WASHINGTON (Mar. 15)
The Reagan Administration conceded today that the rejection by King Hussein of Jordan of any negotiations with Israel at this time will make it harder to prevent the move in Congress to block the sale of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Jordan.
“It does make it more difficult,” White House spokesman Larry Speakes said. “I wouldn’t pronounce it dead yet.” State Department spokesman John Hughes said the Administration intends to go ahead with the sale of the weapon which can be fired by a single person, as well as the joint rapid deployment force between the U.S. and Jordan.
Rep. Larry Smith (D. Fla.) introduced a bill in the House yesterday to block the sale of 1,600 Stinger missiles and launchers to Jordan and another 1,200 to Saudi Arabia. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate next week.
Hussein, in an interview published in The New York Times today, said that U.S. “credibility has suffered” because it has made a “choice” for Israel “and support of Israel. That being the case, there is no hope of achieving anything.”
TIMING OF HUSSEIN’S STATEMENT NOTED
Both Speakes and Hughes said the Administration was surprised by the King’s statement, especially as it was made a day after President Reagan, in a speech to the National United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Conference Tuesday, urged the need to support Jordan because that country is “crucial to the peace process.” Hughes said that both Hussein and Israel had received advanced copies of the speech.
Hughes noted Reagan had made clear in his speech that he “continues to uphold the view outlined in his September 1, 1982 peace initiative, including that the status of Jerusalem must be settled by negotiations and that Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank and Gaza does not contribute to the peace process.” Reagan reportedly made these same points in a cable sent to Hussein today asking for an explanation of the King’s remarks.
Speakes stressed that the Administration is still committed to the Reagan peace initiative as”the only fair and workable outline for a peace settlement that is currently out.”
FACING SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS
“The King’s remarks point to some serious problems we face,” Hughes said. “The forces of extremism and terrorism are complicating the situation in the region, increasing the risk to moderates who contemplate joining the peace process. This bears out the President’s concern that American consistency, American credibility are crucial to the hopes for peace.
“The Congress shares in this responsibility to make sure that the United States is a steadfast and reliable friend of all those who are interested in peaceful solutions,” Hughes continued. “This applies to Jordan.”
Smith said today that Congress has proven its support for Jordan by appropriating more than $100 million in foreign military credits annually. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved this appropriation today.
But Smith and Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R.N.Y.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill to block the Stinger sale, said at a press conference yesterday that providing the Stingers should not be used as a means to induce Jordan to join in the peace process.
“We have no reason to believe such arms sales ever encourage peace,” Smith said. He said for too long the U.S. has been unsuccessfully using a “carrot and stick approach.” “We give them all the carrots and they beat us over the head with it,” he said.
Gilman noted that “neither Jordan or Saudi Arabia have shown any willingness to support the Camp David accords,” or to “come to the conference table.” Gilman added that “our refusal to sell advanced technology to Egypt” before the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty “set a precedent that should be followed in this case — no weapons without a sincere move toward peace.”
The Congressmen also warned that the weapon could threaten Israel, by falling into the hands of the Soviet Union and because of its easy portability makes “an ideal terrorist weapon.”
CITES EBB AND FLOW OF MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS
Hughes noted today that there are always ups and downs in the Mideast peace process and while Hussein was pessimistic now, he has been less pessimistic before and could be so again. He stressed that for more than three decades, the U.S. has followed a “consistent and principled policy of promoting Arab-Israeli negotiations. Both sides must know that there is no possibility of progress toward peace in the absence of negotiations …. Backing away from negotiations, even temporarily, does nothing for the Palestinian cause.”
Hughes added that “the United States had had, does have and will always have a strong friendship with Israel.” But he said that the progress that has already been made “shows that friendship is fully compatible with successful Arab-Israeli negotiations.”