Jordan and Egypt have a “special” relationship with Israel, said Jordan’s King Abdullah II, as the only two Arab nations to have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
In an interview with the Washington Post ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the monarch spoke about the raging civil war in Syria, Russia’s role in the region, Iran’s influence and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, said Abdullah II, create “animosity and difficulty” and “give ammunition to the Iranians, to [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and ISIS,” an acronym for the Islamic State.
Trump, with backing from Arab leaders, must push for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he indicated.
“Egypt and Jordan have a special relationship with Israel, and so if we don’t move forward, it puts more pressure on the Jordanians and the Egyptians,” he said, adding that he is “in contact” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“[The point of] my visit here — and the American administration agrees with me — is that we have got to put this all together. If there are settlements, how does this affect the peace process? I think the major challenge that we have is: Are we for a two-state solution? I don’t see any alternative but the two-state solution.”
The Jordanian king said Iran’s growing influence in the region, in Iraq and Syria in particular, presented an opportunity to “bring[ing] Israel and the Arabs closer together.”
“Because of the Iranian regime’s potential threat to the region, Israel wants to have a relationship with the Arabs. But the problem that is [standing] between the Arabs and the Israelis is the Palestinians. The whole point of our peace initiative is for us to be the guarantors of Israel’s security. If we can solve the Palestinian problem, then this is a new era of stability in our area, where Israelis are truly a part of the neighborhood,” he said.
Trump, indicated Abdullah II, “wants to engage and make a deal for Israelis and Palestinians. I was really struck by the commitment he had in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together.”
The meeting between the US president and the Jordanian king came less than a day before Trump ordered US strikes on an airbase in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack by Syrian military forces on civilians in rebel-held territory that killed over 80 people, including dozens of children.
At their joint press conference, Trump said the use of chemical agents was intolerable but stopped short of indicating that a US response was coming.
The strike infuriated Russia, a staunch ally of the Assad regime, and Iran, which is heavily invested in the war.
In his interview, Abdullah II said the international community had a “moral obligation to fight this horrendous tragedy that is befalling civilians in Syria,” but that the US and other nations should engage with Russia to help solve regional issues.
“I’ll tell you why that works: From the Russian point of view, they play what I describe as a three-dimensional chess game. To them, Crimea is important, Syria is important, Ukraine, and we see them in Libya. The Americans and Europeans must deal with the Russians on all these issues simultaneously,” he said.