JERUSALEM (Sep. 28)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denied it, Jordan’s King Hussein denied it — but despite all their denials, all the major dailies here are reporting that the two leaders did indeed meet for a few hours late Sunday on board a ship in the Gulf of Eilat.
The respected daily Ha’aretz reported Tuesday that “political sources in Jerusalem” had unofficially confirmed the report.
Ha’aretz also provided the names of two other Israeli officials attending the meeting: Maj. Gen. Danny Yatom, Rabin’s military secretary, and Oded Ben-Ami, the prime minister’s press adviser.
According to reports from Jordan, Hussein, along with Crown Prince Hassan and Prime Minister Abdul Salam al-Majali, were “vacationing” Sunday in the port of Aqaba, which lies just east of Eilat. Jordanian officials were publicly denying that the meeting with the Israelis occurred.
Ever since the signing of the Palestinian self-rule agreement in Washington on Sept. 13, Hussein has shown clear signs of nervousness about his place in the new regional power balance that is gradually taking shape.
The Jordanian monarch is said to be deeply worried that his kingdom is in real danger of being overthrown by Palestinians, who constitute a majority in–his country, numbering 2.5 million out of a total population of 3.7 million.
As a result of these fears, Hussein had been expected to postpone the general parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for November.
He said earlier in the week that he did not want the elections to degenerate into a referendum on the accord signed in Washington between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
An election, he also feared, might lead to an explosion of violence among Palestinian factions within his country.
ELECTIONS STILL ON FOR NOVEMBER
But despite these fears, Jordanian officials announced Tuesday that the elections would indeed be held Nov. 8. They will be the first multiparty elections in Jordan since 1956, when Hussein banned all political parties.
In addition to the sensitive issue of the elections, Hussein also has been concerned that when the Palestinians assume control of the West Bank town of Jericho, they may also seek to take possession of the strategically important Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan.
Israeli officials have given the king assurances that they will maintain control of all border crossings into Jordan.
Hussein is also concerned that as a result of the accord with the Palestinians, Jordan may lose its special strategic value in the eyes of Israel.
Assuming that the meeting with Rabin did take place Sunday, these were undoubtedly some of the issues discussed between the two leaders.
Rabin was believed to have assured the king that Israel has a strong interest in keeping Jordan as a major player in all present and future arrangements with the Palestinians.
Moreover, the Israelis reportedly are interested in signing an early peace agreement with Jordan, even before the implementation of the autonomy agreement with the Palestinians begins picking up momentum.
On Sept. 14, a day after the signing of the landmark Israeli-PLO self-rule agreement, Israeli and Jordanian officials signed an accord in Washington laying out the elements of a peace agreement between the two countries.