Jordan's King Hussein believes that the drift in the Middle East peace process is accelerating the erosion of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's position and endangering moderate Arab governments open or tacitly supporting him, officials close to the king said today.
Hussein is said to believe that Israel is determined to force Sadat into a separate peace and away from an overall Middle East settlement. As a result, the king is increasingly wary of involvement in the Egyptian-Israeli talks despite continued efforts by Sadat, President Carter and the shah of Iran to get him to join.
Indicative of this moderate, pro-Western government's concern about what is seen here as Israeli intransigence was an official analysis that was barely distinguishable from that of outspokenly anti-Sadat-Arab states.
Expressing "disappointment" over Israeli responses to Sadat's initiative, the officials said "we'd hoped it would let off a radical transformation of Israeli psychology and questioning of their major assumptions about Palestinian rights and occupied territories."
Instead "almost unprecedented intrasigence" was manifest, the official said, in Israel's "self-rule" proposal for the West Bank and Gaza Strip which for the first time questioned Arab sovereignty of these territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.
In such circumstances "nothing warrants King Hussein's involvement" in the negotiating process, the officials said despite Sadat's continuing efforts to persuade Israel to accept a declaration of principles for an overall statement.
The principal stumbling block, in this view, is Israeli rejection of Palestinian "self-determination" on the grounds that it would lead to independence.
Furthermore, unlike the United States, Egypt and Iran which oppose creation of an independent Palestinian state Hussein insists that the Palestians be given such a choice, although he is known to hope they would chose close links with Jordan instead.
"We are not maneuvering for the return of the West Bank and Gaza in a graceful manner acceptable to the other Arabs and world opinion," and official said.
"We're genuinely interested in Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the satisfaction of Palestinian aspirations in positive way, and that means giving Palestinians a convincing freedom of choice.
Although Algeria, Syria, Libya, South Yemen and the Palestine Liberation Organization are formally allied in an anti-Sadat front and Iraq even more intransigent, on paper at least the officials said "King Hussein thinks it's still possible" to heal the Arab world rifts, "but it will be very, very difficult."
Either failure or a spearate peace would prove "equally disastrous" and "end the peace option for a very, very long time," the official said.
Reiterating Hussein's own earlier predictions, they said anything but a comprehensive middle East settlement would serve chiefly to justify radical Arab assertions that Israel was not interested in peace, but only in annexing Arab land.
Upheavals and convulsions throughout the region, including the oil producing countries, could not be ruled out such an eventuality, they added.
Jordanian official frustration was heightened by Western public opinion's bland assumption that a separate peace would be beneficial to Western interests.
"The West is indifferent because it believes vital interests will not be touched," an official said, "and that is pure wishful thinking."