leftspace.gif (58 bytes)  

This interview was completed during an official visit to the United States, and comes in the context of events leading to the Washington Declaration, which officially ended the state of war between Jordan and Israel one month later. In the interview, His Majesty stresses that Jordan is moving towards peace in the context of an overall comprehensive regional peace, but, as Egypt, the Palestinians and Syria have either achieved or moved towards peace with Israel, it is Jordan’s right to do so as well.


CNN “International Hour”

Interviewer: Frank Sesno

June 23, 1994


Frank Sesno: Your Majesty, thanks very much for joining us today.

King Hussein: Thank you, sir.

Frank Sesno: May I start by asking you about your meeting with President Clinton? My understanding is that he was encouraging of your efforts to move independently with the peace process and make progress with Israel. Are you prepared to sign a peace treaty with Israel? Are you prepared to sign a peace treaty with Israel before Syria and the Palestinians—Syria in particular—fulfill their own dreams?

King Hussein: First of all, I believe that President Clinton is very interested in progress on the Jordanian-Israeli track but he is also interested in a comprehensive settlement which obviously all of us seek. As far as we are concerned, we are just about to embark on the real work that requires the best efforts of both sides to resolve all the problems which were in the agenda, that are in the agenda that was ratified following the Palestinian-Israeli meeting here in Washington. That we had not done so far was not due to our fault, I believe; it was events in the area and movement. But finally we obviously, we have to begin the hard task of negotiations. We felt it was imperative that we have that talks in the region itself, in the area where the problems are, and it includes border demarcation and delineation, water and our respected shares of that. In terms of the Jordan Valley which we hope will become a valley of peace and an opportunity for both, and obviously the question of sovereignty and the recovery of our territory is very important as a share in this vision of the future.

Frank Sesno: But if you resolve those issues—and they are many—but if you were to resolve them before Syria resolves its problems, would you sign a deal with Israel then?

King Hussein: I would like to say here that we are not tied to anything that happens elsewhere, but we are very anxious to see all move and are anxious to see a comprehensive peace. So right now we are focusing on our problems and we are going to address these problems with all the attention they require, and I don’t know how long it will take. Maybe Syria will overtake us before we complete our task. But nonetheless we are optimistic and hopeful.

Frank Sesno: But maybe you will go first, maybe Jordan will be the first.

King Hussein: I hope they’ll all come together at a point in the very early future.

Frank Sesno: A Jordanian official today is quoted as saying that you would plan an October meeting here in Washington with Prime Minister Rabin to sign a peace treaty. Is that feasible?

King Hussein: I honestly don’t know. It all depends on what happens in the negotiating process which is about to start. But as far as meeting with Prime Minister Rabin, it is not a taboo subject. We are negotiating on both sides and we have been doing so for quite a while. So I suppose that a meeting is possible at any time in the future and it will only be the natural thing that will obviously have to happen.

Frank Sesno: Let me ask you this: the Islamic Action Front in your parliament is very much opposed to a deal with Israel at this time. What political price would there be in Jordan for a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister and, really at its most fundamental for real progress toward peace or achieving peace at the official level with Israel?

King Hussein: I feel that peace is inevitable. It’s coming. The process is irreversible. And regardless of how we view matters in Jordan from different perspectives, I believe there is a great deal of realism there. We never went to Madrid before we had a national meeting and a consensus on moving towards peace. So the problem in another dimension is we were for Arab unity always and a coordinated position; we were involved in Jordan more with the Palestinians than any; we honored our commitments as members of the joint defense agreement in 1967 although we knew what might well be the result of that—disaster struck. We were led by Egypt at the time. Egypt chose to have its own peace treaty with Israel. And now the Palestinians, whom we have always supported, and the people most concerned, have made their move. So the feeling in Jordan, and I believe this is very much right on, is it’s time to look out for our own interests as well. Because Jordan is important. And Jordan should survive and continue to contribute as an example model to others, and be an anchor peace in the region.

Frank Sesno: So you think there would be, presumably, political opposition but in the end the vast majority of Jordanians would support this process?

King Hussein: It all depends on exactly how it works out. Obviously, it’s not peace at any price. It is a kind of peace that future generations can live with, cherish, and protect.

Frank Sesno: I’ve asked you about the political situation in Jordan, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on the political situation in Israel. There is some concern over the stability, the staying power of Prime Minister Rabin’s government. Does that concern you?

King Hussein: Well, being the partner on the other side I suppose we hope that he’ll be able to continue what has started already, although I feel that it is an internal matter which I would not care to comment about. But certainly we have started and we hope that we’ll continue in the times ahead. And I hope that the peace camp as such will gain momentum in the entire region as opposed to those who oppose it on either side of the existing divide at the moment.

Frank Sesno: How about the Arab boycott of Israel, the economic boycott—time for that to end? At what point should the switch be switched off?

King Hussein: Frankly, I think it is not understood what the boycott implies or means. Secondary and tertiary boycotts are almost a thing of the past. But we are suffering a boycott from Israel in point of fact. So this will be a subject that will have to be negotiated and resolved. They are a protectionist country in terms of their industries against ours. So all this has to be worked out and I think everything will fall in place in time.

Frank Sesno: Another question is that of your economy and some of the debt rescheduling that you were interested in pursuing with President Clinton and others. Progress on that?

King Hussein: Progress in terms of a commitment to help. And I hope that this tremendous weight and burden we have carried with us with the Palestinian problem from the outset and in recent years will not be there for us to carry beyond this point. And we hope the people of Jordan can enjoy also very rapidly the manifestation of the chances they have and the hopes they have in a better future and an improvement in their quality of life.

Frank Sesno: As you watch the process unfold in Israel between Yasser Arafat, the PLO, and Israel, is Yasser Arafat, as you see it now, up to governing?

King Hussein: That is something I cannot comment on. I hope that he is up to it. I have encouraged Palestinians to stick together, to express themselves through unity. And I am sure that there are many challenges in the future—mainly amongst them, the need of Palestinian people for democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights; and the need for Arafat to be the symbol and leader, but at the same time for institutions to come up to enhance the credibility that is required and needed; and for him to go back as soon as possible. I hope he does that. All these points I’ve raised with him.

Frank Sesno: You’ve told him, “Go back soon?”

King Hussein: I’ve suggested that to him, yes.

Frank Sesno: And you believe that Yasser Arafat is at root a democrat and himself respectful of human rights?

King Hussein: I certainly hope that this will be the case in the future, and that this will manifest itself, because that is needed. And I believe we will see many changes.

Frank Sesno: You sound skeptical. (Repeated once).

King Hussein: I can’t comment on others, sir, and I won’t in this instant. But I really hope that he will live up to the expectations of the Palestinian people. And he has our full support and full backing.

Frank Sesno: Finally, Your Majesty, a personal question. You came to the US to go to the Mayo Clinic to see how your cancer that you had treated two years ago was doing. How is your bill of health?

King Hussein: A good bill of health, sir; a clear bill of health. No trace of cancer after two years and therefore no need for visits to Mayo beyond the regular annual checkup hopefully from now on.

Frank Sesno: Very good news indeed.

King Hussein: Thank you so much.

Frank Sesno: King Hussein, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it very much.

King Hussein: Thank you.