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Israeli Leaders Assess Jordan’s Reactivation of Eastern Front

January 31, 1973
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Israeli sources took the view today that Jordan’s agreement to join Egypt and Syria in a reactivation of the Eastern Front and to place its forces under the over-all command of an Egyptian general, was less important for its immediate military consequences than for the motivation behind Jordan’s action at this time.

Some observers here wondered whether the move announced just 10 days before King Hussem is scheduled to meet with President Nixon in Washington, was intended to strengthen Hussein’s bargaining hand by ending his isolation from his fellow Arab leaders. Others said Hussein could be jeopardizing his chances of receiving American financial aid. Most observers agreed that the Jordanian move was a setback to what had appeared until this week to be an improved climate for a Jordanian Israeli settlement.

Deputy Premier Yigal Allon and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan both concurred that Israel would keep a close watch along the Eastern Front its line with Jordan extending from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Syrian border–but stressed that there was no need to re-deploy Israeli forces or revise Israeli strategy at this time.

Jordan’s consent to reactivating its front with. Israel and placing it under the command of Gen. Ahmed Ismail, the Egyptian military commander-in-chief and War Minister, was announced yesterday in Cairo during a meeting of 18 Arab foreign and defense ministers.

The Eastern Front has been moribund since Sept. 1970 when Hussein’s forces decimated Palestinian terrorists in the first of a series of bloody battles that lasted until the summer of 1971. Egypt subsequently broke diplomatic relations with Jordan. Egyptian officials in Cairo said yesterday that Jordan’s acquiescence to a revived Eastern Front was a prerequisite for a Jordanian-Egyptian reconciliation. There has been no official reaction by the Israel government to the news from Cairo.


Dayan, addressing 160 Jewish leaders from the United States and Canada attending a conference of the Israel Bond Organization here called by Premier Golda Meir, observed today that “If Jordan really joins Egypt and Syria in re-establishing what they call the Eastern Front and allows foreign forces to be stationed on their land it will affect our attitude.” But right now, he added, the announced reactivation “is just another Arab statement.”

Allon, addressing the same group at a dinner at the King David Hotel last night, said the Israeli government did not want to “overestimate” the importance of the move “because that is exactly what they want us to do.” Observing that “we had unified commands in the past and the results are well known,” Allon added that he hoped the Arabs would not delude themselves into thinking they can change the situation by force “because they cannot.”

Other Israeli sources said yesterday that it was “regrettable that while the world in general is searching for ways to find reconciliation and peace, the Arab states, chiefly Egypt, are making efforts to recreate an aggressive framework which so far has brought nothing but catastrophe to the Arab world.”

According to reports from Cairo, one aspect of the reactivated Eastern Front would be the re-admission of the Palestinian fedayeen into Jordan, though their activities and deployment would be under the strict control of the Jordanian Army. A press report from Cairo yesterday said that Abu Yussef, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation at the ministers conference, stormed out of the closed meeting claiming that the plan to reactivate the Eastern Front was a sham. Abu Yussef said the Palestinians would not go along with the plan unless Jordan agreed to a full-scale resumption of guerrilla activities against Israel.

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