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As Israel Inches Closer to Jordan, Rabin Confronts Political Troubles

As Israel and Jordan reportedly moved closer to a peace treaty this week, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin lashed out at Labor Party rebels who oppose his peace moves with Syria.

Rabin and Jordan’s King Hussein met Thursday at the king’s palace in Aqaba Thursday in advance of further high-level meetings between the two sides in Washington, Israel Television reported.

According to Israeli media reports, Israel and Jordan have agreed on border demarcations, one of the outstanding issues to be resolved between the two neighbors. Israeli officials are reportedly proposing that Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty before resolving the other outstanding issue of water rights.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet with Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan in New York on Sunday to prepare for their three-way meeting with President Clinton on Monday.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Rabin declined to venture a date for the signing of a peace treaty with Jordan. But he hinted that reports of an agreement coming within weeks were essentially correct.

Political sources say the prime minister hopes to move forward quickly on the Jordanian and Palestinian tracks before reaching his moment of truth with Labor Party rebels over the Golan issue.

Speaking to reporters at Labor headquarters in Tel Aviv earlier on Thursday, Rabin expressed confidence that the Labor Party rebels who oppose any withdrawal from the Golan will eventually accept party discipline rather than thwart the government’s efforts to negotiate a peace with Syria.

HUNGER STRIKE ENDS

His remarks came after six Labor Knesset members, led by Avigdor Kahalani, introduced a bill that would require a 65 percent majority of the Knesset – or 78 of the body’s 120 members — to approve any annulment of the Golan Law.

That law, passed in 1981, effectively annexed the Golan Heights to Israel.

The six Laborites’ bill also states that in the event of a public referendum over an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, a majority of 65 percent of the electorate would have to approve the measure. Damascus has been demanding a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for establishing a full peace with Jerusalem.

Rabin sharply criticized the six rebels’ legislative initiative, saying that such restrictive clauses were unheard of in other democratic countries — whether in parliamentary provisions or in rules for a referendum.

At the historic fortress site of Gamla on the Golan, meanwhile, hunger strikers ended a 19-day fast, claiming they had accomplished their goal of drawing national attention to the Golan issue.

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