Benjamin Netanyahu weakened after the Israeli elections on January 22, extended his hand yesterday to Yair Lapid, a centrist, promising to give priority to the social but also may be forced to make concessions on Palestinian issue. Jordanians in turn voted on Wednesday, January 23, to choose members for a Parliament with enlarged powers. The new Parliament will choose the Prime Minister and manage daily affairs, powers previously reserved to King Abdullah II. Foreign policy and security issues remain under the control of the King. The first results are expected today. An interview with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal.
1. What do you think will be the outcome of legislation in Israel?
First I want to emphasize a principle. We fully respect the freedom of people to choose Israeli politicians they trust to lead the country. We hope that the previously announced alliance between Likud-Beiteinu (right) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the new centrist party Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, is frankly a step towards greater understanding, towards a peaceful solution that all await. We hope it is about a real progress there.
2. Do you have a message to convey to elected officials?
I want leaders, who are elected on their platform, to take into account two realities they must not avoid and much less omit. I recall on the one hand there is a state called Palestine and secondly there is a Palestinian people. At the beginning of this new year, I repeat our wishes and prayers for peace through justice and mutual trust.
3. Are the elections in Jordan a test for the regime?
We have always said that the Jordanian regime had initiated reforms before and during the “Arab Spring.” It was able to contain the protests that could have escalated and led to worse. It is true that the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted these elections in a clear and outright attempt bring down the regime. Despite the boycott of the Islamist opposition, more than half of Jordanian voters went to the polls yesterday, aware of their rights and duties. They estimate that for these general elections, there was a turnout rate of 56.5% of the 2.3 million registered voters. These are citizens who have at heart the good of their country. It is my hope that the Muslim Brotherhood rethink their policies and get on the right track in assuming their responsibilities. I must say that we admire the patience of the King who succeeds in listening to and dealing with the discontent.
4. In a regional context, socially and economically troubled, how does Jordan continue to face the arrival of Syrian refugees?
Thousands of Syrians are arriving in the country and I must say that Jordan faces shortages in electricity, water and fuel. Life becomes more expensive. The country hosts more refugees who in the North have begun to move south. Some bring their know-how and a good workforce, but many more are injured, tired and sick. I want to give a word of gratitude to the Jordanian army which has made available to all refugees an infrastructure to accommodate them. The situation in Syria afflicts us and in a letter of solidarity which I wrote this morning, I call on all people of good will from the international community to engage in a genuine dialogue for peace. Admittedly, my letter will not work a miracle but I want to express to the Syrian religious communities, priests and all those, our spiritual neighbors, who work in charity and for peace our prayerful support. We are not strangers to their suffering and we are full of true compassion.
Interview by Christophe Lafontaine