WASHINGTON (Oct. 3)
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says his unprecedented public meeting last Friday with Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan is proof that Jordan has ended its participation in the Arab boycott against Israel.
The meeting between the two, which dealt largely with economic issues, took place at the White House last Friday, with President Clinton playing host.
Afterward, Peres told reporters that he and the crown prince had agreed to establish working groups to discuss economic and environmental issues.
“We have decided about an economic cooperation, and that automatically brings an end to the boycott,” the Israeli foreign minister said. “On the Jordanian case and on the Egyptian case, “the Arab boycott “is dead.”
The White House meeting took place two weeks after Israel and Jordan initialed an accord laying out the path of bilateral negotiations toward a peace agreement.
Although meetings between high-level Israeli and Jordanian officials have occurred many times in the past, they have all been held in secret. This one was unusual in that it was not only confirmed by the two sides but discussed openly by the participants.
At the White House, Clinton announced that Israel and Jordan had agreed to establish both a bilateral economic committee and a working group on economic development issues that would also include U.S. participation.
In addition, Israel and Jordan will discuss the problems of “desertification” in the region.
The president said the two sides plan to work closely with the Palestinians as they map out an economic plan for the region.
“Let me say personally that I enjoyed this meeting very much. I applaud the crown prince, I applaud the foreign minister for coming here, for being a part of it,” Clinton said as he stood on the White House lawn with his two guests.
‘A PEACE THAT BENEFITS EVERYONE’
“We believe that together we can work toward a peace that benefits everyone, and we believe there are things we can be doing now to benefit the countries and the people economically in ways that strengthen their inner sense of security and commitment to this remarkable process,” he added.
It is clear that the United States is pulling out all the stops to help the countries that are cooperating with the Middle East peace process.
After the Peres-Hassan meeting, a senior White House official told reporters that the United States will lead an international effort to help Jordan with its heavy debt burden.
On Sunday, Peres told reporters in New York that among the items on the agenda of the Israeli-Jordanian economic committee are development of the Dead and Red seas, the Arava and Negev deserts, and the Jordan River.
Also under discussion, he said, is joint expansion of airport facilities to serve the neighboring Red Sea ports of Eilat and Aqaba.
Peres said that during their White House meeting, he had asked Prince Hassan whether he spoke Hebrew.
“I studied it for two years,” replied the Jordanian, who then gave a demonstration.
“Let us go up and journey in the land,” he recited in biblical Hebrew.
(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Larry Yudelson-in New York.)