King Abdullah - AP - September 2011
Abdullah yesterday. Photo by AP
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AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan's King Abdullah II, one of Israel's few remaining close allies in the Muslim world, said in remarks obtained yesterday that the uprisings sweeping Arab nations had put the Jewish state in a difficult position. He also hotly rejected the notion that his country should take in Palestinians as a substitute for the creation of a state for them.

Abdullah told a closed meeting of Jordanian intellectuals and academics that Jordan and the Palestinians were now in a stronger position than Israel, whose current government fears growing isolation as a result of the Middle East's transformative changes in the Arab Spring.

"Jordan and the future of Palestine are stronger than Israel. It is the Israelis who are worried today," Abdullah said.

King Abdullah said that during a recent visit to the United States, an Israeli intellectual had told him that the Arab Spring served Israeli interests. "I answered: 'On the contrary, you are today in a more difficult position than before,"' he recalled saying.

Abdullah also used unusually harsh language in condemning suggestions by some Israeli fringe elements that Jordan should take in Palestinians from the West Bank to substitute for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

"Jordan will never be a substitute land for anyone," he said. "It makes no sense... We have an army and we are ready to fight for our homeland and the future of Jordan. We should speak loudly and not allow such an idea to remain in the minds of some of us. Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine."

A significant portion of Jordan's population has never been enthusiastic about the country's 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Anger with Israel is running high in Jordan for a number of reasons. In particular, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line government is deeply distrusted in Jordan, and many Jordanians blame it for the failure of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks to get off the ground two years ago.

Nearly half of Jordan's 6 million people are Palestinians displaced in two wars with Israel since 1948, along with their descendants. The rest of Jordan's population comes from Bedouin tribes that make up the backbone of support for King Abdullah and the royal family. They fear that a "Jordanian solution" would mean the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan, throwing off the demographic balance.

Abdullah, whose own leadership has faced some protests this year reiterated that he was pressing ahead with political reforms in the kingdom. He said Jordan would hold municipal elections this year and announced that parliamentary elections would be held in 2012.