JERUSALEM (Jul. 17)
Israeli leaders across the political spectrum reacted enthusiastically to last Friday’s announcement that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan’s King Hussein will meet at the White House on July 25.
“We are talking about the end of a state of war and the beginning of an era of peace, about economic development and the ways these ends can be achieved,” an upbeat Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said.
Although the Washington summit is not expected to lead to a peace agreement, the meeting between Rabin and Hussein is expected to be a giant step forward in that direction.
In announcing the summit, President Clinton said the commitment to meet publicly for the first time “reflects the courageous leadership and the bold vision which both King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin have displayed as they work together to create a new future for their people and for all the region.”
In addition to their summit meeting with Clinton, Rabin and Hussein are expected to address a joint session of Congress.
Rabin is also expected to use the occasion to invite Hussein to visit Jerusalem to pray at the mosques on the Temple Mount.
Former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek has already conveyed a similar invitation to Hussein.
Among Israeli opposition parties, reaction to the upcoming summit was almost universally favorable, with the sole exception of the right-wing Moledet party, which has three Knesset seats.
“Every step towards a contractual peace with Jordan is to be applauded,” Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu said of the planned White House meeting.
But for Rehavam Ze’evi, Moledet’s leader, the talks with Jordan signaled the possibility that Israel might be required to cede more territory.
“This is not peace, it is self-destruction,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli teams from the foreign and defense ministries paid a brief visit to Jordan last Friday to make arrangements for talks scheduled to take place later this week between U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Peres and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Salam al-Majali at a Jordanian Dead Sea resort.
Israeli and Jordanian teams were due to begin talks on border and water issues on Monday.
Israeli journalists are already installed in a hotel in the Jordanian capital of Amman, where their presence has aroused somewhat mixed reactions from the local populace.
Jordanian officials were apparently not quite ready for an Israeli presence at news conferences surrounding the three-way meeting, and over the weekend an Israel Television reporter was permitted to file reports freely by phone, but could not film.
But other Israeli journalists reported being inundated with invitations to the homes of senior Jordanian officials eager to show their hospitality.