Israel Ponders on the Developments in Jordan; U.S. Fleet Ready to Act

Israeli observers maintained a close watch today on the unrest in neighboring Jordan where rioting broke out this morning again in Nablus and where local Arabs, incited by strong anti-Israel propaganda, demanded arms from King Hussein to be used against Israel in retaliation of Israel’s reprisal raid into Jordan on November 13.

It was felt here that the situation in Jordan is nearing some kind of a climax, as troops from Saudi Arabia were reported to have arrived in Jordan today to strengthen the position of King Hussein against the growing restlessness in the country. A spokesman for the U.S. Sixth Fleet, which is stationed in the Mediterranean, was also reported to state that the fleet is keeping an eye on the explosive situation in the Middle East and is ready to intervene, should Washington give the command. The spokesman for the 50-ship fleet refused to state whether the fleet has already been placed on the alert.

The question here is of what possible action Israel could take if King Hussein’s regime should fall under pressure of the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank of Jordan, and be replaced by a military junta linked either to the Ba’ath regime in Syria or to President Nasser’s regime in Egypt.

Israel’s declared stand in such an event is based on the announcement by then Premier David Ben-Gurion in Parliament six years ago that if a major change in Jordan’s government took place, Israel would draw the consequences and act to protect its interests. To act in such a Jordanian crisis would place Israel in an awkward position in the United Nations. But not to act, it was pointed out, would convert Israel’s longest border and the one most difficult to defend, into a permanent front controlled by an enemy power.

King Hussein’s decision to arm settlers in Israeli border villages was received here with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there was hope that such arming might weaken the violence of the radio campaign from Cairo against King Hussein mounted by Ahmed Shukairy, head of the “Palestine Liberation Organization,” who has called for Hussein’s assassination if the King continued to refuse help from Egypt and Syria and from the PLC. On the other hand, there was fear that giving arms to the most passionately anti-Israel element in Jordan’s population might cause new border incidents and bloodshed.

The observers noted that fire was opened last night in the Jerusalem vicinity on a car in Israeli territory in which one passenger was injured. The observers said that the shooting probably was done by relatives of casualties in the November 13 action, in the traditional Arab loyalty to the concept of revenging relatives. Israel lodged a complaint over the incident with U.N. military observers.

Border tensions also caused Jordanian officials to close today the Mandelbaum Gate dividing new and old Jerusalem, which yesterday was opened only for a few hours. The gate was opened briefly yesterday after the American consul in Jerusalem crossed into Jordan and persuaded the governor of Old Jerusalem to allow a group of American tourists to go through the checkpoint.

Israeli officials meanwhile postponed Israel’s regular twice-a-month convoy to Mount Scopus until next week because of concern over possible reactions by Jordanians in Old Jerusalem which the convoy traverses en route to the Israeli enclave. The convoy brings relief police guards and supplies to the Israeli guards on Mount Scopus.

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