On Wednesday, President Reagan squeezed Jordan, and Israel said "ouch." The president put Jordan and its Arab sustainers under pressure for more fundamental concessions than Israel need make. But while asking Israel to trust him, he has behaved cavalierly toward his past statements and historical fact.
In 1980, he said: "Israel and Jordan are the two Palestinian states envisioned and authorized by the United Nations. Jordan is now recognized as sovereign in some 80 percent of the old territory of Palestine. Israel and Jordan are the parties primarily authorized to settle the future of the unallocated territories in accordance with the principle of the Mandate and the provisions of Resolutions 242 and 338."
Last Monday he said Jordan is not a Palestinian state. Yet it is, according to the Palestine Mandate. And Reagan's plan implies the continuing relevance of the Mandate. The plan assumes the West Bank and Gaza are "unallocated" portions of the mandated territory.
Reagan proposes allocation of most territory to Jordan. But by doing so with reference to the Mandate, the proposal affirms a fundamental principle of Israeli statecraft since 1948: Israel and Jordan must do the allocating through direct negotiations acknowledging Israel's legitimacy, and resulting in full peace.
In opposing additional West Bank settlements, Reagan did not say, as Carter indefensibly did, that the settlements are illegal. Under the Mandate, pending allocation, they are not. Why does Reagan accept the relevance of the Mandate yet reject the entailed conclusion that Jordan is, historically and legally as well as ethnically, a Palestinian state?
Reagan opposes a Palestinian state in the "unallocated territories" (West Bank, Gaza); he endorses Palestinian self-government "in association with Jordan." The logic of Reagan's reasoning is: Jordan is not a Palestinian state but it is the only state Palestinians will have. By casting Jordan in the role of superintendent of Palestinian self-determination, Reagan's plan would nullify the mischief of the 1974 Rabat conference that anointed the PLO the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians. Israel's Lebanon operation made this possible.
Arabs spent 19 years (1948-67) saying that any Israeli borders are inherently and infinitely illegitimate; many have spent the subsequent 15 years saying, illogically, that the post-1967 borders are even more illegitimate. Israel has always and rightly insisted that 242 does not envision total withdrawal from occupied territories. Reagan's call for some withdrawal from the West Bank offends Israelis who say Israel's obligations under 242 were exhausted by withdrawal from the Sinai.
But Reagan rejects the Arabs' willful misreading of 242. By saying Israel must not live again with the vulnerabilities of the 1967 borders, he says that Israel should withdraw from where it is but not to where it was. The extent of withdrawal should be a function of security considerations, and hence contingent upon Jordanian movement toward what Israel has offered for 34 years: peace and "normalization."
Israeli annexation of the West Bank either would involve means (suppression or expulsion of Arabs) incompatible with Israeli democracy, or the result would be incompatible with Israel's nature as a Jewish democracy. But settlements, begun by Begin's predecessors, have a security rationale: altering the West Bank population mix may be the only way to prevent the independent Palestinian state Reagan says he opposes.
The day after Hussein said all of Israel is "Palestinian soil," Reagan reversed himself by saying Jordan is not a Palestinian state. Israel must say to Hussein: no progress is possible until you stop talking rot. And to Reagan: Hussein may not want "association" with a West Bank Palestinian entity; and your mind is too changeable (as the subject of Palestine shows; as Taiwan can attest). Can you be trusted to oppose a movement toward disassociation from Jordan by a Palestinian entity?
Israel said "ouch," because it believes Reagan's plan was prepared exclusively with Arab collaboration as a payoff for Arab help in dispersing the PLO. Also, Israel says the plan violates the Camp David agreements because it makes specific what Camp David left unspecific -- the shape of a settlement after a five-year autonomy process. Thus, the plan resembles a reprise of the Rogers' plan of 1969 -- an imposed settlement.
But although Reagan's plan moves the United States from mediation to taking a position, Camp David does not proscribe that. And the United States will not -- cannot -- impose its views. Israel may have to reject all or part of the plan. But why rush?
Reagan has put the burden of the first and most fundamental movement on Hussein. Only Begin can remove Hussein's burden, by precipitous and wholesale rejection of Reagan's approach.