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Special Interview Optimism About Israeli-jordanian Talks

The chances that Israel and Jordan will break the deadlock between them and embark on peace negotiations are greater today than they have been in many months, according to an Israeli expert on the Mideast.

Prof. Amnon Cohen of the Mideast Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York that the prospects for negotiations between Jerusalem and Amman are due to a number of developments in the area.

“First,” Cohen said, “the new Israeli government of Premier Shimon Peres is more willing than the previous Likud government to enter into negotiations with King Hussein. Second, the Palestine Liberation Organization, which always pressured Jordan to shun negotiations with Israel, has lost its leverage over Hussein, as a result of its defeat in Lebanon. And third, Jordan and Egypt are getting closer to each other, now that Jordan resumed its diplomatic ties with Cairo. The peaceful relations between Egypt and Israel can encourage the King to follow the Egyptian example.”

According to Cohen, the United States can play a major role in bringing Jordan to negotiate with Israel. He noted that Jordan “has deep ties in Washington and is dependent in many ways on the United States.” Jordan’s army, he pointed out, receives most of its weapons from America. He dismissed recent reports that Jordan is to buy Soviet arms as “insignificant.”

Cohen was in the U.S. for a short visit for the publication of two new books he wrote, “Jewish Life Under Islam,” (Harvard Press, Boston) and “Egypt and Palestine” (St. Martin’s Press, New York).

EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI RELATIONS ASSESSED

Asked to assess the present relations between Israel and Egypt, Cohen said: “The peace between the two countries is very precise from the formal point of view but it is rather ambiguous and unclear in its substantive aspects. The Egyptians adhere to the letter, but there is a great deal of erosion in the spirit of the treaty.”

Egypt, however, claims that as long as Israel is in Lebanon and the issue of Taba in the Sinai is not resolved it cannot keep as warm relations with Israel as it would like to have, Cohen noted. “The real test for Egypt will come, therefore, soon, when Israel will finally be out of Lebanon and the Taba issue is resolved,” he said.

ISSUE OF THE PLO

Turning to the issue of the PLO, Cohen said that Yasir Arafat was recognized anew as the leader of the PLO during the recent meeting of the Palestinian National Council in Amman.

But he said that he believes that it’s too early to assess the PLO as becoming more moderate. He said that there are many Israelis who believe that the PLO is moderating its policies in view of its decision to “consider” at a later date Hussein’s call, during the Amman meeting, to seek a political solution to the conflict with Israel.

“The fact that they are willing to consider Hussein’s suggestions is some progress from their point of view, but this by itself is not enough to brand the PLO moderate. After all, there is no change in the PLO’s terrorist activities, there is no change in its tie with the Soviet Union, and most of all there is no change in the Palestinian National Charter that calls for the destruction of Israel,” Cohen said.

The 48-year-old Israeli-born scholar said that the only military threat to Israel in the near future is from Syria. He contended that Syria, as a result of the war in Lebanon, is more dependent now on the Soviet Union and has “more self-confidence” than it had before the war.

Cohen said that as long as Israel is in Lebanon he does not think a war will erupt between Israel and Syria. But once Israel is out of Lebanon, Syria and Israel might be drawn into a war because of terrorist activities against Israel from Syria or Lebanon, or because of Syria’s attempt to invade Jordan, Cohen said.

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