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Jordan Announces Cancellation of West Bank Development Plan

July 29, 1988
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Jordan, bowing to pressure by the Palestine Liberation Organization, announced in Amman Thursday that it has canceled its five-year plan for development in the Israeli-administered territories.

The statement said the decision was taken at the request of PLO chief Yasir Arafat, to prove that Jordan has no designs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The move was seen in Israel as an acknowledgement by Jordan that it has lost most of its power bases in the territories since the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation began last December.

Nevertheless, Israeli officials responsible for administering the territories played down the significance of the Jordanian move.

The officials pointed out that Jordan had invested no more than $50 million in the territories since November 1986, almost all of it before the uprising.

The five-year plan was announced with much fanfare in November 1986. Jordan said it would invest some $1.3 billion in the territories over a period of five years.

The plan was then seen as an attempt by Amman to regain its influence at the expense of the PLO. Jordan occupied the West Bank from 1948 until ousted by Israel in 1967. The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt over the same period.

The five-year plan depended, among other things, on funds channeled through Jordan from oil rich Arab countries. But the money was slow in coming.

The plan’s architect, Jordanian Premier Zaid al-Rifai, presided at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting in Amman, which abandoned the plan.


The latest development gave some credibility to rumors that King Hussein of Jordan was about to wash his hands of the Israeli-administered territories.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres dismissed those reports earlier this week.

Noting that most Palestinians in the West Bank are Jordanian citizens and carry Jordanian passports, Peres rejected the notion that Hussein would abandon them.

Peres and his Labor Party have a stake in the so-called Jordanian option. They envision direct negotiations with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that is aimed at a peace treaty with Amman and a political settlement of the Palestinian problem.

A well-known pro-Jordanian Palestinian shares Peres’ view of Hussein’s ultimate intentions.

According to Rashad a-Shawa, former mayor of Gaza, the Jordanian announcement should be seen as a signal to the PLO that Jordan is not competing with it for influence in the territories.

“I think the king is a real believer in Arab brotherhood,” a-Shawa said. “And I don’t think he would diminish any aid to the occupied territories.”

He pointed out that only a few days ago, Jordan paid $1 million to teachers and government officials in the territories.

The former Gaza mayor stressed that he is still convinced that no peaceful settlement can be reached “without the full cooperation of Jordan.”

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