Israel Viewing Jordan As First Arab State with Which It Can Reach Peace Accord

Political observers here believe that Israel now views Jordan as the first Arab state with which it may be able to conclude a peace agreement. This view marks an important shift away from the previous Israeli assessment of peace prospects which held that Egypt was the key to any Middle East settlement and must be dealt with before Israel’s other Arab neighbors. The shift was hinted in Premier Golda Meir’s reported remark at last Sunday’s cabinet meeting that there was no obstacle to resuming peace talks with Jordan under the auspices of United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring because there is no problem of missiles on the Jordanian front. Mrs. Meir’s public position has been that Israel will not return to the Jarring talks before Egypt’s truce violations in the Suez cease-fire zone are fully corrected. Police Minister Shlomo Hillel lent further credence to this view when he told newsmen at a press luncheon here yesterday that he favors peace talks with Jordan. He added that he thought Jordan was ready to engage in such talks if she really wanted to do so. Referring to the Jarring talks, Hillel stated that what was important was not the framework of the peace talks but what they would deal with. He added that the Jarring framework was only one of several possible ways for negotiations between Israel and the Arab states.

Observers here believe that Israel’s strategy now is to split the Arab front, an aim that would be achieved if a separate peace could be concluded with Jordan. According to this theory. King Hussein has a much freer hand to deal with Israel since the death of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Nasser’s domination of Arab politics and strategy and his immense prestige with the Arab masses restrained King Hussein from taking actions on his own, even such actions as he might have deemed to be in the best interests of Jordan. Observers note that Hussein still has a problem with Palestinian guerrillas who are opposed to any kind of settlement with Israel. But he proved, during the Jordanian civil war in September, that he could subdue the guerrillas without outside aid and he appears now to have them under effective control. According to these observers, Israel regards Jordan as fundamentally the weakest of its neighbors and therefore the most amenable to a peace settlement. Israelis believe that King Hussein may be more interested than ever in a separate peace since the agreement announced in Cairo Sunday that might lead to a federation of Egypt, Libya and the Sudan.

EGYPT-LIBYA-SUDAN FEDERATION MORE INIMICAL TO SOME ARAB STATES THAN TO ISRAEL

The agreement came after several days of talks between President Anwar Sadat, of Egypt, Col. Muammer el-Qaddafi, head of Libya’s revolutionary government and Maj. Gen. Gaafer Mohammed al-Nimeiry, leader of the military regime in Sudan. A federation of the three socialist-oriented nations occupying the northeastern quadrant of Africa could post a greater menace to Jordan and other conservative Arab regimes than to Israel. All observers agree that such a federation is still far off. The three leaders agreed only to the establishment of certain joint bodies which, among other things, would draft a program for federation. Nevertheless, should it come to pass, it would change the entire complexion of the Middle East. Libya, an under-populated country, is one of the world’s richest oil producers with oil revenues of about $1 billion a year. Egypt has a reservoir of professional talent and growing technological know-how while Sudan has a vast agricultural potential to contribute to the federation.

For the time being, Egypt is the only one of the three potential partners with a military establishment that is more than negligible. Nevertheless, the menace to Israel is clear. A federation of the three North African states would form a nation of over 2 million square miles, the seventh largest in the world, with a population of 48 million, ranking it the 14th-most populace nation, just behind France. The Israeli newspaper Davar called the projected federation “a monster designed to impress and frighten but which will soon reveal itself to be merely a scarecrow.” The paper predicted that the three partners would be unable to merge their political differences if the federation ever went beyond the paper stage. The newspaper Hatzofe warned that the federation would make it easier for Libya to transfer to Egypt the Mirage jets it recently purchased from France and the Chieftain tanks purchased from Britain. All observers agree that a tripartite federation would enhance Russia’s influence in the Mideast since the three partners are radical, revolutionary regimes opposed to the West. That alone is considered cause for alarm for the conservative monarchies that rule Jordan and Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf sultanates and sheikhdoms.

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