Political Storm over Reports of a Secret Israel-jordan Agreement

Reports of a secret accord under which Israel and Jordan would exercise joint control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip pending a final peace settlement touched off a political storm Thursday.

Likud fiercely denounced the alleged deal as surrender and betrayal by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his senior aides who ostensibly negotiated it with Jordanian officials. Although the account first appeared in the Labor-affiliated newspaper Davar, Labor Party sources said it was wholly inaccurate.

They blasted Likud for “continuing its efforts to torpedo the peace process by publishing unfounded reports.” Likud Liberal Minister Yitzhak Modai, at a Herut rally Wednesday night, waved what he said was a copy of a secret agreement between Peres and King Hussein of Jordan. He charged that Peres has “in fact already sold out” the West Bank to Jordan.

Another senior Likud source accused Peres of abandoning any claim to Israeli sovereignty in the territory. The alleged agreement also reportedly provides for Jordanian police in East Jerusalem, a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and an Israeli flag on the Western Wall.

According to Davar’s political correspondent Aliza Wallach, the agreement was preliminary to and separate from the agreement said to have been reached between Peres and Hussein on procedures for convening an international conference for Middle East peace, to be followed by direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan.

Wallach named Avraham Tamir, Director General of the Foreign Ministry as the official who negotiated the preliminary accord.

The matter sharply escalated tensions between Labor and Likud as Peres prepared to present his peace plans to the Inner Cabinet next Monday. The coalition partners are also at loggerheads over Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s charge Wednesday that Peres and the Labor Party are “ready to negotiate with the PLO.” Peres denied this and accused Shamir of “inventing Labor positions and then arguing with them.”

“Labor has said clearly that it is against inviting the PLO (to peace talks) and it will not agree to the PLO’s participation,” Peres said.

Labor Party sources, meanwhile, welcomed a remark by Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Sidki on a visit to Amman Thursday to the effect that peace negotiations could take place without the Palestine Liberation Organization representing the Palestinians.

Sidki said the PLO should be invited, but unless it renounces violence and accepts Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, Egypt would favor an alternative Palestinian representation.

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