x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

King Abdullah makes plea for peace on American comedy show

The king of Jordan became the first reigning monarch to appear on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, making a serious plea for peace on the usually satirical television programme.

NEW YORK // King Abdullah II of Jordan this week became the first reigning monarch to appear on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, making a serious plea for peace on the usually satirical television programme. The king warned of war by the end of this year unless there was progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, to strengthen Arab moderates and weaken bellicose forces, including those from Iran and al Qa'eda. The almost 20-minute interview, half of which was broadcast on Thursday night and the other half made available on the Daily Show's website, was expected to raise considerably the profile of the 48-year-old monarch whose glamorous wife, Queen Rania, is already well-known on the celebrity charity circuit in New York. No preconditions were set by either King Abdullah or Stewart ahead of the interview, said Steve Albani, a spokesman for the programme, but he declined to say which party had first suggested the guest interview.

This was not the first prime-time television appearance by King Abdullah, who played a non-speaking role in an episode of Star Trek, the science-fiction television drama, in 1996. He succeeded King Hussein, his father, to the throne in 1999. On the The Daily Show, the king was measured and serious, although he raised a laugh when he played on the word "rock" to say Jordan was placed between "Iraq and a hard place". When Stewart asked him if he thought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, watched the show, the king said: "I'm sure he watches every day, as I do," drawing cheers from the studio audience. The king spoke mostly about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he said would be imperilled if Israel did not extend a moratorium on settlements in the occupied territories beyond the end of this month. "If we fail on the 30th, expect another war by the end of the year... and more wars that I foresee in the region over the coming years," he said. "We all got painted into a corner on the issue of settlements unfortunately and where we should have concentrated is on territories and the borders of a future, Palestinian two-state solution." He said he saw good "atmospherics" when direct negotiations were launched at a meeting at the White House earlier this month but that extremists were "waiting in the wings for us to fail". Stewart was respectful and refrained from any controversial questions. Bill Maher, who also presents a comedy talk show on US television, earlier this year hosted Queen Noor, the US-born, fourth and last wife of the late King Hussein of Jordan, and he asked whether monarchical rule was still a relevant form of leadership. She answered by saying she saw her role as working for the Jordanian people. sdevi@thenational.ae