Hussein Cuts Ties to West Bank; Palestinian Activists Arrested

Security authorities arrested several well-known Palestinian activists in Jerusalem and the administered territories this weekend, as Cabinet ministers convened to discuss King Hussein’s latest moves to reduce Jordan’s ties to the West Bank.

The king told his nation, in a televised address monitored here Sunday, that he was prepared to accept the secession of the West Bank from Jordan, in order to create an independent Palestinian state. He indicated that in doing so, he was bowing to the wishes of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

His statement followed two other moves to wash his hands of the territory. On Thursday, Hussein announced in Amman that Jordan had canceled its five-year development plan for the West Bank.

The statement terminating the $1.3 billion plan said the decision was made at the request of PLO chief Yasir Arafat, to prove that Jordan has no designs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, Hussein issued a decree dissolving the lower house of Jordan’s Parliament, which has represented the interests of Palestinians in the Israeli-administered West Bank.

The Jordanian monarch described these measures as intended to “allow the PLO to undertake upon itself full responsibility for the territories and waive any doubts regarding the position of Jordan.”

But Israeli ministers said at Sunday’s weekly Cabinet session that the Jordanian measures are mainly tactics and should not be seen as a definitive departure from Jordanian strongholds in the territories.

BLOW TO ‘JORDAN OPTION’

Nevertheless, Jordan’s moves were regarded here as a major blow to the “Jordanian option” advocated by the Labor Party. It envisions negotiations with Jordan resulting in some sort of joint administration of the West Bank.

Last week, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the main advocate of the Jordanian option, said that the Jordanians would be unable to detach themselves from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Pro-Jordanian figures in the territories also shared the view that the main thrust of Jordan’s latest moves was symbolic. But Tahsin Fares of Nablus, a member of the Jordanian Parliament, told Haaretz he regards the measures “as a real calamity to the West Bank and its people.”

Overall, Israel is seen to view Amman’s latest moves in the roller-coaster ride of Jordanian-PLO relations as acknowledgment that Jordan has lost most of its power bases in the administered territories since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising last December.

In a new drive to contain the unrest, now in its eighth month, Israeli military authorities detained several key Palestinian activists early Sunday.

During pre-dawn hours, authorities arrested Faisal al-Husseini, whom they described as a senior activist in Al Fatah, the military wing of the PLO. Husseini was placed under administrative detention for six months by order of Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Police also arrested Mustafa Abu-Zahara, a convicted terrorist, and placed him under administrative detention for six months. And eight East Jerusalem residents were detained for questioning.

Husseini has been in trouble repeatedly with the authorities. He was first placed under administrative detention in April 1987 for his Fatah activities, and released after three months.

Last September, he was placed in administrative detention for six months, “following a resumption of his activities in the Fatah organization.” After a three-month extension of that detention period, Husseini was released from incarceration in June.

ARAB INSTITUTE CLOSED

Authorities reported that despite these measures, Husseini renewed his “subversive and hostile” activities in the Fatah organization immediately following his latest release.

In recent years, Husseini has headed the Institute for Arab Studies in East Jerusalem, which authorities closed for a year on Sunday.

Although Husseini insists that the institute is merely an academic research institute, authorities say it serves as a center for subversive activities and employs former security prisoners.

Police say the institute has been involved in disseminating materials intended to incite unrest, through calls for strikes and other activities. Various leaflets were reportedly found Saturday night during a search of the institute and Husseini’s home.

Abu-Zahara, also arrested Sunday, was convicted in 1979 of aiding a terrorist and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, two of which were suspended.

Since his release, he has carried on activities connected with the struggle against Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, police charge. Included in the litany of Abu-Zahara’s activities are organization of demonstrations and commercial strikes and incitement to non-payment of taxes.

Police also arrested eight others for interrogation on Saturday night, as a result of information on their involvement in disturbances.

The moves against these Palestinian personalities were seen here as a signal by Israel that it intends to intensify measures against the uprising, despite the obvious boost it has received from Hussein’s measures.

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