Don't Misread Jordan's Frustrations

STATEMENTS by several senators and congressmen suggest that Jordan, under King Hussein, is taking a radical approach toward the Arab-Israeli problem. They hint that the United States can no longer count on the country as a moderate force in the region. This conclusion misreads several of Jordan's recent positions and statements. Jordan has lately become extremely frustrated by the absence of any real progress toward peace. This frustration has been compounded by a series of actions by the United States that Jordan had difficulty comprehending. But Jordan's goal remains a negotiating process that would ultimately result in a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

Since 1967, Jordan has pushed for a peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, from negotiations that led to Resolution 242 in November 1967 to the active role it played in persuading the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to renounce terrorism in 1988 and in the ensuing dialogue between the US and the PLO. In 1988 Jordan also severed legal and administrative ties to the West Bank, thereby opening the way for the Palestinians to assert themselves and renewing efforts toward starting a Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.

Jordan has never deviated during all these years from its position: A comprehensive peace settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338, recognizing the right of Palestinians to self-determination, including their right to a Palestinian state, and the right of all states, including Israel, to secure borders.

This contrasts with Israel's clear and sustained shift toward the right. Recent peace efforts have been thwarted because the Shamir government insists on choosing its own negotiating partners.

Despite these facts, Jordan is portrayed today as a country moving toward ``radical'' Iraq. Iraq and Jordan historically have had close ties, particularly in modern times when the Hashemites ruled both Iraq and Jordan. The Jordan-Iraq relationship is dictated by several factors, both political and economic, to the mutual benefit of both countries. To interpret it as a recent development, or as a move toward radicalism, is to miss its proper context. It has not resulted in any deviation from Jordan's declared positions on the Arab-Israeli problem.

Soviet Jewish immigration is another question on which Jordan's position has been misinterpreted. Jordan has stated several times that it is not against the right of people to emigrate. When emigration is, however, deliberately geared toward a particular country, and when emigrants are going to a country that does not recognize its own borders, then Jordan has reason to worry.

Under a peace settlement acknowledging the right to secure borders for all countries in the region, there would be no problem with Soviet Jewish immigration. With the present situation, however, and with immigration this year expected to reach 100,000 in a country of 4 million, there's reason to worry that, at some point, Israel ``behind the green line'' will not be able to absorb these immigrants. Then they will have to go to the West Bank, at the expense of Palestinians already living there.

The American position of late has been particularly puzzling to Jordan. We find it difficult to comprehend resolutions such as that passed by Congress on Jerusalem - which is contrary to international law and which prejudices future negotiations. This resolution, affirming that the city is part of Israel, has negatively and deeply touched the sentiments of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims throughout the world. It certainly has not helped those who argue that the US can play an evenhanded role in the Middle East peace process.

The recent US veto on sending a United Nations mission to Israel to report on its handling of the intifadah, and the US decision to suspend its talks with the PLO, have also alienated and frustrated moderates and rewarded extremists on both sides. Jordan's warning, therefore, of the possibility of another war is serious and genuine.

Is Jordan frustrated? Definitely. Is it moving toward radicalism? By no means. Jordan is witnessing a period of many positive changes. The democratic process taking place there is both real and far-reaching. Amnesty International has welcomed Jordan's human rights moves.

These recent developments can hardly be called ``radical.'' The message Jordan is sending resembles that which Secretary of State James Baker recently sent to Israel - namely, frustration with a stagnant peace process.

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