Building on a new momentum toward Middle East peace, Israel and Jordan signed a “framework” agreement Tuesday that lays the foundation for a treaty that would officially end the 1967 Six-Day War.
The agreement, signed in the State Department’s ornate Thomas Jefferson Room, fixes the border between the two states and calls for cooperation in such areas as the environment, water resources, economic development, security and refugee resettlement.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the Israel-Jordan agreement, following Monday’s signing of a precedent-shattering accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, “sets a new direction toward a better future for the region . . . a long step down the road toward peace.”
And on his way back to Jerusalem from the Israel-PLO signing ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stopped in Morocco on Tuesday for surprise talks with King Hassan II. Israeli officials said they hope to begin normal relations with Morocco soon but dismissed reports that an announcement is imminent.
“I don’t believe that it will take too long before additional Arab countries will recognize Israel,” Rabin told a news conference in Rabat after his talks with Hassan. “I think that as a result of what happened in Washington there is a beginning of openness, but these things cannot all happen all at once.”
The Israel-Jordan ceremony was low-key in comparison to the extravaganza Monday on the White House South Lawn that marked the signing of the Israel-PLO pact. But it was far more flamboyant than Israeli and Jordanian negotiators had expected last week when they completed work on the accord. At that point, they had planned to announce the agreement without fanfare.
Technically, the accord is an agenda for later negotiations. But it is so detailed that it forms the framework for what would become Israel’s second treaty with an Arab government since the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
Israel and Jordan have been technically at war since 1948 and officially at war since the 1967 conflict in which the Israeli army, reacting to Arab troop movements, occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula in a lightning six-day campaign. Even though Jordan did not participate actively in the subsequent 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the two nations have never officially terminated the earlier conflict with a peace treaty.
The agreement announced Tuesday was hammered out during almost 23 months of talks that began at the Madrid peace conference in October, 1991.
The measure was signed by the chief delegates to the peace talks, Elyakim Rubinstein of Israel and Fayez Tarawneh of Jordan. Most of the agreement was negotiated, however, when Abdul Salam Majali, now the Jordanian prime minister, was chief delegate.
Rubenstein, also Israel’s chief delegate in the peace talks with the Palestinians, boycotted Monday’s festivities because he was angered that the secret Israel-PLO talks had bypassed his delegation. But he was an enthusiastic participant Tuesday.
“We have great respect for Jordan, for his majesty, the king, and the government’s efforts towards democratization,” he said. The agenda, he added, “details and summarizes the principles which will guide us in the coming negotiations.”
For his part, Tarawneh said: “We hope this first step will be translated through the substantive and lengthy negotiations that will follow into an agreement based on comprehensive peace that will positively transform the lives of all peoples in the area.”
Jordan and Morocco were the first Arab governments to take advantage of the momentum created by the Israel-PLO accord. Both monarchies have pursued a policy of nonbelligerency toward Israel for years but have shied away from normal diplomatic relations to avoid undercutting Arab support for the Palestinian cause.
Israel wants early peace treaties with both Jordan and Morocco because neither agreement would require the Israelis to pull back occupation forces. Hussein relinquished to the Palestinians all Jordanian claim to the West Bank years ago, and Israel and Morocco have never had a territorial dispute.
Rabin has said, however, that in negotiations with Syria he intends to proceed more slowly out of the belief that Israelis would oppose an agreement with the Syrians that called for Israel to give up the Golan Heights so soon after agreeing to Palestinian self-government in the West Bank town of Jericho and the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Syrian negotiators have agreed in principle to tie a peace treaty to Israeli withdrawal from the Golan but remain far apart on details.
The Clinton Administration hopes to broker an Israel-Syria deal as soon as possible. But a senior Administration official conceded that the “political realities in Israel” mean that an early agreement is unlikely.
Meanwhile, Christopher sent a cable to all U.S. embassies and consulates directing diplomats to seek financial assistance whenever possible for the fledgling Palestinian government.
Christopher also plans to solicit funds when he meets with dozens of foreign ministers and other top government officials at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.
Although Washington intends to make only a modest contribution of its own, officials said the United States is determined to raise enough money to guarantee the success of Palestinian self-government.
U.S. officials expect Israel and the PLO to begin the series of negotiations needed to fill in the details of Palestinian self-government soon.
But the momentum will be interrupted by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year festival that begins at sundown today.
* RELATED STORIES: A15-A18