Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 10
 
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
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King of Jordan: U.S. Needs to Guide Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Matthew Hersh

Calling for the United States to create a “critical path” to peace in the Middle East, Jordanian King Abdullah II warned Friday that the diminishing time scale for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could disturb the regional balance for decades to come.

“We must ask the important questions: what are the implications for global stability if this continues?

“We need the U.S. completely involved to influence the course of discussions and help bridge the gaps,” he said.

Mr. Abdullah’s stop in Princeton was part of a brief U.S. tour en route from New York City, where the previous day he met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to Washington DC, where he and Queen Rania met Tuesday with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush the at the White House.

During his U.S. tour, Mr. Abdullah has offered an urgent, albeit tentative message, calling on the U.S. to further broker talks between Israel and Palestine, saying that the end of 2008 would be the optimum time for a resolution.

“2008 is a critical year. We are in the best possible position to resolve 60 years of conflict. We have a chance to answer a third of the world that is not at peace with Israel,” Mr. Abdullah said, adding that the 57 countries in conflict with Israel make up one-third of the United Nations delegation, and carry a population greater than Europe and the U.S. combined. “It’s difficult to exaggerate how great the stakes are for the Arabs, Israelis, and for the world,” he said.

Mr. Abdullah pointed to the Middle East’s youth demographic, which makes up an estimated 70 percent of the area’s population, saying that a “strong, cooperative, Arab-American strategic operation must be established” to support the goal of creating 200 million new jobs by 2020. That goal, he said, would require investment in public schools, education, and infrastructure.

“I’m here to speak about what must, I repeat, what must happen, if our world is going to be safe,” he said.

Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman said in her introductory remarks that efforts toward peace, improving the status of women, and building international trade need to be enhanced. “No Israeli mother should fear when her child boards a bus. No one should grow up thinking violence and conflict are the norm,” she said.

Mr. Abdullah said immediate action to foster improvements throughout the Middle East was needed, estimating that it would take at least “two to three years” before a new administration would become fully involved in Middle East affairs. Without that interaction, he said, the “region will move further away from our vision of moderation, prosperity, and peace. It will move further away from the common principles of mutual respect and partnership on which we want to base our relations with the United States and the West.

“Every day another child in my region will grow up with frustration and hatred in his or her eyes,” he said.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs sponsored the talk.

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