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Behind the Headlines Dayan’s Hectic European Weekend

September 28, 1977
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Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan may have obtained tentative Jordanian agreement over the West Bank, whereby it would remain linked with Jordan but Israel would retain military access and certain rights of settlement and would automatically exclude the Palestine Liberation Organization or the creation of a new state.

Middle East observers believe that this was the objective of a flurry of secret diplomacy culminating in Dayan’s switch-back tour of Western Europe on the eve of his trip to the United States a week ago.

Press excitement about Dayan’s movements, the observers think, was exaggerated since the Foreign Minister had publicly stated, on joining Premier Menachem Begin’s Cabinet, that the Geneva peace conference should be interpreted broadly to include contacts prior to the actual encounter at the negotiating table.

However, before approaching the Jordanians, Dayan first had to gain a firm decision by the Cabinet to support the Hashemite monarchy and rule out categorically any idea of preferring a Palestinian regime in Amman. Both Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon have stated publicly that they would not mind if the PLO took over from Hussein. Weizman even offered jocularly to meet Yasir Arafat if the PLO chief did not try to shoot him.

Under Dayan’s influence, however, such remarks have not been repeated even in jest–and the Israeli Cabinet has committed itself to supporting Hussein, on the grounds that he is an ally of Israel in the fight against the PLO, their common deadly foe.


In backing Hussein, Dayan was acting in keeping with the policy he followed in 1970 during the Palestinian insurrection in Jordan. At that time, some top Israelis, including Yigal Allon, the then Deputy Premier and Education-Minister, were not averse to letting the Palestinians drive the Hashemite family from power. But Dayan, together with Premier Golda Meir, insisted on massing troops against Syria which was backing the Palestinians.

Paradoxically, though, Dayan was always deeply skeptical about diplomatic advances to Hussein while he remained the Defense Minister. Well informed sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency some time ago that Dayan was virtually the only senior member of the Cabinets of Mrs. Meir and Yitzhak Rabin who had not held a secret meeting with the Jordanian leader. Hussein himself is thought to have first asked to meet Dayan at the time of the Six-Day War.

Even an Economics Minister, like Haim Barlev, met Hussein, the JTA was told. There were, of course, persistent reports of Hussein meeting Abba Eban when he was Foreign Minister and with Allon. Other meetings, it was said, involved the late Dr. Yaakov Herzog, former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, and on the Jordanian side, Prime Minister Zeid Rifai and Shawkat Sati, for many years the royal physician.

Some of the meetings took place in hotels in London, where Hussein has a home. On at least one occasion, Eban’s brother, a London radiologist, helped to make the arrangements.

One thing common to all these meetings is that they have been automatically denied by the Israelis as well as the Jordanians. Sometimes, though, the denials have been rather clumsy, as after Dayan’s visit to London last month. An Israeli Embassy official here suggested if such a meeting took place it would “logically” have occurred in the Jordan Valley, ignoring the fact that Hussein had already met Israelis here.

This secrecy, of course, stems from fears that disclosure of the talks might expose Hussein to the fate of his grandfather, King Abdullah, who was assassinated in 1950 after having negotiated a draft peace treaty with, among others, Dayan.

Dayan’s preference for Hussein rather than the Palestinians stems back to those early days of Israeli independence. He believes that there should not be any Palestine partition other than that between Israel and Transjordan.

Dayan has admitted that, under the 1947 UN partition plan, there would have been a self-contained Arab state on the West Bank but that, having rejected it at the time, the Palestinians cannot now be given a second chance. Hence his refusal to contemplate a West Bank Palestinian state, which Jordan opposes just as adamantly.

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