JERUSALEM (Jan. 31)
West Bank Arab leaders believe that Jordan’s agreement to reactivate its Eastern Front under the overall command of an Egyptian general is a diplomatic move with little military significance, though it may lead to further Jordanian restrictions on commercial and social relations between the East and West banks of the Jordan.
Those views were expressed today by the mayors of Hebron and Bethlehem, and by Aziz Shehade, a prominent Ramallah lawyer. Hebron Mayor Sheikh Mohammed Ali El-Jaabari told reporters that he thought the Jordanian decision, announced in Cairo two days ago, was aimed at getting more financial support from Kuwait and Libya. “Amman needs money to strengthen its Army,” Sheik Jaabari said. He declined to comment on the influence Jordan’s move will have on its relations with the West Bank.
Shehade, who supports the idea of an autonomous Palestinian entity on the West Bank, said, however, that the revival of the Eastern Front may be followed by a move in Amman to “impose further restrictions on commercial and social relations between the two banks in order to demonstrate its obedience to the Arab League’s orders.” He recalled that the Arab League only a few weeks ago had expressed displeasure with the open bridges policy which permits free trade and travel between Jordan and the West Bank.
Bethlehem Mayor Elias Farij said the Jordanian decision was part of its efforts to improve relations with the other Arab states. He said King Hussein wanted to coordinate his steps with Egyptian strategy.