JERUSALEM (Feb. 19)
Israeli officials are concerned that the normally discordant Arab world will unite over the issue of large-scale Soviet immigration to Israel and form a new military alliance against the Jewish state.
At the center of their concern is Jordan, which has taken the lead against the massive immigration wave.
Reports from Amman over the weekend disclosed that Jordan has reached an agreement with Iraq to form a joint air force fighter squadron.
While Israeli officials are said to be not unduly disturbed by the reports, they are nevertheless haunted by the “possibility that an eastern alliance will be formed and that it will introduce a large military force into this area,” a military source said.
Both Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Gen. Dan Shomron, the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, have dismissed the military threat of an Iraqi-Jordanian air squadron, but not the long-term implications of cooperation between Arab states.
Jordan is desperately seeking the support of Arab states out of fear that Israel will settle large numbers of Soviet Jews in the West Bank.
King Hussein is quite aware that this has not yet happened, regardless of the massive influx of Jews from the Soviet Union in the past year.
But he feels threatened by the possibility that large numbers of immigrants will settle in the territory, attracted by the cheap housing Israel makes available in the West Bank, compared to the high cost in Israel proper.
MUBARAK TO PRESS SOVIETS
In that event, Hussein foresees a mass exodus of Palestinians from the West Bank into his Hashemite kingdom, where two-thirds of the population of 3 million already is Palestinian.
Such a development could lend credence to the claim long made by right-wing Israelis that Jordan is, in fact, the Palestinian state.
The Arab countries, traditionally split among themselves on many issues, can easily rally around Jordan to bring international pressure to bear against the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt announced Sunday that he would raise the matter with the Soviet officials when he visits Moscow in March.
Mubarak’s agenda also includes convening an Arab summit meeting on “the struggle against Soviet immigration” to Israel.
But Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Basiouny, told Likud’s Academic Forum in Tel Aviv on Sunday, “We are not against the immigration of Jews to Israel — it is not my business. I am only against settling the immigrants in the territories.”
Jordan’s military arrangement with Iraq was known to Israel seven to 10 months ago, say military sources. The joint squadron is apparently a practical measure to continue the training of Jordanian pilots at a time of severe budgetary constraints in Amman.
The squadron will be based in Iraq and financed by Baghdad. Hussein’s pilots will get in the flying hours he cannot afford to give them, while the bulk of Jordan’s military budget goes to quell unrest in the turbulent kingdom.