Six months after signing their historic peace accord, Israel and Jordan have exchanged ambassadors.
Shimon Shamir, Israel’s first ambassador to Jordan, crossed the Allenby Bridge into Jordan on Thursday to take up his new post.
“It’s a great challenge. I know it’s a very big responsibility,” he told reporters at the crossing.
“I feel privileged being the first ambassador and I understand it’s the beginning of a long road which will lead to a better future for our people.”
A few hours later, Marwan Muasher, Jordan’s new ambassador to Israel, walked over a Jordan River bridge at the northern-border crossing between the two countries.
“We have signed a peace treaty, and I think this represents a major step forward,” he told reporters.
“At the same time I really think there is a lot of work ahead to translate this peace between our government into a peace between peoples.”
Both men are due to present their credentials and officially take up their posts next week.
The countries have been represented at the level of charge d’affaires since the Oct. 26 treaty.
Within hours of the exchange of ambassadors, King Hussein pledged a “warm peace” between his country and Israel.
Addressing a special luncheon of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations in New York, Hussein said: “It is a warm peace we seek; it is a warm peace we strive to have.”
He said his country was not looking for a state of “no peace, no was, but a peace for all time to come.”
Apparently referring to the less-than-warm state of relations with Egypt and the uncertainty of a future peace with Syria and other Middle Eastern nations, the king said he hoped that peace between Israel and Jordan would serve as “an example to those who preceded us and those who will follow.”
Hussein urged the leaders of American Jewish organizations to support his quest for total debt relief for Jordan.
President Clinton promised debt relief for Jordan when the king agreed to make peace with Israel. But budget cutters on Capital Hill have sought to reduce the debt-relief package.
The king was in Washington last week to meet with administration and congressional officials to encourage the United States to live up to its commitment.
“With your help and support,” Hussein told the American Jewish leaders, “the United States can play the leadership role that will enable us to deal with problems that are burdening us from the past.”
When asked whether the Conference of Presidents would honor the king’s request, Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman, responded positively:
“Yes. We have been in touch with congressional leaders in the past and will continue to be,” he said.
Hoenlein said he has been assured by congressional leaders in both the House and the Senate that they are committed to forgiving Jordan’s $480 million debt, which, according to the debt-relief formula, equals $275 million.
The only question, he said, is when it would happen.