Israel and Jordan drew 46 years of suspicion and hostility to a close Monday as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, in a declaration signed on the White House lawn, pledged to "bring an end to bloodshed and sorrow."
In a ceremony that President Clinton said marks "a new chapter in the march of hope over despair," the Israeli and Jordanian leaders promised to resolve disputes peacefully and vowed not to "threaten the other by use of force, weapons or any other means."
"Out of all the days of my life, I do not believe there is one such as this," said Hussein, a once-dashing young monarch who has grown bald and gray in four decades on the Hashemite throne--all of them under the shadow of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He said the ceremony would bring both nations "security from fear, which I must admit has prevailed over all the years of our lives."
Rabin, Israel's army chief of staff in the last shooting war between Israel and Jordan in 1967, said the agreement shows the neighboring countries can "accelerate our efforts towards peace, overcome obstacles (and) achieve a breakthrough."
Despite the soaring rhetoric, their declaration merely ended the technical state of belligerency between the two countries, falling short of an official peace treaty because key details--which neither side has disclosed--remain unresolved.
Rabin and Hussein promised intensive negotiations aimed at completing the second formal treaty between Israel and an Arab state following the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement.
"We have gone here a long way toward a full treaty of peace and, even though our work has not yet ended, it is my hope and belief that not long from today we shall return to signing a final and a permanent treaty of peace," Rabin said.
For Hussein, Monday's ceremony marked a dramatic break with Jordan's traditional determination to keep its foreign policy firmly within an Arab consensus. For years, Hussein made it clear he was interested only in a comprehensive peace agreement that would cover all Arab countries, especially Syria.
To be sure, Hussein has not yet signed a peace treaty. But his declaration Monday puts Jordan far ahead of Syria and threatens to isolate Syrian President Hafez Assad. In the past, Syria has responded angrily to any suggestion of a separate peace between Israel and any Arab state. Relations between Damascus and Cairo were frosty for years after Egypt made peace with Israel.
Clinton sought to smooth Assad's reaction to the Israel-Jordan declaration. In a telephone call just before the signing ceremony, Clinton assured him the United States considers Syria a major factor in the Middle East and that Washington will continue to try to mediate a peace between Syria and Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who plans to resume his Jerusalem-Damascus shuttle diplomacy before the middle of next month, said he hopes Syria will be swept up in the momentum created by Hussein and Rabin. "Each one of these historic breakthroughs that happens makes it slightly easier for the next one to happen," Christopher said.
The ceremony--conducted at the same table used for the Israel-Egypt agreement and for the pact Israel signed last year with the Palestine Liberation Organization--marked a welcome foreign policy success for the Clinton Administration, which has been buffeted by crises in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti and Somalia.
The United States served as go-between to set up Monday's meeting. In his speech, Clinton paid tribute to predecessors Jimmy Carter and George Bush for earlier Arab-Israeli peacemaking that helped make the current talks possible.
Clinton made the most of the latest Middle East accord, presiding over the ceremony and signing the document himself to demonstrate his government's support. "History is made when brave leaders find the power to escape the past and create a new future," he said.
It was the first publicly acknowledged meeting between Hussein and an Israeli prime minister. But, unlike other Arab leaders, Hussein met regularly in private with a succession of Israeli prime ministers and foreign ministers in what became the Middle East's most widely known secret.
When the Rabin-Hussein meeting was announced 10 days ago, it appeared that the most significant outcome would be to take the relationship into the sunlight. But Israel-Jordan talks in the last week produced an impressive list of substantive agreements.
Besides better relations with Israel, Jordan is looking for economic assistance from the United States, especially some relief from its $700-million debt. Although he made no promises, Christopher said the U.S. government "is committed to supporting those that take risks for peace."
Jordan and Israel, carved out of the old British mandate of Palestine, have been blocked by almost half a century of hostility from developing cooperative economic projects that their similar geography seems to demand. Hussein and Rabin pledged to heal that breach, outlining a series of steps:
* Direct telephone links will be opened.
* The countries will link their electricity grids.
* Two new border crossings will be opened, one between the twin southern cities of Aqaba, Jordan, and Eilat, Israel, and one in the north.
* Third-country tourists will be given "free access" in traveling between the countries.
* Israeli and Jordanian police will cooperate against crime, especially smuggling.
* Negotiations will be accelerated toward opening international airline routes across both countries.
Israel and Jordan also promised to prevent their territory from being used as a base for acts of terrorism against the other. And Jordan promised to urge the Arab League to end its boycott of Israel, although the kingdom did not unilaterally end its own participation in this practice.
In one provision that is potentially divisive for the Arab world, Israel agreed to respect Jordan's role "in the Muslim holy shrines" of Jerusalem. Rabin also promised that Israel "will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines" when negotiations over the final status of Jerusalem begin between Israel and the Palestinians.
By favoring Jordan's claim to supervise Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount--one of the holiest places in Islam--Israel delivered a rebuff to the PLO and its chairman, Yasser Arafat. Arafat told Christopher last week the Palestinians were proper guardians of Muslim and Christian shrines in Jerusalem.
Even as progress toward peace was being recorded in Washington, Iranian-backed guerrillas ambushed an Israeli army convoy in south Lebanon on Monday, killing an Israeli officer and wounding 10 soldiers, security sources said.
* MADRID II? U.S. envisions summit, but difficult work lies ahead. A6
Nations Break the Legacy of War
Monday's White House ceremony marked another historic settlement of ancient enmities that have plagued the Middle East.
PEACE: The leaders declare, "with the world as their witness," that Israel and Jordan have ended their long state of belligerency. Negotiations will continue toward a full-fledged peace pact.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION: The two nations will attempt to abolish all economic boycotts and to establish bilateral economic cooperation.
TELEPHONE LINKS: Direct service between the two countries will be established.
WATER-POWER: Negotiations will seek the proper allocation of the waters of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers. The two countries' power grids will be linked.
BORDER: Two new border crossing posts will be established and a survey will be made of the common border.
TOURISTS: Visitors from other nations will be allowed to travel easily between the two countries.
AIR TRAFFIC: Negotiations on an international air corridor between the two countries will be speeded up.
Israel, Syria and Lebanon have made little progress toward peace since Middle East peace talks began nearly three years ago. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher called the talks between Israel and Syria over the future of the Golan Heights "a very intertwined set of negotiations, probably the toughest negotiations of all."