JERUSALEM (Oct. 30)
The concrete details of the Rabat package deal are still partially obscure today. But the main features are already taking shape and the general impression of the Arab summit’s results is of an Important success for President Anwar Sadat and for his royal ally from Saudi Arabia. The Egyptians–even more than the Palestine Liberation Organization-got what they wanted.
Enough room was left for them to enter into another round of bilateral talks with Israel, through the help, of U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, for what Sadat calls further “forward movement” in Sinai; an impressive agreement on 2.3 billion petrol dollars in aid for the confrontation states; a temporary suspension of the Arab drive for a quick resumption of the Geneva conference; and above all, a Palestinian arrangement which keeps both rival horses, King Hussein and Yasir Arafat, tied to Sadat’s cart. These were the principal achievements the Egyptian leader took home with him from the Moroccan capital.
The Palestinian arrangement was, of course, the most difficult to achieve at the seventh Arab summit. But the lengthy preliminary preparations proved sufficient to carry it through. True enough, in order to attain the arrangement there had to be a “crisis” with sharp exchanges of accusations and threats of walk-out by several of the parties. Yet these theatricalities were merely the indispensable component of the method through which Sadat works. His technique is to stress differences in order to reach an agreed formula.
HUSSEIN’S DEMAND WAS A FORMALITY
Neither Arafat nor Hussein could afford the luxury of agreeing without putting up a reasonable show of obstinacy. Yet both were clearly aware of the expected outcome from the beginning. Hussein had no reason not to know that his claim to represent the West Bank would not be approved by the summit. None of the other participants had hidden their views on this issue. Hussein’s demand for a clear-cut decision was thus essentially a formality. He came to Rabat to make the concession recognizing the PLO as responsible for the future of the West Bank.
The vital question now is what did the King receive in return? In other words, will Jordan really withdraw now from the peace negotiations and if so, how will it go about withdrawing and how will it behave having withdrawn?
Both Egypt and Syria have publicly explained that they want Jordan at Geneva in due time. The Jordanians have dropped heavy hints these past two days that this is now impossible. But. meanwhile, the four leaders directly Involved in the conflict with Israel–Sadat, Hafez Assad of Syria, Hussein and Arafat–are to meet together (according to the summit’s decision) to work out a formula to govern their relationship during the negotiations.
Hussein probably received some quiet assurances or guarantees concerning the drafting of this formula. If so they are secret for the time being, and patience and perspicacity are called for in interpreting the results of the summit.
TREND TOWARD EGYPTIAN CONCEPT
The general trend is apparently towards the Egyptian concept: a form of loose federation between Arafat’s “national authority” on the West Bank and Hussein’s kingdom. Agreement upon such a long-term future settlement would lead to agreement in the short run between the parties on tactical coordination.
As the editor of the semi-official Cairo news paper Al Ahram pointed out recently, this would be the only possible settlement allowing room for both the King and Arafat to act within a Joint political framework. It may not be a workable solution in the long run but it will probably be good enough as a basis for cooperation on the Immediate tactical-diplomatic level, Al Abram noted.
The questions which will have to be answered by the four parties in the coordination deliberations are: Does PLO take over from Jordan at once in contacts and aid to the West Bank populace? Who represents the East Bank Palestinians? Who are Jordanian citizens? Will Hussein Introduce changes in the structure of his State so as to make it purely East Jordanian?
As Arafat establishes his government-in-exile, the hour approaches when these questions will have to be answered. Arafat plans to create his government-in-exile in order to benefit from both options simultaneously: to keep out of the negotiating process, but to be ready to enjoy the firsts of that process as they become available. The PLO has now won recognition and new status. But it cannot wipe Jordan off the map as a Palestinian factor.