Jordan’s King Hussein ignited a bitter dispute in Israel today by warning in an American television interview that an election victory by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would bring “absolute disaster” to the Middle East.
Shamir accused the king of allowing himself to be dragged into the campaign for Israel’s Nov. 1 general election.
“The result of the election will be determined by the people of Israel and not by any foreign interference,” Shamir said in a statement.
In the interview on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” show, Hussein praised proposals for a Middle East peace conference by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Shamir’s main political rival, as “very encouraging” and “a step forward.”
“I can’t tell what (Shamir’s) policies would be, but if they are what he has consistently suggested they would be, then--absolute disaster. And the whole area is threatened. And I cannot begin to imagine what, what the end results will be,” the Jordanian monarch said.
Opinion polls published today showed Shamir’s right-wing Likud Bloc and Peres’ center-left Labor Party neck-and-neck with neither likely to win a clear majority.
Peres aides said they hoped that the interview will show voters that Jordan remains a partner for peace, despite the king’s July 31 decision to cut legal and administrative ties with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and hand responsibility to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Likud officials said the Hussein interview, which ABC said was brokered by Peres’ office, could backfire on the Labor leader by confirming Likud propaganda depicting Peres as soft on the Arabs.