Reflecting on the CNN interview

Nabeel Abu Ata (Photo: JNews)
Nabeel Abu Ata. (Photo: Jordan News)
In precise and confident words, His Majesty King Abdullah answered CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s questions on a wide-range of topics on last Sunday’s program, GPS. The King flawlessly blended diplomacy with resolve in his clear-cut messaging, which speaks volumes on why his words resonate well with US policy makers as well as with the media.اضافة اعلان

It was music to the ears to hear the King’s tone and comfort as His Majesty reemphasized Jordan’s red lines when commenting on the provocative statement issued by Naftali Bennett’s adviser, suggesting that Jordan needs to start thinking of itself as the Palestinian state. The King smoothly ridiculed this rhetoric as “outmoded” and firmly, in a military commander’s voice, directed Fareed’s audience to who really gets to decide, by saying: “Jordan gets a vote in this. And I think our red lines have been clearly identified.”

The King, and despite underlining that the only solution is the two-state solution, still questioned the prospects of fairness, transparency, and democracy in a single state. A skeptical double-edged question that sounded more like a warning than advice to those who may cogitate pushing Palestinians out of their homes in the West Bank and across the river. You cannot simply create instability on one side and get away with it; it is not to be tolerated by Jordanians, and it will not pass.

Rarely do you hear an Arab Leader so eloquently summarize the Palestinian claim in the simplest of words: “The Palestinians do not want to be in Jordan; they want their lands, they want their football team, they want their flag to fly above their houses”. No matter who was listening to this interview, this narrative will forever be carved in the minds of ordinary citizens in America, as much as it is spoken to every rank and file in the circles of decision makers. The historic Palestinian cause is not be compromised and Palestinians are not in the business of swapping their homeland for a state on any other piece of soil in the world, full stop!

When Fareed alluded to the status quo of annexing the occupied territories, suggesting it could remain as is, because it suits the occupier, which is promoted as an extraordinary technological and economically thriving global power. The King swiftly and expressly responded:  “It is a very fragile façade”, reminding Fareed that the world witnessed a civil war inside the 1948 territories during the last war in May; which should be a wake-up call. It sounded more to me as if the King was saying: “Not so much an extraordinary power and no one is invincible, Fareed”. No victors emerge from such wars, and without investing in the livelihood of the Palestinians, the next cycle of war is going to be even more damaging.

In the utmost tact, the King evaded a question comparing Biden to Trump, by highlighting the Hashemite’s policy of respecting the office of the president regardless of the person holding it. He saluted the current president for being a seasoned senator with whom the King and HRH Crown Prince Hussein enjoyed a high level of chemistry. When asked specifically about the change in White House policy, the King singled out the topic of Syria and Lebanon, as if implicitly introducing the role that he was promoting for Jordan in rebuilding Syria and in reviving Lebanon’s economy. A role, which will have a major impact on Jordan and the Levant if the US decides to exclude Jordan from the Caesar’s Act.

However, with much disappointment, the King sounded at peace with the unfolding of the so-called “sedition case.” He spoke of the value of sincerity in service and attending to people’s grievances and demands, and candidly discussed his brother’s ambition, and the royal family members’ privileges and restrictions, stressing that politics is the purview of the King alone.

Yet, with another shrewd response, the King preferred not to point fingers at anyone when Fareed asked about external players in the sedition case. He resolutely decided to announce that he will deal with it as a domestic problem, putting Jordanians’ interests at the forefront: “This has always been the Jordanian ethos to look to the future”, the King said.

“It is just amazing that Jordan is still Jordan”, the King said at the end of the interview, praising the steadfastness of Jordanians and the legacy of his ancestors — chiefly his grandfather the late King Abdullah I, who was assassinated on the stairs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem — in maintaining the stability of Jordan. 

Following that, the King with his familiar modesty but an implied sense of authority reinforced his historical and legitimate right as the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites. He promised that his son, the Crown Prince, would shoulder the same responsibility to realize the Hashemite’s vision for Jerusalem as a city that brings Muslims, Christians, and Jews together — a city of hope and peace.

It was uplifting to hear the King speak this frankly, expressing opinions and stances that the Jordanian public can relate to and subscribe to, especially on the sedition case, the legitimate Arab and Hashemite claim to Jerusalem, and on investing in the livelihood of Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese. One can hear the King’s sadness about the incident with his younger brother, but at the same time cannot not miss the reverberation of clemency in his voice.

The King’s prudence in scrutinizing the events and characters in the region, wisdom in managing his ties regionally and internationally, and courage in identifying his redlines should give comfort to Jordanians, as their Kingdom’s political role has regained its status with the world’s strongest superpower.

But beyond the political dimension, the King initiated a renewed personalized “Abdullah-ite” doctrine in leadership and governing in which he ties the Hashemite political role to the values of sincerity, patriotism, pride, resilience, steadfastness, chivalry, service, diplomacy, and eloquence. This observation on the carefully articulated Royal message makes me want to recreate such an interview with His Majesty in Arabic, and with the same candor, while tackling more topics of interest that Jordanians discuss around their kitchen tables at Friday breakfast.

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