King Hussein of Jordan said Thursday that his government probably will conduct a high-level meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization within the next few days, restoring the Jordanian-Palestinian contacts that the monarch broke off earlier this year.
Interviewed on the ABC News program “Nightline,” Hussein also said that he is prepared to attend a Middle East peace conference as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation if requested to do so by the PLO.
Hussein said he has no regular contact with Yasser Arafat and other PLO leaders but that “there is a very strong possibility of some high-level contact between us and the PLO within the next few days.”
Hussein’s remarks suggest that Jordan may be willing once again to become involved in the Middle East peace process.
Hussein’s appearance on “Nightline” was reportedly initiated by senior staff members of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who was interviewed during another segment of the same program. The aides informed ABC that Hussein would be willing to be interviewed.
Peres hopes that the monarch’s remarks will provide a boost for his left-center Labor party in closely contested Israeli national elections scheduled for Nov. 1. They allow Labor to say that the so-called “Jordanian option” for Middle East peace remains open. Israel’s political right, headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud party, has depicted Peres’ peace plans as unrealistic because “there’s no one to talk to.”
Hussein described Shamir’s policies during the Nightline interview as a recipe for “absolute disaster.”
Last July, Hussein renounced Jordan’s involvement in administration of the West Bank, which it controlled from 1949 until 1967, when Israel occupied it. Hussein said the PLO should represent the Arab population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That seemed to write the epitaph to years of U.S. efforts to bring Palestinians into the peace process with Jordan.
Washington advocated the Jordanian-Palestinian approach because Israel made it clear that it would not sit across a negotiating table with the PLO. A joint delegation headed by Hussein would be more acceptable to both Israel and the United States.
Hussein revived the possibility of a joint delegation Thursday, although he seemed to mark out a more important role for the PLO than Israel is likely to accept.
Dan Fisher in Jerusalem contributed to this story.