Jordan doubts US resolve on Reagan plan
| Amman, Jordan
There is a little hope here that a meeting between PLO chief Yasser Arafat and Jordan's King Hussein will lead to talks with Israel based on President Reagan's peace proposals.
Jordanian government officials, Palestinian spokesmen, and well-placed analysts say King Hussein is facing United States unwillingness or incapability to take the necessary bold decisions to reverse Israeli intransigence.
The US has not yet been able to achieve a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon or a freeze on Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.
''The US has delivered nothing and there is no sign that a delivery is imminent,'' said a senior Jordanian official.
Attempts by Saudi Arabia to help King Hussein and Mr. Arafat to find common ground are viewed in Amman with suspicion. The Jordanian monarch is said to have described the Saudi role as ''unhelpful.''
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal traveled twice this week to Amman for talks with King Hussein. Mr. Arafat conferred in Riyadh last Sunday with Saudi King Fahd.
Jordanian officials suggest that Prince Saud's message was that the kingdom will support any agreement reached by Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization. But the Saudis implicitly warned King Hussein not to enter into Middle East peace negotiations without Arab and Palestinian backing.
Saudi Arabia's public support for the vague and inconclusive resolutions of last month's meeting of the Palestine National Council - the PLO's highest policymaking body - was described by some here as ''uncalled for'' and as evidence of Saudi unwillingness ''to be more forthcoming in pushing the PLO.''
President Reagan's Sept. 1 Middle East peace proposals may be the last opportunity to achieve a negotiated settlement for the Palestinian problem.
Yet, the fate of the President's proposals - and probably with them of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip - will only be sealed once PLO chief Arafat and King Hussein meet. The meeting promises to be not only a ''decisive'' but also a ''very blunt'' confrontation.
Mr. Arafat had been scheduled to meet with the King March 28 but at the last moment changed his plans. No new date has been set for Mr. Arafat's visit. At time of writing officials in Amman expected the PLO chief to arrive soon.
Some observers say King Hussein could be threatened if he enters into Middle East peace negotiations without the support of the PLO and the moderate Arab states.
A failure to revive the peace process, however, could leave the Arabs with no diplomatic alternative and may encourage Israel to solve the Palestinian issue by converting Jordan with military means into an East Bank Palestinian state, according to analysts here.
''Faced with the choice,'' says Tarek Masarweh, a prominent Jordanian newspaper columnist, ''it is more honorable to be occupied by Israel than to be marked as a traitor.''
Mr. Masarweh, like many of his Jordanian brothers, is reluctant to see King Hussein becoming the Arabs' chief negotiator with Israel.
''The 1974 Rabat Arab summit resolution declaring the PLO - and not Jordan - the sole representative of the Palestinian people came for me as a blessing from heaven. Why should we now take a risk? It would be ridiculous for us to have peace with Israel and be at war with the PLO and the Arabs,'' he said.
Faced with the potential demise of the Reagan proposals, which call for Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied territories ''in association'' with Jordan, many in Amman are searching for a way to blame the failure on Israel and the US.
Among the formulas being considered:
* The announcement of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation at the end of Arafat-Hussein talks. This delegation would be ready to enter into peace negotiations once Israel withdraws from Lebanon and freezes its settlement activities.
* A statement by King Hussein that he has done his utmost but has been defeated by US unwillingness to guarantee pressure on Israel.
* A visit to Washington by the Jordanian monarch during which he declares his willingness to negotiate after all Israeli forces have left Lebanon and Israel has demonstrated its goodwill by stopping all settlement activities.
Sources close to the King opt for this last formula, arguing that it would clearly throw the ball back into the American court.
Yet both senior Jordanian and PLO officials warn that no one can guess what will be said once Mr. Arafat and King Hussein meet behind close doors.
Jordanian officials expect the King to take a hard line with Mr. Arafat, demanding a written statement from the PLO chief endorsing his entry into negotiations with Israel.