LONDON (Dec. 15)
King Hussein of Jordan is reportedly prepared to renounce his claim to sovereignty over the West Bank of the Jordan, occupied by Israel since the June, 1967 war, and would accept a separate Arab entity there inhabited by Palestinians if it would promote peace and “if that is what the people want.” King Hussein’s offer appeared in a dispatch from Amman by Gavin Young, published yesterday in the London Observer. Mr. Young said it was made by the Hashemite monarch during an exclusive interview in the royal palace in Amman last week.
(United States State Department officials and Israeli diplomats in Washington expressed surprise and some skepticism over King Hussein’s reported offer. One American official said the King might have used the vehicle of an interview to force the restive population on the West Bank to beg him not to abandon them. Another said that while the King had taken some measures to give West Bankers greater autonomy prior to the 1967 war, his reported statement was a radical departure from his previous positions. Shlomo Argov, minister at the Israel Embassy in Washington, said the remarks attributed to King Hussein would be “a very good answer” to questions asked by Israel through United Nations peace envoy Gunnar V. Jarring about how Jordan and Egypt envisaged a peace settlement with Israel. An Israeli source at the UN said that if Hussein’s alleged proposal were confirmed “in a more substantial way,” the Israeli Cabinet would “sit many hours” considering it.)
According to Mr. Young’s story, King Hussein said that “he would be content to remain ruler of the East Bank of the Jordan – the equivalent of what under his grandfather King Abdullah was called Trans-Jordan – if the people of the East Bank want that.” Mr. Young said the significance of Hussein’s offer had to be viewed in the context of proposals which reportedly have come to him from Americans and Israelis. The essence of these proposals, Mr. Young reported, are: The West Bank would be evacuated by Israel; East Jerusalem would be established as headquarters of an autonomous Palestinian state in a special relationship with Jordan; this state would have access to the Mediterranean through Haifa and Gaza in Israel-occupied former Egyptian-held territory; and the state would be demilitarized. “Up to now there have been two principal obstacles – among many – to such a plan,” Mr. Young wrote. “One was the assumption that King Hussein would refuse to give up sovereignty of the West Bank – now proved wrong by his remarks this week. The second obstacle was the firmly reiterated Israeli intention to hold on to Jerusalem. The Arabs will accept nothing that does not restore Jerusalem to them. A hopeful sign was the statement made this week by a senior official of the Israeli Foreign office that the status of Jerusalem was still negotiable,” Mr. Young said. “In the interview, Hussein said that there might be solutions other than the creation of an independent Palestine. But the point he was trying to make, he added, was that he was prepared to diminish his kingdom if the requirements of peace in the area dictated it.”