon this? Do they understand that?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe they did, and President Netanyahu, in parting, said I promised I would surprise you, so I really hope it will be a pleasant surprise and that it will come soon. Arafat, I think, has shown great courage to have moved the way he has, to have committed to peace, and I had been saying for a long period of time, and my messages to the Israeli government had been to try to give him all the help he needed. So let's hope that yesterday was a turning point, and we are grateful to the President for all he has done. It's a matter of history, sir. I think that without belittling the efforts of others, it is a fact that in the late '40s, it was a Democrat administration where a cease-fire was brought about in the war in the region and the beginning of negotiations. And it was in the Carter administration, as well, that we saw the peace--
JIM LEHRER: Camp David--
KING HUSSEIN: --between Egypt and Israel, and it is with President Clinton that we worked so hard to achieve not only toward an Israeli peace but to begin the process on the Palestinian on other tracks.
JIM LEHRER: Netanyahu and the President said yesterday--Mr. Arafat did not speak, so we don't know--but that, that there was an understanding, at least, of the intensity of the other's feeling about why the Arabs felt so strongly about the opening of the tunnel, why the Israelis felt so strongly about the use of the weapons by the Palestinian security force against the Israelis and so forth and so on. Do you agree with that?
KING HUSSEIN: I think that they had enough time to discuss all these matters very frankly and openly together and we gave them the time to talk to each other, and I hope that this is the case.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with those who say the Palestinians went home empty-handed, with nothing, they got nothing out of this summit?
KING HUSSEIN: They got this commitment which they undertook upon themselves as well to begin these talks on Sunday. I think they have gained the understanding of a great many people in the world, and, for example, in the press conference yesterday, when the President represented all of us, and saved us a lot of difficulty in trying to express our feelings adequately. The questions that were asked were the questions that were on the mind of the world, and they're all relevant. And they all need answers.
JIM LEHRER: Are you going to stay involved in this?
KING HUSSEIN: Of course, I'm going to do whatever I can to help.
JIM LEHRER: Do you believe that the violence is now temporarily ended, or do you think it could start up again tomorrow or the next day? Is it that fragile, in other words?
KING HUSSEIN: It is, unless progress is made, and that is where I think that for even some in the United States to suggest that--do not pressure Israel. I want all the friends in the United States, and the Jewish lobby in particular, with whom I've had so many contacts in the recent months, and in Israel and the Arabs and all the peace camp, to have a say to come out and be counted and not to let extremists and extremism gain after all that we have done and destroy our hopes.
JIM LEHRER: Did--when you talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu, what did you ask him to do specifically about--did you ask him specifically to close that tunnel?
KING HUSSEIN: I did speak of the tunnel, and I expressed my disappointment in the fact that were not told about it, although I had an emissary from the prime minister who was with me only 24 hours before its opening, and it is a problem. It's created a problem. I don't think that it comes in isolation of a lot of other problems that were there, so that had been, as they say, the straw that broke the camel's back.
JIM LEHRER: Now the prime minister said that there was a terrible misunderstanding on the Arab side, that to interpret that as an anti-Islamic move was just not fair, and just not accurate.
KING HUSSEIN: This is not the case. I think the case is one of the status quo that existed in the city and exists in the city, and to tamper with it is something that obviously creates a reaction. That's where we need two things. We need to concentrate on the religious damage and on getting the followers of three great religions, the descendants of the children of Abraham to sit together, to work together, to try to elevate Jerusalem, which is already in my eyes elevated above the questions of the sovereignty of this or the other. It is, it is our city, all of us, in terms of the whole city, in terms of the holy city, and hopefully the rest of it will also be a symbol of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the times ahead.
JIM LEHRER: You used the word hopefully. Are you hopeful? Are you--you're very emotional about this --for understandable reasons. Is it an emotional hope, or an emotional pessimism at this time?
KING HUSSEIN: I'm always hopeful, and I'm always optimistic, but it really shook me to see things deteriorate so rapidly after so much that looked so promising. But, nonetheless, we will do whatever we can. We have to do it.
JIM LEHRER: Your Majesty, thank you very much.
KING HUSSEIN: Thank you so much.