UNITY against the United States-led military intervention in the Gulf seems to have brought about a once far-fetched reconciliation between Jordan's King Hussein and the radical Palestinian groups that had once vowed to topple him. Over the weekend, Palestinian leaders George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) arrived in the Jordanian capital, Amman, from Damascus for the first time since being banished from the country in 1970. Although they came to take part in a predominantly leftist pan-Arab meeting against the Western military buildup in the Gulf region and in support of Iraq, their arrival indicated an important shift in Jordanian-Palestinian relations.
The three-day meeting is the biggest gathering of Arab parties and unions sympathetic to Iraq since the eruption of the Gulf crisis Aug. 2.
More than 3,000 people packed an Amman hall Saturday at the start of the meeting, representing some 120 political parties and trade unions from nine Arab League members. Organizers said Egypt and Syria, both of whom have sent troops to Saudi Arabia to join the US-led military buildup, refused to allow delegates to attend.
King Hussein did not show up at the opening session, but he delivered a message to the conference, read on his behalf by the speaker of the Jordanian Parliament Suleiman Arar, expressing his support for a united stand in favor of an Arab solution to the crisis.
Arab political analysts viewed the conference as a sign of a historic reconciliation between King Hussein and radical Arab, Jordanian, and Palestinian movements which has come about as a result of the democratization process in the country and the kingdom's opposition to foreign intervention.
Most striking was King Hussein's readiness to allow Dr. Habash and Mr. Hawatmeh to return to Jordan and address a Jordanian audience despite the long animosity between the groups and the Jordanian regime.
Both Habash and Hawatmeh had advocated the toppling of Hussein in the past and at one time were the Jordanian government's two most wanted ``outlaws.''
But on Saturday the two leaders hailed the democratization process in Jordan as a major turning point in the Arab world. After three decades of banning all political activity, Jordan held general elections last November and martial law was suspended.
``The coming days will prove the significance of the democratization process in Jordan,'' Habash told an enthusiastic audience.
Political analysts say that Habash and Hawatmeh, along with leaders of Arab political parties, believe that Jordan may prove to be the starting point of a pan-Arab movement demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Gulf.
Habash and Hawatmeh, who were the undisputed leaders of the meeting, received thunderous applause and a standing ovation as they arrived to address the meeting.
Their lengthy speeches set the tone of the conference, which was organized by the predominantly leftist Jordanian Arab National Democratic Alliance. Neither Hawatmeh nor Habash advocated attacks against Western interests in the region - at least in the short run - in a sign of the changing tactics of the two left-wing leaders.
The aim of the conference, according to Habash and Hawatmeh and other Arab activists, is to build popular pressure for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Gulf and for a peaceful settlement of the Kuwaiti crisis and the Israeli-Arab conflict based on United Nations resolutions.
The early speeches by Arab delegates echoed resentment of the US insistence on applying UN resolutions to the Gulf while it ignored resolutions pertaining to an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.
Habash warned that if this selective application persisted, the Arab people would resort to what he described as ``Arab revolutionary legitimacy'' based on the maximalist Arab national aspirations.
``Arab revolutionary legitimacy means that all Palestine is Arab and that the Israelis have no right to one inch of our land; Arab legitimacy means that the Arabs are one nation; Arab legitimacy means that the Arab oil is for the Arab people and not for the sheikhs and the sultans,'' he argued.
A key question raised by analysts here, however, concerns the potential risks to Jordan's stability from the increasing presence of Palestinian groups in the country.
Some Western diplomats argue that Hussein is taking a grave risk by allowing Palestinian and Arab radicals to initiate a pan-Arab movement against Western intervention.
But Jordanian and Palestinian officials counter that times have changed and the Palestinian radical groups have no interest in destabilizing Jordan.
Over the last six months, according to Jordanian and Palestinian sources, a number of meetings were held between representatives of left-wing Palestinian groups and the Jordanian government. PFLP and DFLP officials have reportedly assured the government that a new relationship would be based on respect for Jordanian sovereignty and stability.
In an interview with the Monitor, Habash said that King Hussein's relinquishing responsibility to the Palestine Liberation Organization of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the democratization process in Jordan had removed two important sources of contention.
According to officials from the two Palestinian groups, Jordan's stability has become relevant to thwarting any Israeli attempt to transform the kingdom into a substitute homeland for the Palestinians and subsequently annex the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.