The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 62.0°F | Overcast

Jordan, Israel Announce Peace Treaty Agreement

By Nora Boustany
The Washington Post
AMMAN, Jordan

Jordan and Israel announced agreement on a peace treaty Monday, making King Hussein the first Arab head of state to come to terms with the Jewish state since President Anwar Sadat led Egypt to a similar accord in 1979.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Hussein's prime minister, Abdel Salam Majali, initialed a draft treaty on normalized diplomatic relations that the two countries hope to sign on their long-disputed border Oct. 26, after formal government approval. The ceremony is to be attended by President Clinton and other dignitaries.

The treaty removed once and for all Jordan's longstanding uncertainty over breaking ranks with fellow Arabs in the search for peace with Israel and gave Israel a second Arab neighbor willing to deal formally and openly with the Jewish state as a fact of life in the Middle East. At the same time, it left Syria behind and on its own in efforts to forge a settlement with Israel on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel and Jordan signed what was called the Washington Declaration in the U.S. capital July 25, proclaiming an end to the state of belligerency that has prevailed between them since Israel's birth in 1948. While that pact was interpreted as a sign formal peace would not be far behind, Monday's draft treaty required weeks of detailed negotiations.

Overcoming the final obstacles, Israel agreed to return to Jordan nearly 150 square miles of land that has been disputed for almost five decades, according to local reports, while Jordan agreed to reduce its claims on precious water resources.

Rabin, speaking at a news conference here announcing the deal, pronounced it a "great historic day" in which "cooperation will replace animosity, hatred, violence and wars." Hussein stood next to him stiffly, smiling through a full white beard, and then made remarks in which he alluded to his mortality, his hopes for future generations and his relations with fellow Arab states.

"This is a peace between two countries, two peoples," Hussein said. "We have suffered long, we have aspired to peace, and we are committed to peace. I believe we did it ourselves with our teams, essentially between Jordan and Israel, so I can't speak for the others."

Although Syria has not budged from its positions on a full and speedy Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for full normalization of relations with Israel, Arab analysts predicted that Jordan's swift pace at reaching an agreement will add pressure on Syrian President Hafez Assad to strike a deal with a weaker hand.

With that apparently in mind, Israeli President Ezer Weizman said Assad "should look around and see. He may be the last in line" to make peace with Israel.

But in Damascus, where government-run newspapers have said daily that Israel is not to be trusted, Foreign Minister Farouk Charaa said: "We hope the Israeli government will realize the fact that without achieving peace with Syria and Lebanon, there will be no peace in the region. This is the reality."

Diplomatic sources said Assad plans a visit to Egypt on Tuesday for consultations with President Hosni Mubarak.

Rabin and Peres flew to Amman Sunday night for overnight talks to iron out the last hitches on the border and water issues. This was their second unannounced working visit in five days.

Rabin said agreement had been reached to establish a border between what was Jordan and Palestine while it was under British mandate prior to 1948, "with minor modifications." The modifications, according to local reports, involved the return of most of the 150 square miles of the Jordan Valley seized by Israel in 1948, with the exception of pockets inhabited by Israeli families, who will be allowed to stay as part of a leasing arrangement.

"We established the order of peace on the basis of international borders with minor modifications, mutually done. No one lost; no one wins," Rabin said. Then, prompted by a beaming Hussein, the Israeli prime minister corrected himself: "Everybody won."

On the more vital issue of scarce water resources, Rabin explained that a solution was found. Jordan initially had asked for 250 million cubic meters of water from the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, but reportedly has settled for 50 million cubic meters.

Jordanian negotiator Marwan Doudin said about 20 members of Jordan's 80-seat lower house of parliament would probably oppose the treaty but not block its ratification.

The Israeli cabinet unanimously supported the agreement Monday, and the parliament likely will swiftly approve it.