WASHINGTON, May 22, 2011 -- King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key American ally and advocate of the Middle East peace process, says he does not have much hope for progress on negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in the coming months.
"My instincts tell me not to expect much over the next couple of months, unfortunately," King Abdullah said in an exclusive interview with "This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour." "I just have a feeling that we're going to be living with the status quo for 2011."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently visiting the United States, where he met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, before addressing a joint session of Congress next Tuesday. Netanyahu spoke strongly against President Obama's Thursday address in which he publicly called for the pre-1967 borders of Israel to serve as the starting point for future peace negotiations.
Abdullah, author of the new book "Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril," said the current realities on the ground leave him pessimistic, including Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.
"When he speaks to me, I see his vision of peace with the Palestinians, peace with the Arabs and I've always left those meetings feeling very optimistic," Abdullah said of his discussions with Netanyahu. "But unfortunately, the circumstances that we've seen on the ground for the past two years does not fill me with much hope."
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who resigned this month as President Obama's envoy to the Middle East after serving two years, said that while President Obama's comments on the 1967 borders were "a significant statement," they do not signal a major shift in policy, especially when land swaps are taken into consideration.
"The president didn't say that Israel has to go back to the '67 lines. He said with agreed swaps," Mitchell told Amanpour. "Swaps means an exchange of land intended to accommodate major Israeli population centers to be incorporated into Israel and Israel's security needs. Agreed means through negotiations. Both parties must agree."
"That's not going to be a border unless Israel agrees to it and we know they won't agree unless their security needs are satisfied, as it should be," Mitchell added of the 1967 borders.
Mitchell noted that Obama's Thursday statement on borders were identical to a proposal made by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who served until 2009.
"In a later interview, let me read to you what he said: 'I presented Abbas with a comprehensive plan. It was based on the following principles. One, there would be a territorial solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders, with minor modifications on both sides,'" Mitchell said of Olmert's previous comments.
While Mitchell said "it's indisputable that we have not made as much progress as we would have liked," he said he maintains a positive outlook if both sides are willing to negotiate.
"Both sides, I believe, want peace," Mitchell said. "The problem is, do they want peace enough to make the painful concessions that are necessary on both sides?"
Impact of the "Arab Spring"
King Abdullah said the democratic movements successfully launched in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia have served as a "wake-up call" to the region.
"This is a new and definitely defining moment for the Middle East," Abdullah said. "Which way the Middle East goes, I hope reaching out to the aspirations of the youth."
While protests and violence continue in other Mideast countries such as Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, Abdullah said that his country has created a "national dialogue" to bring a more open political process to Jordan.
"I have the responsibility to lead the debate in the right direction. And I think Jordan will move towards the light," Abdullah said. "We'll have new elections at the end of the year and it will be the start of new democracy in our country."
But Mitchell said the political turmoil throughout the region has impacted the peace process by creating "a high level of uncertainty and some degree of anxiety on both sides."
"I don't want to try to paint a falsely optimistic picture. It's very difficult right now," Mitchell said. "When you're surrounded by turbulence and you're uncertain about what's going to happen, you tend to step back and say let's wait and see what it looks like when the dust settles."