Europe's and West Germany's attempts to find some common ground between Arab moderates and Israel have been set back by the Knesset's virtually constitutional declaration of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
The West German government expressed its regret about the Israeli action July 31, and a Foreign Ministry spokesman recalled the June 13 European Community statement that the EC would not accept any unilateral change in Jerusalem's status.
Especially since the July 29-31 visit of Jordan's King Hussein to West Germany coincided with the Knesset action, the monarch's visit has given little encouragement to European hopes for some broadening of the Camp David Israeli-Egyptian talks into a more comprehensive Mideast peace-seeking effort.
The hardening of positions is a disappointment to the West Germans, who had hoped for some sign of movement in this third Bonn visit within six weeks by a high Arab leader (following Saudi Arabia's King Khalid and Arab League secretary-general Chedli Klibi).
As seen from Europe, a tiny bit of flexibility remains in the Mideast in continued hints from Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat that the PLO might accept negotiated coexistence with, rather than destruction of Israel. In an interview in the Paris International Herald Tribune July 31, Arafat denied the reports that PLO's Al- Fatah guerrillas vowed last May to "liquidate the Zionist entity politically, economically militarily, culturally, and ideologically."
This language appeared in a draft resolution at the Al-Fatah congress in Damascus, Arafat asserted, but was not adopted. The draft was leaked by a radical Palestinian journalist to a Beirut newspaper, he said, and circulated widely as the Al-Fatah position by Israelis. But it was not Al-Fatah's platform.
The reports were believed in Western Europe and made the European Community much more cautious in its pursuit since early June of a renewed "Euro-Arab dialogue."
This dialogue is now proceeding informally with the various Arab consultations in Bonn and formally with the current "fact- finding" tour of the Mideast by EC ministerial council president Gaston Thorn. Thorn will see Arafat next week after meeting with Arab League and Israeli officials.
A potential next step -- one advocated by West German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher during King Hussein's trip to Bonn -- might be a joint meeting of European and Arab foreign ministers, possibly including the PLO foreign minister, and possibly as early as this year.
Bonn's active new role in Mideast politics angers Israel, which, since its postwar reconciliation and receipt of conscience money from the Western successor to Hitler's Germany, has counted Bonn as a special friend. In recent weeks Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin has focused especially on West Germany in his criticism of the EC.