Jordan’s king urged US President Barack Obama on Sunday to take a more forceful role in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a new Middle East war if there is no significant progress in the next 18 months.
Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, King Abdullah described the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as the core problem of the region and solving it would help the US in dealing with Iran and combating the appeal of radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda.
“In the next 18 months, if we don’t move the process forward and bring people to the negotiation table, there will be another conflict between Israel and another protagonist,” he said in the interview recorded in Washington on Friday. “If it’s left to the players, the Israelis and the Palestinians by themselves, we’re not going to get anywhere. It can only happen if there is an American umbrella with a determined American president.”
Jordan is one of two Arab countries that have signed a peace treaty with Israel and is a strong US ally in the region. The majority of the country’s citizens are also of Palestinian origin, making it very interested in the ongoing peace talks.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, relaunched in late 2007, have made little visible progress — in part because of Palestinian infighting. The new Israeli government also has not endorsed the goal of an independent Palestinian state.
A Palestinian state alongside Israel is the centerpiece of US peace efforts in the region.
The king also addressed the use of torture, acknowledging that he had heard in the press that it was being used by US, but denying allegations that Jordan was involved.
Human Rights Watch, among other groups, has issued reports alleging that the Jordanian intelligence service brutally interrogated detainees on behalf of the CIA.
Instead, Abdullah said his intelligence services specialized in turning enemy agents and using them as informants.
“I think that we have been very smart in being intelligent [and] convincing operatives that we have come across to end up working for us — and you can’t do that when it comes to torture,” he said.
The king also noted that Obama had substantially improved the image of the US in the region.
“America is providing a new image of how things should be done and I think the world has a belief in the president,” he said.