King Abdullah of Jordan
JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to unilaterally evacuate most of Judea and Samaria is a threat to Jordan and to Mideast regional stability, Jordan’s King Abdullah said today.
The king’s statements follow similar protests from U.S. regional ally Egypt. Senior officials there say they view the Israeli retreat as a possible threat to Egyptian security. As WND reported, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to support the plan at a press conference this past weekend with Olmert.
“Such a unilateral step (as evacuating Judea and Samaria) would foster insecurity and doubts not only in the Palestinian Authority, but among the rest of the peace partners in the region,” said Abdullah in an interview with Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily.
Abdullah expressed fear that if an Israeli withdrawal is implemented, Jordan might be flooded with Palestinians trying to escape Judea and Samaria.
“The Palestinians’ homeland and their state should be on Palestinian soil, and nowhere else. … Jordan will never be a substitute homeland for anybody.” Abdullah said.
Abdullah granted the interview in advance of a meeting scheduled for tomorrow with Olmert that is widely seen as the latest round of diplomatic presentations by the Israeli leader regarding his evacuation plan, which seeks to vacate most of Judea and Samaria – mountainous territory that borders Jordan and is within rocket firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.
Judea and Samaria also commonly is referred to as the West Bank.
Abdullah’s statements today are not the first time the king spoke out against the proposed evacuation. Last month, he reportedly expressed his reservation in a letter sent to President Bush urging the American leader to press Olmert toward Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Bush and Olmert met three weeks ago in Washington.
Abdullah reportedly told Bush he fears an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria could threaten his country.
Since Israel conducted a similar pullout from the Gaza Strip last August, rockets have been fired regularly into nearby Jewish communities, Hamas has been elected to power and both Israeli and Palestinian officials have stated al-Qaida has infiltrated the territory. Neighboring Egypt recently announced the terrorists who carried out April’s deadly triple-bomb blasts in the Sinai resort town of Dahab trained for the operation in the Gaza Strip with local Palestinians. They said Gaza-based terrorists helped finance the attack.
Abdullah said he fears similar instability in following an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria withdrawal.
“If riots break out in the West Bank, they could spread into the kingdom. When someone sneezes in the West Bank, they say here, Jordan can catch the flu,” Abdullah said.
Analysts here contend Olmert’s evacuation plan would boost Hamas’ power in Judea and Samaria. The terror group won last January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections by a large margin. As part of its campaign platform, Hamas took credit for Israel’s Gaza withdrawal and pledged a similar Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria.
Jordan has a strained relationship with Hamas, which it has been helping to diplomatically isolate. Jordanian officials announced last month security officers caught a large arms cache smuggled into the country by Hamas members. Jordanian television broadcast confessions by three Hamas militants who said they smuggled the arms for possible attacks against Jordanian officials and interests.
Hamas has a history of anti-Jordan activity. Officials there say they caught several other arms caches in the past belonging to the terror group. Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, a Jordanian citizen, was expelled in 1999 along with other leaders after a crackdown on the group following accusations of illegal activities.
Also reportedly opposed to Olmert’s Judea and Samaria evacuation plan is Egyptian President Mubarak, who refused to support the withdrawal when prompted by a reporter at a press conference with Olmert last week.
A senior Egyptian official told WND Mubarak “vehemently” opposes any Israeli unilateral withdrawal.
“Egypt is continually threatened by the anarchy in the Gaza Strip,” the official said. “Elements in Gaza have aided and abetted plotters of terror attacks against our land and sovereignty. A unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank could bring similar anarchy on a larger scale there and spill over into (neighboring) Jordan.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity, claiming an on-the-record interview concerning Olmert’s evacuation plan could “complicate Egyptian diplomatic relationships.”
Egypt is said to be very closely monitoring the Hamas relationship with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to create an Islamic theocracy in place of the current Mubarak regime. Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, which won an unprecedented 20 percent of the Parliament in the latest Egyptian elections.
Multiple Brotherhood leaders in Egypt have stated many times their group is strengthened by Israel’s Gaza withdrawal and Hamas’ ascension to power. They have said they wish to stage a similar takeover of Egypt.
“Gaza is a clear threat now to Egypt,” stated the Egyptian official. “What reason is there to believe things will result otherwise from any West Bank withdrawal?”
Mideast countries are not alone in expressing reservations about Olmert’s Judea and Samaria evacuation.
Following his White House meeting with Olmert, Bush’s comments regarding Olmert’s proposed withdrawal stopped short of an endorsement. While giving Olmert credit for proposing “bold ideas” that “could be an important step” toward peace, Bush stressed the Road Map and urged talks with Abbas. He stated a negotiated agreement “best serves Israelis and Palestinians and the cause of peace.”
A member of the Israeli delegation at the White House meeting described the U.S. attitude toward the Judea and Samaria withdrawal as “lukewarm,” explaining the White House raised a number of concerns, including the possibility a terror entity will be created in the areas evacuated, reservations expressed by Jordan and the effects of the plan on U.S. regional interests.