Jordan's King Hussein, onetime US ally, is moving to end a 21-month feud with Washington and to persuade President Carter to abandon his "dangerous" Camp David negotiating approach in the Middle East.
The Palestinian autonomy talks are seen here as doomed. Israel has proven "incurably intransigent," one official remarks.
On the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, Palestinians and extremist Jewish settlers are locked in escalating violence. The rest of the Arab world seems to be getting ever more radical -- and ever more anti-American.
"United States policy is drifting, and that is dangerous for the region and the entire world," commented a member of the King's inner circle of advisers. Other senior officials painted a similar picture. None would be quoted by name, feeling this would be impolitic on the eve of King Hussein's scheduled June 16 departure for talks in Washington.
Only the Americans, with their aid leverage over Israel, are seen as capable of changing the Middle East equation. Among the US policy alternatives mentioned here: encouragement, at least after the American presidential elections, of West European moves for full Palestinian self-determination and a negotiating role for Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Because of their mutual opposition to the US-sponsored plan for Palestinian autonomy, Mr. Arafat has been drawing steadily closer to Jordan's fundamentally pro-Western monarch.This is despite their deep past differences.
According to private assessments from US and Jordanian officials, the only concrete gain likely to emerge from King Hussein's long-awaited visit to Washington is the re-establishment of face-to-face contact between two leaders.
US diplomats, sticking by the so-far unsuccessful plan for limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and the occupied Gaza Strip, see an improvement in relations with Jordan as indispensable to their efforts to bring King Hussein into the Camp David process further down the road.
But in one Jordanian official's words, the occasional US, Egyptian, or Israeli hints that the King might reconsider his opposition to the autonomy blueprint are "pure nonsense . . . or pure self-delusion."
"Camp David is finished," another commented. "From the start it was merely a cover for the separate [March 1979] peace between Egypt and Israel, and for continued Israeli occupation of Arab land taken in 1967."
The Jordanians, suggesting privately that Mr. Arafat could be persuaded to come in on the bargain, want President Carter to shelve the Camp David framework in favor of a negotiated peace based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 13 years ago.
This, as Jordan sees things, would mean virtually total Israeli withdrawal from land captured in 1967 -- including the eastern, formerly Jordanian, sector of Jerusalem -- and probably some form of joint Jordanian-Palestinian control of the West Bank. In return, Israel would get security guarantees and Arab recognition.
There are evident problems with that approach as well.
Mr. Arafat so far has refused to accept Resolution 242 and its tacit recognition of Israel's right to exist, although he has come close on occasion. Syria, powerful neighbor to both Jordan and Israel, has been taking an increasingly vocal hard line on Middle East peace.
And Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin has made it clear he has no intention of relinquishing control of the West Bank and Gaza, much less Jerusalem.
This last point, in the Jordanian view, is where the United States comes in.
"Unless America changes its policy," said one official, "there cannot be enough pressure for Israel to bring about any major change in its policy. The Middle East situation will get more and more dangerous."
Both King Hussein and Prime Minister Abdulhamid Sharaf, the former ambassador to Washington who will join the King in the US talks, seem, like much of the Arab world, to suspect that any substantive American policy shift is impossible until after the November presidential elections.