Jordanian Queen Rania Al Abdullah on Sunday said that successful Mideast peace talks could deal a heavy blow to Islamic militants, as radicals have exploited the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians to further their own violent cause.
“I’m not saying that the Middle East problem, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, is the one that created religious extremism. Religious extremism would have existed anyway. But extremists have done a good job of using this cause to amplify their message, you know, to try to reach the masses,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We need to realize that when there is a population that is living under occupation where there is no justice where they can’t send their children to school. And on the other side where Israelis feel that they have to build a bubble, you know, where they have to build a wall in order to exist safely because they live in such a hostile environment, that is an explosive situation,” she said.
The conflict has been ongoing for decades, and much centers around the settlement issue, as Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to pull out of talks if the 10-month moratorium on the construction of new Israeli settlements, which ended Sunday, is not extended.
“What matters to me is what actually happens on the ground,” the queen said.
“If both sides are still talking and in the spirit of peace the settlements are not expanded upon, then I think both sides need to be flexible. As long as they continue to talk we need to see results. The Palestinian people and the Israeli people need to see change in their lives very soon,” she said.
While U.S. President Barack Obama brought the two sides together for a fresh round of talks that began earlier this month — negotiations had previously been stalled for nearly two years — his popularity has dipped considerably in the Arab world, according to surveys.
One study, entitled “The View from the Middle East: The 2010 Public Opinion Poll,” found Arabs’ disapproval ratings of Obama jumped from 23 percent last year to 62 percent this year.
The University of Maryland/Zogby International poll found that disappointment over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resonates deepest in the Arab world and influences Arabs’ evaluation of Obama.
“If we achieve success with this round of Middle East talks, then let’s check his popularity ratings after that. I think they’ll skyrocket,” the queen said.
MANY ARE SKEPTICAL
Critics, however, have voiced doubts over whether the Obama administration can shepherd the two sides to a peace deal within the span of one year — the timeline proposed by the administration — as peace has been tried by a number of prior U.S. presidents.
Skeptics have billed the one-year deadline as too ambitious, noted the rift in the Palestinian leadership, and argued that the two sides are only in talks to please Washington and not committed to the process.
Other critics have argued that the Second Intifada of 2001-2003 — a period of intense Israeli-Palestinian violence — killed not only thousands on both sides but also caused many to cast a doubtful eye on the possibility of peace.
And a recent uptick in terrorist attacks also threatens to derail peace talks.
IS THERE STILL HOPE?
Still, some are optimistic about the talks.
Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, wrote that while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to extend the moratorium, the two sides could strike a compromise if Netanyahu restricts building to modest growth in the areas that will probably be absorbed into Israel after an agreement.
Israel could also vow to prevent its army from entering areas under Palestinian control and allow the Palestinian police to patrol in most West Bank villages, he contended.
The public on both sides, and a majority of Arabs, also support a two-state solution, he noted. Xinhua