King Abdullah: Ties with Netanyahu Have Improved

Jordan’s King says his relationship with PM Netanyahu has improved, but expresses pessimism over the two-state solution.

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Elad Benari,

King Abdullah II
King Abdullah II

Jordan’s King Abdullah has said his relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has improved, but expressed pessimism over the two-state solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

In one of a series of interviews with The Atlantic published Monday, Abdullah said his ties with Netanyahu are "very strong ... and discussions have really improved," but refused to elaborate further on his relationship with the Israeli prime minister.

At the same time, the King expressed fear "it could be too late already for the two-state solution. ... Part of me is worried that [it] is already past us."

"If Israel doesn't agree to a Palestinian state quickly, apartheid or democracy will be its choice," he told The Atlantic. "The practical question is, can Israel exert permanent control over Palestinians who are disenfranchised ad infinitum, or does it eventually become a South Africa, which couldn't survive as a pariah state?"

Asked to comment on whether U.S. President Barack Obama, as a second-term president, will have more leverage, Abdullah said that this is "the million-dollar question."

"This is the last moment. Can it be achieved in four years? Are we too late? After four years, it's over," he said.

Last year, Jordan hosted talks between Israeli government negotiator Yitzchak Molcho and chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, but the two sides made no progress.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu and King Abdullah met in Jordan and discussed the Middle East peace process.

It was Netanyahu's first trip abroad and first meeting with a foreign head of state since Israel's January 22 general election.

Reports in December said that Netanyahu and the king held a meeting that focused on Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

In the interview Monday, the King also managed to stir up a storm when he launched a broadside against regional leaders.

Abdullah said Egypt's president has "no depth" in reading the Arab-Israeli conflict and that Turkey's premier sees democracy as a "bus ride".

The King also told The Atlantic that "wolves in sheep's clothing" ran the Muslim Brotherhood, criticizing some Western allies for failing to understand that.

He reserved some harsh words for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, reported AFP.

"I was trying to explain to him how to deal with Hamas, how to get the peace process moving, and he was like: 'The Israelis will not move.'

"I said: 'Listen, whether the Israelis move or don't move, it's how we get Fatah and Hamas (the rival Palestinian factions) together," the King said.

"There's no depth to the guy," he added.

He said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "once said that democracy for him is a bus ride. 'Once I get to my stop, I'm getting off'."

"Instead of the Turkish model, taking six or seven years -- being an Erdogan -- Morsi wanted to do it overnight," King Abdullah added.

Asked if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was "a bit of a provincial," the king replied, "There was a dinner with me and him and the king of Morocco, at the king's residence in Cairo. And so Bashar at dinner turns to us and says, 'Can you guys explain to me what jet lag is'?"

"He never heard of jet lag."

King Abdullah said his Western allies are naive about the Brotherhood's intentions, adding he was told that "the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood," the report said.

"I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey," he added.

"The Arab Spring highlighted a new crescent in the process of development," he added, insisting that "our major fight" is to prevent that.

The royal palace in Amman issued a statement saying the report "contained many errors and the king's remarks were taken out of context," according to AFP.

"The writer reflected his own analyses, attributing remarks to the king in an inaccurate and dishonest way," the statement said.