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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jordan's King Abdullah ridicules Israel boycott, but....

In a recent interview by the Petra news agency in Jordan, King Abdullah answered an interesting question:
Q: Another very hot topic around town is the Jordan Festival and the fact that a company called PUBLICIS is organizing the event. Some are saying that PUBLICIS has close ties with Israel. The minister of tourism and antiquities has denied that. Many are still calling for a boycott. It is important that we hear directly from you what the truth is.

A: I recently discussed this issue with the prime minister; PUBLICIS is not the company that is organizing the Jordan Festival. It is another company called Visiteurs Du Soir.

Today, Arab artists are contemplating canceling their performances and Arab tourists who were planning on visiting Jordan are canceling their trips. The government is now wasting its valuable time and resources trying to do damage control. All this because some so-called journalists are too careless and incompetent to do their basic work; it is shameful. This is a case study on how to shoot yourself in the foot, on how to be irresponsible, on how to do a massive disservice to your country and your people and on how to stop our development. Indeed, our worst enemies lie within. Should Jordan's future be held hostage to rumors and gossip? And should false information be the reference for our Jordanian press? Should we remain silent until the truth becomes the victim of irresponsible journalism?

Let us assume for a moment that it is in fact PUBLICIS that is helping to organize the event. In fact, I cannot think of a major company that does not do business with Israel. If all these companies are off-limits then we are in deep trouble. For example, Intel whose chips power 80 per cent of computers around the world has billions of dollars of investments in Israel; its closest competitor AMD also has large investments in Israel. Does that mean we should throw our computers away? This is nonsense. If we follow this line of thought, then we will be doing the best service to Israel. All it has to do is use the best technology and best talent in the world and automatically it would be off-limits to us.
This was a good answer, but it reveals a bit more than Abdullah intended.

It is good in the sense that it is refreshing for an Arab leader to acknowledge that the weapon of the Arab boycott against Israel has been, and will remain, counterproductive for all Arabs.

But notice how Abdullah frames it: "If we follow this line of thought, then we will be doing the best service to Israel. All it has to do is use the best technology and best talent in the world and automatically it would be off-limits to us." The assumption made here is that Israel considers Jordan to be a mortal enemy and only wishes for it to fail economically, which would be "the best service to Israel."

Even the most pragmatic Arab leader, and the one who most desires peace with Israel, still regards the Arab/Israeli conflict to be a zero-sum game where if one side gains, the other side loses and vice-versa.

Why on earth would Israel want Jordan to fail? Jordan, and specifically the Hashemite dynasty that rules Jordan, has been Israel's most reliable Arab neighbor for most of its history. Israel wants Jordan to thrive, and it wants all its neighbors to act more like Jordan does. If Jordan would have maintained its claim on the West Bank, 99% of WB Palestinian Arabs would now be living productive lives as full Jordanian citizens and there would be far less terror coming from the West Bank.

The only reason that Abdullah could possibly think that Israel wants Jordan to fail is if he, for all his positive attributes, is still projecting the deep Arab hatred of Israel onto Israel itself. He may be practical about Israel but he will never, ever truly accept its existence as a state with the same rights as his own. He still wants Israel to disappear, so he assumes that the feeling is mutual.

And if Israel's best friend in the Arab world thinks this way, the chances for a lasting peace are, unfortunately, infinitesimal.