'Inaction on ME conflict not an option'

Jordan's King Abdullah lauds US commitment to peace; pushes for acceptance of the Arab plan.

jordan abdullah world economic forum (photo credit: AP)
jordan abdullah world economic forum
(photo credit: AP)
Jordan's king praised the renewed US commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East on Friday and urged Israel to work toward that goal. King Abdullah II spoke a day after he pressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to immediately commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state, a step he has been reluctant to take despite pressure from the US. The king said his visit to Washington late last month assured him that President Barack Obama is committed to pushing for peace between Israelis, Palestinians and the broader Arab world based on a two-state solution. "I was encouraged that in all my conversations in Washington it was clear that people know inaction is not an option," Abdullah told the opening meeting of an international economic gathering in Jordan sponsored by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. "The new American commitment has now opened an opportunity to change the direction of events," Abdullah told the business executives and government officials gathered at the meeting, which is being held along the shores of the Dead Sea. Abdullah stressed that the only way to achieve a Mideast settlement is through an Arab peace initiative that offers Israel relations with the 23 Arab League members in exchange for its withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. The king warned that the "time to act is not indefinite. Every delay has brought more danger, not only for the parties but for the region and indeed the world." Abdullah conveyed this same message to Netanyahu when they met in Amman on Thursday. But the prime minister argued that the threat from Iran and its regional proxies - Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip - must be confronted first, before any progress can be made in peacemaking. Netanyahu has been trying to forge cooperation with moderate Arab nations to pursue that agenda, but he has pointedly refused to endorse Palestinian statehood or the Arab peace initiative. Finding ways to restart Arab-Israeli peace talks and ease the impact of the global financial crisis on the Middle East are the central focus of the three-day World Economic Forum meeting being held in Jordan. The event has brought together more than 1,000 officials and executives from 79 countries. The opening of the meeting Friday coincided with the anniversary of the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 war over Israel's creation - an event Palestinians refer to as the "naqba," which means catastrophe in Arabic. Abdullah referred to the anniversary as he stressed the importance of achieving Mideast peace. "At family tables tonight, there will be elders who can tell of entire lifetimes of sorrow and loss, and newborns who may be the fourth generation ... born into conflict and an uncertain future," Abdullah said.