JERUSALEM (Sep. 23)
Israel will adopt a “wait and see” approach to Jordan’s dramatic announcement yesterday of its suspension of participation in current Mideast peace moves. Qualified sources here today said their assessment was that this was by no means necessarily Jordan’s last word–nor was the tripartite Egypt-Syria-Palestine Liberation Organization declaration of Cairo Saturday necessarily President Anwar Sadat’s last word on the vexed Palestinian representation problem.
The Cairo declaration, which led to Jordan’s suspension of participation in all Geneva-connected moves a acknowledged the PLO as the “sole legitimate” representative of the Palestinians, implying that not only those Palestinians living on the West Bank, but even those who form some 60 percent of the East Bank population, should see themselves as represented by the PLO. Jordan, of course, sees its Hashemite and mixed Hashemite-Palestinian government as duly representing all the Palestinians living in pre-1967 Jordan on both sides of the Jordan River.
Israeli analysts cite three possible motives behind the Jordanian “freeze”: to bring pressure on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria to soften their support for the PLO in advance of the crucial end-of-October Arab summit; to pressure the U.S. and through the U.S. to pressure Israel to launch an Israel-Jordan negotiation as the next peace stage; and to clearly stress the ultimate decision that both the Arabs and Israel must make between Jordan and the PLO.
The qualified sources added that if no change in the general Arab position were forthcoming before or at the Arab summit next month, then Jordan would very likely carry out its implied threat to permanently wash its hands of the West Bank. There has been for some time, the sources pointed out, a considerable body of opinion in Amman which holds that the West Bank is more a burden than an advantage to Jordan. This view does not at this time include King Hussein.
The contrary argument, of course, is that leaving the West Bank to the PLO would create an irridentist neighbor which would constantly seek to overthrow the Hashemites in Amman, too. The Israeli analysts are wondering how this latest turn of events in the Arab world will affect developments at the United Nations. The Arab states may themselves wish to postpone the debate on the Palestine issue until after their summit, when, they would hope, a greater measure of unity could be achieved.