Across the Political Spectrum, Israelis Hail Treaty with Jordan

Israeli across the political spectrum hailed the news this week that Israel and Jordan had signed the draft of a full-fledged peace treaty.

Within hours of the signing Monday, the Israeli Cabinet unanimously approved the treaty, which still has to be ratified by the Israeli and Jordanian Parliaments.

At a ceremony at Hashemiyeh palace near Amman, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his Jordanian counterpart, Abdul Salam al-Majali, initialed the document in the presence of King Hussein, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Crown Prince Hassan.

Agreement was reached on the draft treaty after the two sides reached compromises on long-standing differences on issues related to border disputes and the allocation of scant regional water supplies.

A formal signing ceremony is expected to take place next week in the Arava desert on the Israeli-Jordanian border. Israel and Jordan are expected to exchange ambassadors a month after signing a peace agreement.

Jordan will become the second Arab country to make peace with Israel. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

Speaking at the initialing ceremony, Hussein said the treaty heralded a new era.

“I pray this is something we leave behind for all the generations to come,” Hussein said. “Peace, human dignity, warmth, a chance to live and to achieve what we deserve.”

‘A CORNERSTONE FOR A NEW MIDDLE EAST’

Rabin praised Hussein’s courage for pursuing peace with Israel, saying it was a “unique moment” for both countries.

Calling the treaty “a peace of dignity and honor,” Rabin said it will “serve as a cornerstone for a new Middle East in which peace, development, and cooperation, will replace animosity, hatred, violence and wars.”

Speaking before boarding Air Force One in Washington on Monday, President Clinton called the agreement “an extraordinary achievement.”

“At a time when hatred and extremism and threatening behavior still stalk the Middle East, this agreement reminds us that moderation and reason are prevailing, that nations can put conflict behind them, that courageous statesmen can lead their people to peace,” said Clinton.

According to U.S. officials, Clinton will attend next week’s formal signing ceremony.

Monday’s agreement comes nearly three months after the July 25 signing of the Washington Declaration at a White House ceremony where Hussein and Rabin formally agreed to end the 46-year state of belligerency between their countries.

The breakthrough to this week’s signing came after Rabin and Peres flew to Jordan on Sunday night for intense negotiations that lasted up until the signing ceremony Monday. It was the Israeli leader’s second visit to Amman in as many weeks.

The compromise on water was based on developing new water resources, rather than on dividing up existing ones, according to reports.

Israel and Jordan agreed to start new projects that would increase the Jordanian water supply, including the building of a dam on the Yarmuk River. The two sides plan to ask the Word Bank to provide funds for the project, whose estimated cost is $140 million.

Israeli officials said the two sides reached agreement on land disputes after making mutual concessions. Jordan had demanded the return of some 150 square miles of desert and farmland that Israel had seized after the 1948 War of Independence. Under the terms of the draft, Israel agreed to return to Jordan most of the land it demanded, with the understanding that it would be leased back to Israel.

Rabin said the international border would be determined on the basis of a boundary dating back to the period of the British Mandate, which what he called “minor modifications.”

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