American and Israeli efforts to find Palestinian representatives to join post-Camp David negotiations are centered on residents of the West Bank of the Jordan. It could be, however, that the search should extend to the other side of the river as well.
A recent study by a U.S. Quaker group, the American Friends Service Committee, says, 1,500 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have been deported by Israeli occupation authorities since the territories were captured in 1967 and many of the most prominent are here in Jordan.
A close examination of the list reveals that the deportees include a major slice of the native Palestinian leadership of the West Bank and Gaza, with dozens of high officials from municipal government, education, professional associations, religion, student, women's and labor groups, health, law, and social and charitable organizations.
Few are likely to join negotiations on the future of the occupied territories as long as their former sovereign, Jordan's King Hussein, stays out. But if the monarch should alter his opposition to the Camp David negotiating framework and join in, at least some of the Palestinians here could be tempted to follow along despite the support most proclaim for the Palestine Liberation Organization.
For the present, however, a representative sample of top exiled Palestinians here said in interviews this week that they reject the Camp David framework as insufficient to tempt them or any other Palestinians to join the proposed negotiations.
Some are PLO officials: others are not. Some want an independent Palestinian state, while others prefer some sort of confederation with Jordan. But they all deride the Camp David agreements as "an Arab surrender." Their views seem significant in view of the fact that they probably would be the people the Americans and Israelis would be talking to had they not been deported, usually accused of being security risks.
They include Sheik Abdul Hamid Sayeh, head of the Islamic Higher committee; Rouhi Khatib, mayor of Arab East Jerusalem; Anglican Archdeacon Eliya Khoury of Ramallah; judge, banker and twice Jordanian foreign minister Anton Atallah; lawyer Ibrahim Bakr, current president of the Jordan Lawyers Association; Bir Zeit University President Hanna Nasir, Court of Appeals President Salah Anabtawi; the mufti of Hebron, Sheik Abdul Hai Mustafa Arafeh; former mayor of Ramallah Nadim Zaru; former Bireh Mayor Abdul Jawad Saleh; the president of the West Bank Dentists Union, Dr. Abdul Aziz Haj Ahmad; and the editor of Jerusalem's Al Shaab newspaper, Ali Mahmoud Khatib.
Ten of these exiled West Bank leaders said in separate interviews that imprecision in the Camp David agreements and the fact that they concentrate on West Bank and Gaza Palestinians make them unacceptable in their present form. Most stressed that any attempt to try to get around the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians would fail. They see this as one aim of the Camp David negotiating framework.
Sayeh, the top Islamic official of the West Bank and Gaza and the first person the Israelis deported in 1967, summed up the feelings of his fellow deportees when he said, "The Palestinian people require self-determination and this plan does not provide for self-determination. Honorable people will not accept home rule or the continuation of Israeli sovereignty in any form."
The exiled East Jerusalem mayor, Khatib, whose family traces its roots in the Holy City back 400 years, shares the same views.
Khatib particularly stresses what he calls the futility of trying to work out an Arab-Israeli peace accord without a clear commitment that Arab sovereignty will return to East Jerusalem. He says he is "greatly disappointed" in President Anwar Sadat of Egypt for "turning his back" on the approximately 2 million Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza.
Anglican archdeacon Khoury also reflects the dominant view of Palestinians here when he says "For any Palestinians to become involved in negotiations, there must be absolute clarifications about whether those negotiations will lead to a full Israeli withdrawal, including from East Jerusalem, and whether the Palestinians will have the right to full and free self-determination, including the option of statehood if they so wish. The Camp David accords do not clarify those two points."
Even such seasoned moderates as the former foreign minister, Anton Atallah reject the Camp David accords in their present form as "not enough," because they do not assure a full Israeli territorial withdrawal from all occupied areas.
"If we are so oppressed as to accept the Camp David agreements today, our sons and grandsons will revolt against them in the future," he said.
Bakr, a member of the PLO Central Council, says, "The Camp David agreements do not meet the minimal aspirations of the Palestinian people, and even if they are imposed by using a collection of quislings they will not achieve a durable peace or solve the Palestinian issue or the Mideast conflict."