Jordan’s king says Israel is playing with fire with plans for new Jerusalem settlements

By Dale Gavlak, AP
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jordan: Israel playing with fire with settlements

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s king warned Israel in a rare public rebuke that it is “playing with fire” with its settlement policy, and said in comments published Thursday the Jewish state must decide whether it wants peace or war.

The comments from King Abdullah II, whose country signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, underscore the Jordanian leader’s frustration with recent Israeli announcements of new housing for Jews in disputed east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.

The Israeli plans came just as long-stalled indirect peace talks were to begin under U.S. mediation. The housing announcement enraged Arabs, and triggered sharp condemnation from Washington and the international community.

“We have warned repeatedly that Israel is playing with fire,” Abdullah said in an interview published with local newspapers.

He said Israel “must decide if it wants conflict or peace,” adding that if it is indeed peace, then Israel must take “tangible actions” toward ending settlements and returning to negotiations with Palestinians.

“People are fed up with an open-ended process that does not lead to results,” he said.

Abdullah said that a two-state solution was the “only solution” to the crisis, and warned that if no progress is made toward peace soon, then a new cycle violence will erupt for which “the whole world will pay the price.”

Despite intense pressure from the U.S. and the international community, Israel has refused to budge on the plans for 1,600 new Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, insisting the holy city is Israel’s capital and not a settlement.

During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip this week to Washington for talks with senior U.S. officials, Israel announced plans to further expand Jewish housing in the disputed part of Jerusalem.

Abdullah firmly rejected the plans, saying Jordan “condemns all Israeli measures to change the identity of Jerusalem and empty it of its Arab Christian and Muslim residents.”

Abdullah spoke ahead of this weekend’s Arab summit conference in Libya, where Arab leaders are expected to decide whether to keep an Arab peace initiative — giving Israel full Arab recognition in return for occupied Arab lands — on the table.

He also reiterated his rejection of the so-called ‘Jordan option,’ an idea espoused by some Israeli hard-liners to turn Jordan into a Palestinian state.

“No one can enforce such a solution and whoever speaks of such illusions is talking about an impossible scenario,” he said.

will not be displayed