Jordan's King Says Israel Must Choose if It Is Fortress or Part of Mideast

As UN vote on Palestinian statehood looms, Jordan King warns of possible 'negative impact' from ongoing negotiations stalemate; says U.S. veto against Palestinian statehood at UN Security Council would only further isolate Israel.

Israel has to decide whether or not it is part of the Middle East ahead of a Palestinian bid for statehood in the United Nations, Jordanian King Abdullah II said in an interview late Monday, adding that he was not optimistic over the Israeli government's seriousness regarding resolving its conflict with the Palestinians.

Earlier Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Fox News that he was willing to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their mutual stay in New York. Abbas is currently in New York holding meetings in preparation for UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood status.

Jordan - Avi Ohayon - July 28 2010
Avi Ohayon

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"I will meet any Israeli official any time," said Abbas, though he added that “there is no use if there is nothing tangible."

Earlier, Abbas met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters and reaffirmed that he planned to ask this week for a Security Council vote on Palestinian membership despite the certainty of a US veto, his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh said.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Abdullah referred to what he considering as the Israeli government's distancing itself from Mideast issues, including the conflict with the Palestinians, adding that the upcoming Palestinian vote was a chance for Israel to change its ways.

According to the Jordanian King, "Israel is at a very critical juncture today where denying that they have nothing to do with what's going on in the area denying that the Palestinian issue does not involve them in the region is going to make it much more difficult for them to engage with us in the future.

"So I think that you know the buzz word is Israel has to decide; does it want to be part of the neighborhood or does it want to be fortress Israel and the decisions that we've seen over the past year or so are not encouraging," Abdullah said.

Abdullah told the Wall Street Journal that, at first, he had been positive regarding Netanyahu's plans to reach Mideast peace, saying there had "been very positive statements over the past several years. The vision that he has for the region has been reassuring."

"Having said that everything we see on the ground has been completely the opposite and as a result I think we're all disappointed and I think my best way to describe my view toward Israel is my increasing frustration because they're sticking their head in the sand and pretending that there's not a problem," the Jordanian king said.

Referring to last-ditch attempts by Quartet officials to bring Netanyahu and Abbas back to the negotiations table as a way to thwart the Palestinian statehood bid, the Jordanian king said that "if we can't get the Israelis and Palestinians together in this next couple of days then what signal is that for the future process, in other words, we're normally back to the drawing board."

"I think we're back beyond that and as a result the end of 2011 to 2012 is very bleak it has a very negative impact I think on all of us in the region," Abdullah said, adding that a recent crisis between Israel and Turkey and an attack on the Israeli embassy in Egypt were manifestations of such an impact.

"[Yo]u've been watching very serious breakdown in relations between Turkey and Israel; what's happening in Egypt recently, so the failure to move forward past the UN General Assembly," he said, adding that another result of a continued stalemate would be the further isolation of both Israel and the United States.

"I believe the U.S. and Israel are going to be more isolated and the pressure on Israel is going to be greater. I know that there are Israelis that are saying you know that the Arab Spring is a good thing for them and I don't think that is necessarily the case as we've seen by recent examples," Abdullah said.

The Jordanian king also referred to the possibility of the United States using its veto to push back a Palestinian proposal at the UN Security Council, saying that "if the U.S. vetoes it's going to have … you know … the Middle East will have a very negative view towards the United States that's part of the problem and again the aspirations of people are being spoken in much louder voices. And so again I think Israel is becoming more and more isolated."