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Jewish Groups Express Range of Views on Hussein Moves

Initial reactions from a small sampling of major American Jewish groups to King Hussein’s plans to cut ties with the West Bank are mixed, with one seeing the move as a challenge to the Palestine Liberation Organization and another expressing concern about it triggering further instability.

A third statement, from the Zionist Organization of America, implicates some other, unnamed, Jewish organizations in the Jordanian king’s move, saying that by urging Israel to include the PLO in negotiations, they may have led Hussein to believe that Israel’s rejection of the PLO “is being compromised.”

The king’s challenge to the PLO is “put up or shut up,” according to Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. And that challenge, he added in a statement released Wednesday, is one the PLO will not meet.

The Reform leader called Hussein’s announcement Sunday of his plans to sever ties with the West Bank “a tactical move,” and said “the withdrawal of Jordanian influence and patronage from the West Bank forces the PLO into the position of assuming responsibility for the area’s Palestinian Arabs.”

But such a position is “in fundamental conflict with the PLO’s continued call for Israel’s destruction” and terrorism, Schindler added. He predicted Palestinian Arabs would realize that “the PLO is only a dead end.”

Schindler said he hopes that such a realization will “break the logjam” over the Palestinian issue by strengthening the hand of Jordan, “the one Arab country most likely to reach an agreement with Israel.”

CONCERN ABOUT INSTABILITY

Less sure of the prudence of the Jordanian moves was Seymour Reich, international president of B’nai B’rith. Reich said in a statement Monday that he hopes Hussein’s decisions to dissolve the lower house of the Jordanian Parliament, half of whose members were from the West Bank, and to eliminate funding for West Bank development “will not contribute to further instability in the region.”

Reich urged the king to enter into peace negotiations with Israel. “A treaty of peace between Israel and a second Arab nation can only contribute to a process that would resolve the Palestinian problem, as well,” he said.

The ZOA statement rejected two of the foundations of Hussein’s apparent Palestinian policy by denying the king’s contention that “Jordan is not Palestine” and criticizing his advocacy of an independent Palestinian state.

But Henry Silverman, national public affairs chairman for the ZOA, reserved most of his short statement for criticism of American Jewish individuals and organizations who “have urged Israel to include the PLO in negotiations.”

He charged that they, “in some way, have served to encourage King Hussein to believe that Israel’s position, which rejects the PLO, is being compromised by the views expressed by some Jews recently in Israel and the Diaspora.”

“American Jews and organizations are not in a position to give advice to the elected representatives of Israel,” Silverman said.

He added that “it would be foolhardy and irresponsible for Jews in the Diaspora to continue urging Israel to make compromises on the issue of the PLO. This is the time for responsible restraint.”

None of the major U.S. Jewish organizations has issued a specific call for PLO inclusion in the peace process.

In a telephone interview, ZOA’s executive director, Paul Flacks, cited only the New Jewish Agenda among groups that have suggested such a move. He acknowledged that the statement would have been more accurate had it referred more specifically to Jewish individuals.

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