Hassan Barari
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
April 13, 2010 - 12:00am

His Majesty King Abdullah has stepped up diplomatic efforts to create momentum for the restart of the peace process. A week ago, he gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he made it clear that Israel is leading the region into a mess.

The interview was timed well before the King’s visit the United States to meet with President Barack Obama. Jordan, a country that worked more than any other to realise a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, is thus sending the message to the American administration that enough is enough.

Time is ticking away on a two state-solution; the region has been off balance for some time and the continuation of the status quo is a recipe for another destructive war from which no winner can emerge.

The unprecedented language used in the interview, tough yet polite, is echoed by statements coming from senior American officials, chief among them General David Petraeus and Robert Gates. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Petraeus spoke from a sense of fairness. He stressed what we in the Arab region already know: short of helping solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, American interests in the region will continue to be threatened.

Amid the debate in Washington over the dispute between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama over the issue of settlements, some Arab analysts suggest that Arab leaders should engage the Americans to affect the course of the debate. To that effect, it seems that the King was the first among the Arab leaders to accurately read the new dynamics of the public debate in Washington and act accordingly.

To realise the changes and the new dynamics in the United States, one could have a quick glance at the latest opinion poll conducted by Zogby International. The poll shows that 81 per cent of the American public agrees with the statement that the lack of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will reflect negatively on the American interests in the wider Middle East.

Interestingly, some 51 per cent of Americans believe that their country’s failure to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict will make the US less respected in the world. This should be warning enough to the Obama administration to act swiftly on this front.

Figures show that Obama will not lose votes if he exerts meaningful pressure on Tel Aviv to come to a resolution. Undoubtedly, the United States has the financial wherewithal to make Netanyahu bow. Yet, one needs to remember that foreign policy is not made by public opinion and the pro-Israel forces in Washington are not without teeth.

It is still early to predict which course of action Obama is set to take, but given previous experience, the two sides might cool their anger over the issue of settlements and start working together to further their interests, away from the impact of public opinion.

Lots of ink will no doubt be spilled analysing this shift in the dynamics of American-Israeli relations. How will this help the Arab regimes that are seen by their respective public as ineffective in informing American foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East? Not much!

King Abdullah decided to act just to have the moderate Arab voice heard. Other Arab leaders have to understand the importance of adding to the American public debate. It might take a generation or two for us, in this part of the world, to live up to our historical responsibility and penetrate the American political scene. But by then it might be too late.

Jordan will continue to express its peace-loving beliefs, even by showing its wrath at Israel, which has been doing nothing recently but undermining the momentum for peace.


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