Efforts appear to be mounting to bring Jordan into the stalled Israeli-Egyptian peace talks as a way to break the deadlock on the key issues of Palestinian self-determination and Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.
It is an open question, however, whether Israel is prepared to offer Jordan's King Hussein enough to lure him to the bargaining table.
Diplomatic analysts say that among several reasons why Egyptian President Anwar Sadat decided to break off the political negotiations in Jerusalem last week was the realization that he could go just so far in offering compromises with Israel and that he needed Jordanian assent for compromises concerning the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the future of its Palestinian inhabitants.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
The signs that Jordan is being wooed include:
An announcement that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton, Washington's chief Middle East peace mediator, will pay a "courtesy call" on Hussein in Amman Saturday.
A statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan that the Americans think an Israeli-Egyptian joint declaration of principles for a peace settlement might bring Jordan into the talks and a claim by Dayan that Sadat's main effort is focused on getting Hussein to join in, so Egypt will cease being isolated in the Arab world.
The first verbal blast by Syria, which rejects Sadat's peace moves, against Jordan for its sideline support of Egypt.
In another sign of diplomatic movement involving Jordan, Hikmet Mosri, 70, the patriarch of the leading political family in Nablus on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was reliably reported to have been invited yesterday to go to Amman for talks with King Hussein for the second time in two weeks.
A prominent businessman with financial ties all over the West Bank, Mosri, is widely regarded as well qualified to represent the region in any negotiations. He is the only man of his public standing to have maintained friendly ties with Sadat, Hussein, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin said after a meeting with Atherton that he expects the Cabinet to decide at its regular meeting on Sunday to send Defense Minister Ezer Weizman back to Cairo to resume military negotiations with Egypt.
Yesterday, Weizman called home for consultations Gen. Avraham Tamir, the deputy he left in Cairo to represent him on the joint Israeli-Egyptian Military Committee that serves as a forum for the military talks.
Israeli state radio said that Tamir had reported progress in his talks with the Egyptians in the past few days.
Atherton said he had "helped move matters forward" on a joint Israeli-Egyptian declaration, and he will probably go to Cairo early next week.
The official reason for Atherton's trip to Amman is to meet with the American ambassadors to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israeli, U.S. spokesmen said that Atherton could hardly hold such a conference in Amman without calling on the king. A spokesman said Atherton would be prepared to discuss current diplomacy if the king wishes to do so.
Dayan, who took part in Atherton's meeting with Begin and Weizman, told a group of university students that diplomatic progress was made this week "mainly due to the American contribution."
The foreign minister said that a joint declaration with Egypt is within easy reach unless Egypt arbitrarily decides against it. Indicating some skepticism about Hussein's willingness to join in talks, Dayan said he could not tell whether a declaration would be enough to attract Hussein, but the Americans think that it might.
Israeli gave close attention to an interview published by the Beirut weekly Al Hawadess with Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel Khalim Khaddam attacking Jordan. In a clearly implied threat, he said that Jordan's encouragement to Egypt to date has not gone so far that Syrian-Jordan cooperation is threatened and he hoped this would not happen. Some analysts here take this to mean that Syria does indeed fear that Jordan might join in talks with Israel.
King Hussein has been saying consistently that there must be an Israeli statement of willingness to withdraw from the West Bank before Jordan can join the talks. Recently, he has spoken in terms of a United Nations trusteeship for the West Bank during an interim period.
He has reportedly discussed that idea with West Bank personalities, presumably with Mosri and others. PLO leader Yasser Arafat is also reported to have met with West Bank residents recently, including the mayor of Nablus, and to have said he does not object to an interim U.N. trusteeship if that is what the West Bank residents want.
U.S. sources had been reporting that the group at the Jordanian court traditionally holding that Jordan should wash its hands of the West Bank has been gaining strength lately. It is led by Hussein's younger brother. Crown Prince Hassan, who is now visiting in the United States.