Jordan's Vote for Peace

November 12, 1993

Monday's election in Jordan, perhaps the freest in Arab history, endorsed the peace process. That is not a surprise. The historic breakthrough between Israel and the PLO has also made the PLO more popular among Palestinians at the expense of rejectionist Hamas, and strengthened the Labor Party in Israel at cost to the intransigent Likud.

The election of a greater majority of members of parliament loyal to King Hussein and favorable to the peace process makes it possible for the king to entertain a deal with Israel as the PLO did. Unconfirmed reports predict an agreement of some kind imminently.

It will probably amount to less than a peace treaty, however, until Syria pursues one. Syria is the next key to the Middle East. The agreement between Israel and the PLO removes the cause of war, but until Syria makes peace, Lebanon cannot and King Hussein may not dare. Terror will be sustained, as Yasser Arafat has said, so long as Syria is on the fence.

But that is only half of King Hussein's predicament. The other half is a fear of being left out of an economic accommodation between Israel and Palestine-to-be. The putative agreement between Jordan and Israel would be an economic accord.

It is reported but not confirmed that Israeli and Syrian security experts negotiated secretly in Europe on the technical questions related to assuring Israel's security after restoration of the Golan Heights to Syria. Agreement on technical issues was not reached, much less political accord. Syria denies holding secret talks with Israel. President Hafez el Assad is taking his time about commitment, perhaps for maximum gain in return for coming aboard. He means to go last.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia has sent signals it was prepared to make peace with Israel after Syria, Jordan and the PLO had, which implies an end to the Arab boycott of Israel at that time. Peace between Israel and the entire Arab world has at least become imaginable, if not actual. Where it was taboo, it is now discussed.

The process of establishing autonomy in Gaza and Jericho was stalled but restarted in talks between the PLO and Israel in Egypt. There is every reason to think that the Israel-PLO accord will be implemented, though the progress will be rocky and interrupted.

Past stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians bred intransigence and extremism in both Israel and the Arab world. The agreement between Israel and the PLO is helping moderates and peace-makers in any country concerned where the will of the people is consulted.

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