King Abdullah: Israel not as strong as we thought

Jordan’s King Abdullah said during an interview with Tokyo-based newspaper The Daily Yomiuri that “The (Lebanon ) war last summer showed that Israel is not as strong as we had previously thought, and, justifiably or not, the perception in the Middle East is that Israel lost.”

Abdullah, who is currently visiting Japan, added that “More and more countries in the region will now believe that the only way to get Israel to listen is through force and not negotiations. Israel will have to take a significant step in the right direction that will lead to calm in the region.”

The Jordanian king stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the main source of Mideast tension. “Until we deal with this issue, which can be easily resolved, the Middle East will be forever cursed, as will the entire Muslim world,” he said.

Abdallah said that in light of the current situation Israel must decide whether or not it wishes to remain isolated.

“The Arab countries are very interested in moving the peace process along, and this conveys a message to the Israelis: If we advance the peace process and implement a two-state solution, all the Arab and Muslim countries will agree to establish (diplomatic) relations with Israel,” he said.

‘Must change policy in Middle East’

During the Interview Abdullah warned of the rise in extremism in the Middle East, which, according to him, may lead to the weakening of the peace camp and the moderate elements.

“Therefore, we must change the policy in the Middle East, or else people will only here extremist views,” he said. “In the past, there were 8 to 10 year intervals between conflicts, but now this has dropped to 10 to 12 months, and may I remind you that we are expecting three civil wars in 2007 (in the Palestinian Authority, Iraq and Lebanon).

Turning his attention to the Iranian threat, the Jordanian king said, “There is no doubt that Iran is a major player in the region and should be incorporated into the process.

“If we advance the process in one arena, we will be able to do the same in other arenas as well,” he said. “Today the Arab street is drawn more the extremists and extremist rhetoric and less to moderates speaking of peace and co-existence.”

Abdullah summed up the interview by saying that the only way to fight the radicalization in the region is through education.

“The next step is to get to the streets, the schools, the homes. This is not a process that could take place over night. In certain places this process could take 15-20 years, but eventually the moderate majority must decide – does it want to sit quietly, or does it plan to act against the horrible crimes committed in the name of religion?”
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