Possibility of Hussein Joining the Peace Talks is Gaining Ground
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Possibility of Hussein Joining the Peace Talks is Gaining Ground

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The possibility that King Hussein of Jordan will soon make a move to join the Middle East peace talks is gaining ground among some Israeli government analysts. They expect he will do so on the basis of support for President Reagan’s initiative, announced last September I, and on condition that Israel freezes settlement activity on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as Reagan has urged.

The analysts seem to be in agreement with William Quandt of the Brookings institution, who predicted in a lecture in Tel Aviv Sunday that Hussein would shortly announce his intention to join the peace process. Quandt was the National Security Council’s Mideast expert in the Carter Administration.

That possibility received further support today from Sen, Paul Tsongas (D. Mass.) who is currently visiting the region. He told reporters at Kibbutz Afikim that “specifically, a decision has been made (by Jordan) to negotiate as soon as the environment is correct.”

Tsongas said he was informed of this in conversations with top Egyptian leaders in Cairo earlier this week. The “most important part” of the “correct environment” is the situation in Lebanon, according to Tsongas who went to Amman today for talks with Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan and will be back in Israel Friday for a meeting with Premier Menachem Begin.


According to Israeli analysis, Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat will continue to insist publicly that he has given Hussein no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Privately, however, the two men will have reached an understanding, the nature of which Hussein is expected to convey to Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz when he makes a return visit to Washington later this month or early in February.

The Jordanian ruler is expected to visit the White House again before Begin’s visit which is now scheduled for the third week of February. Begin was to have met with Reagan last November but was forced to cancel because of the death of his wife, Aliza.

Quandt, who met with Hussein before coming to Israel, said the King would seek to obtain maximum support from other Arab leaders before entering the peace talks. He also said he was more optimistic over the prospects of the talks getting under way than he was for their successful outcome.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir warned last night that if Hussein entered talks with Israel under an all-Arab mandate, his proposals would be unacceptable “even to the most moderate Israeli.”

Addressing the sixth international convention of Bnei Akiva, the youth movement affiliated with the National Religious Party, Shamir said Israel’s experience showed there could be peace with an Arab state only when the state freed itself from pan-Arab pressures, as the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt had done in 1977. According to Shamir, in terms of hopes for peace, an Arab “mandate” or a PLO “mandate” was “an illusion.”

Shamir claimed that over the years, Hussein’s position over territorial compromise, in secret contacts with Israelis, was always “not an inch.” The Foreign Minister implied strongly that this was also Israel’s position. Israel has “no need for such slogans,” he told his audience of Orthodox youth.

“We say Eretz Israel (land of Israel) and I don’t have to tell you in Bnei Akiva what that means,” he declared to wild applause. “We learned about it, we yearned for it, we lived it and we shall live it in the future. We shall settle it and it shall all of it be ours.”

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