News Analysis: Israel’s Accord with the PLO is Source of Worry for King Hussein

For years, Jordan’s King Hussein has seen attempts to establish peace between his country and Israel evaporate.

His grandfather, King Abdullah, was murdered in 1951 because of his intention to make peace with Israel.

Hussein himself was on the verge of signing an accord with Israel in 1987, but then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir foiled the agreement that the king and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had worked out.

Now, when the bells of peace are ringing in the Middle East, when Hussein is no longer threatened with being the only Arab to make peace with the “Zionist enemy,” the king is unhappy.

In his eyes, the Israeli-Palestinian accord signed last week in Washington threatens the peace of Amman much more than that of Tel Aviv.

When Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Amman on Monday, the Jordanians made it clear that they intended to protect themselves within the changing political circumstances as much as they could.

Some 2.5 million of the 3.7 million residents of Jordan are Palestinians, with more than 1 million of them registered as refugees. Hussein fears that Jordan may become a target of Palestinian aspirations for a larger state.

Arafat has been speaking enthusiastically of a future confederation between a Palestinian state and Jordan.

But Hussein knows very well that a new Palestinian political entity, which is likely to be surrounded by an Israeli security belt, will have eyes for his territory — if only because most Jordanians are Palestinians.

This is why, when Hussein addressed a news conference in Amman this week, his eyes seemed sadder than ever, even as he reiterated his commitment to the Palestinian cause and his respect for the Palestinian right to self-determination.

For the first time in the 45-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hussein no longer feels he and Israel secretly share a common enemy: the Palestinians.

STEPS TAKEN TO SHOW UNHAPPINESS

Hussein’s first reaction to the Israeli-PLO accord was negative. He expressed disappointment that the Palestinians had not consulted him beforehand.

But the king later realized that as a longtime overt supporter of the Palestinian cause, he could not remain against the accord. He subsequently endorsed the agreement, reiterating all the while the need for “Arab coordination.”

In the past few days, Jordanian officials have taken several practical steps to show their unhappiness with the accord.

A senior Jordanian source said the government intended to deport to the West Bank all Palestinians who do not have permanent resident status in Jordan.

And last week, the Jordanians prevented several Palestinians from crossing the Allenby Bridge into Jordan. The action implicitly told the Palestinians that even after they take over the West Bank town of Jericho, the nearby Allenby Bridge will remain within Jordanian control.

Moreover, Hussein declared that he intended to keep his hold on the Islamic religious establishment in eastern Jerusalem and that he continues to regard himself as the guardian of all Islamic holy sites there.

In what is possibly the most significant step, Hussein has been considering the idea of postponing Jordan’s parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for November.

The king apparently is worried that the election may provide a platform for Palestinians to strengthen their presence within the Jordanian political community.

Perhaps in an attempt to reassure Hussein, the Clinton administration last week released $30 million in foreign aid to Jordan that had been held up to encourage Amman to comply with international sanctions against Iraq.

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