The closing circle of peace

July 27, 1994

With the Washington Declaration, Israel has now made peace with three of its neighbors, Egypt, Palestine and Jordan. That leaves the northern border with Syria and Lebanon, where terrorism remains an irritant but not a threat to the state. The PLO's separate peace led directly to Jordan's, which adds to the pressure on Syria and its Lebanese protectorate to follow.

Jordan is an important addition to the circle of peace because the prospects of cooperation between it and Israel flow so naturally from geography. Despite Jordan's participation in wars against Israel in 1948 and 1967, King Hussein, like his grandfather King Abdullah, always seemed ready to live in peace with Israel if he could also have peace with the rest of the Arab world.

Although the Washington Declaration is not a peace treaty and leaves questions in dispute, King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made clear that they will resolve those, push through a treaty and meet together as often as needed to make that happen. This won't be difficult when you realize that Jerusalem and Amman, for 46 years as distant as cold war could make them, are as close together as Baltimore and Washington.

The declaration calls for clear avenues of economic cooperation even before a peace treaty, and this ranges from telephone links to police cooperation on drug interdiction. Jordan's king has now enlisted Israel's prime minister to plead with the U.S. Congress to grant the U.S. president's pledge of forgiveness of Jordan's debt. There is no reason they cannot cooperate in tourism, joint ventures, Jordanian trade through Israel's ports, exploitation of Dead Sea minerals. Palestine will be a natural economic partner to both.

The declaration is neutral in terms of the Jordanian monarch's rivalry with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. It preserves the role that Israel has granted Jordan, since Israel's conquest of Jerusalem in 1967, as protector of the holy mosques there. This may conflict with Mr. Arafat's pretensions to acquire part of Jerusalem as capital of Palestine in the final status agreement with Israel. But it does not change anything. Any final status agreement on Palestine is going to have to be within the Arab world as well as between Arabs and Israel.

There is still more peace with Israel to be made, with Syria and Lebanon and with non-neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, ending the now-eroded Arab boycott of Israel. That would isolate the truly intransigent, such as Libya and Iraq. The gesture of the Jordanian king, moving out in front of Syria on this occasion, adds greatly to the momentum.

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