Labor and Likud Differ in Their Assessments of Hussein’s UN Speech
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Labor and Likud Differ in Their Assessments of Hussein’s UN Speech

Premier Shimon Peres expressed today a skeptical but cautiously positive reaction to the speech delivered by King Hussein to the UN General Assembly Friday, declaring that the Jordanian ruler would be judged by his actions, not his words.

But Peres’ Likud partners in the national unity government were totally negative, warning Israelis not to be taken in.

In a statement at the weekly Cabinet meeting, published afterwards as a official communique, Peres, leader of the Labor Party, said Hussein seemed to hold out the prospects of peace talks with Israel. But his speech must “be judged according to its results and not according to the echoes it produces,” Peres said.

“A positive result,” he said, “would be the holding of direct negotiations without preconditions between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian representation.”

Hussein reiterated in his speech that he was ready to negotiate with Israel, but only under the auspices of an international conference in which both the U.S. and Soviet Union were participants. He called U.S.-Soviet consultations on the Middle East “both necessary and positive.”

Peres stressed that the UN speech was “the first time that the King of Jordan has spoken of direct and prompt negotiations with the government of Israel.” But he rejected the proposed international conference. “There is no need for an additional framework which would only produce additional arguments and cause interminable delays,” Peres declared.


The Likud reaction was sharply different in tone. Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir, the Likud leader who is presently in New York attending the General Assembly, asserted over the weekend that there was “nothing new” in Hussein’s speech.

Acting Foreign Minister Moshe Arens said today that Israelis who read Hussein’s words in a positive way apparently did not read his entire UN speech. A statement by the Foreign Ministry noted that the King mentioned the 1947 Palestine partition resolution of the UN and a General Assembly resolution calling for the repatriation or compensation for Palestinian refugees.

Minister of Tourism Avraham Sharir, a Likud-Liberal, warned that Hussein had built “a trap” for Israel. Other Likud spokesmen stressed Jordan’s desire to win approval for its major arms deal with the U.S., announced by President Reagan Friday which faces powerful opposition in Congress. (See related story.)

Peres himself, in a gesture toward Likud, noted in his statement that if Hussein’s speech was not followed by a “positive result” — direct negotiations with Israel — there would be “no change from the previous situation.” He made clear that his guarded optimism should not be interpreted as support for or acquiescence in the U.S.-Jordan arms deal. The Premier, while praising Hussein’s “vision of peace” and “his referece to cooperation between the nations of the Middle East,” spoke sharply against the U.S. intention to sell Jordan up to $1.9 billion in sophisticated aircraft and other military hardware. “No speech can justify an arms deal, and Israel continues to oppose the arms deal between the U.S. and Jordan,” Peres said.

He also insisted that the Palestine Liberation Organization can not be a negotiating partner with Israel, all the more so in light of the terrorist acts perpetrated by the PLO in recent weeks. In that connection he criticized the distinction Hussein drew between terrorism — which he condemned — and acts of “national liberation fighters.”

“Violence is violence. No fight for national liberation can justify the murder of innocent men, women and children,” Peres declared.

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