Letter From My Father, Late King Hussein, to Netanyahu
My father, the Late King Hussein of Jordan, wrote regularly to Prime Minister Netanyahu and often referred to him in speeches and interviews in the late 1990s, when both men were leading their countries. Nearly 20 years later, his words still resonate and reveal how little has changed in the politics of the Middle East.
Current events in Gaza prompted me to compile a letter, in my father’s words, that he might send to Prime Minister Netanyahu today if he were still with us. The letter uses his words taken verbatim from speeches and interviews. The only changes I made were to switch the word “condone” from present to past tense, and to use the pronoun “you” when my father referred to the Prime Minister by his title or as “him.”
Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu,
It seems to me from what is happening now in Israel that you try to turn the clock backwards and overcome all agreements signed with the Arabs. Some forces have succeeded in frightening Israel away from peace. What is the alternative? The alternative is more killings, deaths, destruction and devastation. Weapons will not differentiate between a soldier and a civilian, between a human being and another, man or woman… Is this the future we yearn for?
These are times characterized by uncertainty and confusion, in the wake of what appears to be another attempt by you, to demolish the Israeli–Palestinian Agreements, and change the very facets of the peace process. Your emphasis seems to be on the objective of implanting the fear of peace in the Israeli society, instead of a serious drive towards attaining it the means to remove all causes of fear, and instilling the elements of mutual respect, confidence and collaboration between equals.
You are a person who will be judged by time. I never condoned the use of violence. I gave you all the support I could. I think you are letting yourself down, letting the people of Israel down, and letting the people who believe in peace down, if this is to continue. It is ironic that you are probably the most powerful prime minister in the history of Israel in terms of your position. Yet I think there is an image of Israel we have never seen in the past of uncertainty, of differing views, of an internal struggle, of movement in the direction of peace, then moving in the opposite direction, of almost confusion. There are mentalities and minds that seem to be pre-set, and do not give and take, and do not see where the future ought to be.
There is a wall between us… When we move this wall or bring it down, we find that we are all human beings with similar problems, hardships and tribulations. There are narrow-minded people and extremists on the other side, just as we have narrow-minded people and extremists here. These do not want peace and fiercely oppose it. On the opposite side, the majority of people have become fed up with wars, shedding of blood, losses…Both sides have these people, which is why dialogue and discussions are needed.
And in the meantime, a waste of time, a waste of precious time.
Politicians can talk, but what do ordinary people feel? What do they go through everyday? What humiliation do they suffer? What indignation do they suffer? We have no right to dictate through irresponsible action or narrow-mindedness the future of our children and their children’s children. There has been enough destruction, enough death, enough waste, and it’s time that, together, we occupy a place beyond ourselves, our peoples, that is worthy of them under the sun, the descendants of the children of Abraham.
Which comes first? Security or Peace? We seem to be going around these issues. But peace can only be achieved if people believe in it, if people work for it, if people are ready to contribute to it. And with it comes security, because then you feel on both sides that you have got something worthwhile protecting and that we are attempting to put an end to the past and the tragedies that had occurred. However if this is not achievable, you can’t have security and then begin to talk about peace. That is impossible.
To me I believe there is a peace camp, and there are those who are opposed to it, who are procrastinating, who are trying to destroy the chances of progress. I really am despairing of the situation more and more as time goes by. I think that the important element is the realization that life is a transition, and that we have to work beyond these days to a future that is worthwhile and hope that people will remember you as one who did his best. But no one is there forever, that is the fact of life. And I wish to God that more people here realize that.
When things go wrong, friends, the United States, our friends in Europe, are duty bound, in my view, to come to help with suggestions that are objective, that are balanced with ideas, because it is in the interests of all of us and the generations that are to come to achieve comprehensive peace.
The United States, in particular, is a partner — and I repeat, partner —in bringing about Arab-Israeli peace. An objective, active partner is, in our firm view, neither a perpetual messenger between the parties, nor a silent immaterial observer. There is no other worthy cause to struggle, to try to achieve, for the good of all people of the region, Israeli’s and Arabs alike… the whole region.
I do not lose hope. I will never lose hope. It is so very, very important for the future of our region for all our peoples to seize the opportunity and not permit conditions to deteriorate beyond what they have reached now. And I have a great belief that people with vision and knowledge of what is at stake will eventually make their voices heard and prevail.
We, in our part of the world, have all the more reason to learn from the facts that brought us to this earth. To recognize ourselves – Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims, the descendants of the Children of Abraham – that in itself should be our greatest challenge. To come together, to work together, to revive the reality of our common struggle, way in the past, that helped contribute to the world today — its culture, its civilization, its progress. How can we resolve problems if we do not place ourselves in the position of others with whom we have problems? How can we move ahead if we do not have mutual respect for each other, and stemming from it, trust?
The dreams are there, and determination is there, and the hope and trust in people, particularly the young people who, I believe, are fed up with politicians and fed up with leaders who do not deliver and fed up with wars, and fed up with the loss of opportunities and chances and the carnage, and to whom we owe a responsibility to continue to try.
A long time ago, Sir, in Washington following the crisis of Hebron, when we departed, you said you were still determined to surprise me, and I am still waiting for the surprise. Let’s hope that all of us are pleasantly surprised by progress, make it a peace between people — a people–to–people peace — and remove the barriers. You must present future generations with the kind of life that is worthy of them.
Yours, Al Hussein Bin Talal.