King: Core Middle East Problem Must Be Resolved

President Obama says he wants to see Israel and the Palestinians step back from the abyss and revive stalled peace talks, and he is inviting Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to the White House for separate talks in the coming weeks.

Jordan's King Abdullah, the first Arab leader to meet Obama in the White House, says he came away convinced that the U.S. is preparing for a regional approach, trying to promote Arab Israeli peace on several different tracks.

In an interview with NPR, King Abdullah said he thinks the new approach will be to try to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks and, simultaneously, to work on the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian tracks.

The ultimate "prize" for the Israelis, King Abdullah said, is recognition by the 57 Arab and Muslim nations that don't have relations with the Jewish state. He says Israel is at a critical juncture now and has to decide whether it wants to be "integrated into the neighborhood" or continue to be "fortress Israel."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the idea of an "economic peace" with the Palestinians.

King Abdullah argues that "if economic outreach to the Palestinians is going to be a substitute for a two-state solution, it is never going to work." There are "certain baby steps" that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to create a better atmosphere for negotiations, "hopefully under an American umbrella," he said.

Obama also spoke about the need for both sides to make some "gestures of good faith" in the coming months and "step back from the abyss."

The trip to Washington wasn't only business for the Jordanian king. He took advantage of some downtime to ride his motorcycle to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and Gettysburg, Pa., to "decompress" and take in a bit of American history.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.