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Making History: Israel and Jordan Declare an End to 46 Years of War

Evoking images from the Talmud and Koran, President Clinton welcomed an end to the 46-year state of war between Israel and Jordan on Monday.

At a White House ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jordan’s King Hussein and Clinton signed a declaration that officially ends the state of war between the neighboring Jewish and Arab states.

The agreement also recognizes Jordan’s guardianship over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and guarantees Hussein a role in final-status negotiations for Israel’s capital.

The White House ceremony lacked the drama of the signing of the declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization almost one year ago, according to many in attendance.

Still, there was a sense of excitement that another Arab country was moving closer toward peace with Israel. Egypt is the only Arab nation with a full peace treaty with Israel.

The signing ceremony, occurring under a sweltering, sun-splashed summer day, came less than two hours after the first public meeting between Hussein and Rabin.

The two leaders shook hands half a dozen times in public on Monday, including the moment they took to the stage in the Rose Garden.

“The Koran instructs us, ‘requite evil with good and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.’ And the Talmud teaches, ‘that man is a hero that can make a friend out of a foc,” Clinton said when introducing Hussein and Rabin.

‘FRIENDS AND HEROES’

“Before us today stand friends and heroes,” the president said.

Rabin praised the agreement saying, “We have today taken a major step on the road to peace. We and Jordan have chosen to speak to each other rather than to continue the state of war.”

At the end of the speech, the prime minister directed some Hebrew remarks to the Israeli public.

“We are adding today another rung in the rising ladder toward the realization of the dream of peace,” Rabin said.

Hussein, speaking without notes, echoed similar sentiments.

“We are on our way now, truly, towards what is normal in relations between our peoples and ourselves, and what is worthy,” the king said.

The declaration is “a modest, determined beginning to bring to our region and our people the security from fear,” Hussein said.

He hailed an end to “the uncertainty of every day as to how it might end, the suspicions, the bitterness, the lack of human contact.”

In the declaration, Israel agreed to give “high priority to the Jordanian historic role” in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem during final-status negotiations which are scheduled to begin in two years.

Both nations pledged to continue negotiations “to prepare for future bilateral cooperation, including the abolition of all economic boycotts.”

Rabin and Hussein also agreed to a cooperative Israeli and Jordanian police force to combat crime, specifically drug smuggling. The agreement also calls for two new border crossings between Jordan and Israel, one in the north and one at the southern tip of Aqaba and Eilat.

Direct phone links between Jordan and Israel will be established, and the nations will link electricity grids, according to the declaration.

The two countries will also guarantee free access to third country tourists as well as accelerate development of an international air corridor between both countries.

Approximately 150 Jewish and Arab leaders as well as administration officials attended the signing ceremony.

The Israeli Embassy hosted a reception Monday evening with Rabin and leaders of the Jewish community at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. Almost 1000 people were invited to attend.

Clinton was scheduled to host Rabin and Hussein with their wives at a White House dinner after the reception.

Two lone protesters from Chicago Friends of Yesha, the Israeli settlements organization, carried signs outside the White House during the signing ceremony that read “Israel in Peace, not in Piece” and “Mr. Arafat, Jerusalem will never be your capital.”

Bradley Jacobs, who has adopted the name of Chaim Mizrachi, an Israeli he says was killed earlier this year by the PLO, said he was not there protesting peace with Jordan but rather Rabin’s overall approach to peace.

“There was no way we were going to let Rabin have the unified feeling of support from American Jewry,” Jacobs said. “He and America should know that not all of American Jewry is behind his policy.”

But more typical of Jewish reaction to the historic event was that expressed by officials of the American Zionist Movement.

“Together with all people of good will, we rejoice at the joint declaration,” said AZM President Seymour Reich and Karen Rubinstein, the group’s executive director. This declaration “confirms that peace is now an irresistible force in the Middle East,” they said.

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