U.S. plays a crucial role in Palestine

2009-10-27 00:00

IF the United States of America was ­committed to peace in the Middle East, it could achieve it tomorrow, said former ­Jordanian prime minister Dr Abdel Salam al-Majali.

Speaking last week in the city at a gathering hosted by the local branch of the South African Institute for International Affairs in conjunction with the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Al-Majali rejected the idea that problems facing the Middle East were local ones.

“Thus, I’m going to start and end by ­saying that the solutions also are not local,” he said.

A medical doctor by training, Al-Majali was in KwaZulu-Natal to attend the General Conference of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World in Durban.

Tracing the recent history of the Middle East region, Al-Majali argued yesterday that once the U.S. was able to “put their own hand on the oil” in the ­Middle East after ­defeating Saddam ­Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Israel’s role as the region’s “watchdog” for the West declined, and the peace process was revived and the concept of a “greater Israel”, stretching from the Nile to Iraq, was actively discouraged.

Al-Majali indicated he received direct confirmation from U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that the Israeli state lent ­support to an earlier form of Hamas in order to dilute the influence of the late ­Yasser ­Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

Al-Majali, who led Jordan’s delegations for peace negotiations with Israel in Madrid in 1991 and in Washington in 1994, had the Pietermaritzburg gathering spellbound as he recalled the significance of the Madrid Conference, which was the first time Palestinians had been given an opportunity to “show themselves” on an international stage.

“Firstly, their existence and their right to the land of Israel had been denied. Secondly, they were viewed as terrorists ... but people heard them speak and at that point I ­announced that Jordan was not part of ­Palestine and that the Palestinians should negotiate on their own.”

It was the first step towards fragile Israeli-Palestinian talks which culminated in the Oslo accords of 1993.

During question time, when the inevitable question about the two-state solution came up, Al-Majali said there had been lots of talk more recently on the possibility of a one-state solution for Israel. “But unfortunately, Israel built the [separation] wall. They say they want security and to be recognised as Israel. But if you want to be part of the ­Middle East, you don’t build a wall,” he said.

Al-Majali said although the political will of the U.S. is critical to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, it will take a strong Israeli leader to ­implement the ­process within the country.

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