Transforming the war-torn landscape of the Middle East, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Jordan's King Hussein met yesterday in Washington to declare an end to 46 years of hostilities. ``This day is a day of hope and vision,'' said King Hussein.
This peace, he said, was the fulfilling of a day of hope and could lead to a better future for all in the region, a future of thriving relations for the people of the Middle East. President Clinton, in brief remarks, quoted admonitions of peace from both the Koran and the Talmud.
The two leaders were to sign a declaration that is aimed at ending years of belligerency between the two countries as well as providing a blueprint for economic cooperation.
The king and prime minister greeted each other with a handshake and warm smile.
Mr. Rabin said their handshake ``symbolizes much more than two people who no longer take up arms against one another.'' He said he looked forward to the day when such greetings would become routine among the people in the region.
``Your majesty, the entire state of Israel is shaking your hand,'' he told Hussein at a White House ceremony that marked their first public meeting.
After the brief ceremony, presided over by President Clinton, the leaders went inside to put the finishing touches on the declaration.
Welcoming them to the White House, Clinton said, ``On this morning of promise these visionary statesmen from ancient lands have chosen to heal the rift that for too long has divided their lands.''
The obvious warmth between Rabin and Hussein, who have met secretly in the past, was in sharp contrast to the restraint when Rabin met PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at the White House last September. On that occasion Arafat held out his hand and Rabin hesitated before grasping it.
Before the White House ceremony, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the declaration Rabin and Hussein would sign ``moves the parties much closer together.''
``It is really a day for the history books,'' Mr. Christopher said in an ABC interview. ``We're going to transform the landscape of the Middle East.''
With US help, Israeli and Jordanian officials Sunday night negotiated the language of a declaration that is aimed at ending years of hostile relatins between the two countries as well as laying out hopes for economic cooperation.
Christopher said the declaration ``accelerates the process toward a peace treaty.''
``I think it's a matter of months until there's a formal peace agreement between the two of them,'' Christopher said. ``Much of the groundwork will be laid out in the joint declaration.''