Prospects for anyone persuading Jordan to join Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace initiative under present conditions appear decidedly dim here.
Without a major shift in Israel's current bargaining position, King Hussein will not be moved on this issue, in the opinion of both diplomats and Jordanian officials.
This is despite the fact that statements by Israelis, Egyptians, Americans and most recently the British make it increasingly clear that they see any chances for success in Sadat's venture as dependent on including Jordan in the negotiations.
Although the Israelis would like to persuade Egypt to make a separate peace, Sadat has remained firm that a peace must include other Arab states and the Palestinians. Since Syria will not even discuss the matter, Jordan appears to be the key.
Prime Minister Modar Badran summed up Jordan's conditions for joining the talks the other day saying Israel must first announce its intention to withdraw from all arab territory occupied in the 1967 war and recognize the national rights of the Palestinians. A third condition, which King Hussein has mentioned, is that there should be Palestinian representation at the talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said recently that although Israel wants peace, anybody asking for a total withdrawal to the 1967 lines or a Palestinian state on the West Bank of the Jordan River will receive a "resounding no" from Israel.
Israel says Jordan wants nothing less than total surrender to its point of view as a precondition to negotiations and that Egypt is hardening its own position in order to bring in Hussein.
Jordanians say there is far more flexibility in their position than Israelis are willing to admit but they do insist on a commitment to withdrawal. What Sadat may or may not accept in the Sinai is not seen as Jordan's concern.If, however, Israel takes the position that U.N. Resolution 242 does not commit Israel to withdrawal on the West Bank, then in Jordan's view there is nothing to discuss. Jordan sees the Begin plan of limited self-rule on the West Bank as continued Israeli occupation in a different guise.
Jordan has not called for a seperate Palestinian state on the West Bank. Indeed, the specter of a radical state ruled by the Palestine Liberation Organization and dominated by the Soviet Union is just as frightening to Hussein's conservative kingdom as it is to Begin.
Jordan is calling for eventual self-determination for the Palestinians but does not expect Israel to withdraw all at once. The period of withdrawal --the manner of withdrawal, the demilitarization and other security measures that would protect Israel as well as Jordan would all be subject to negotiations, In Jordan's view.
The issues of eventual self-determiniation for the Palestinians and the type of Palestinian representation at the talks, Jordan feels, could be left to negotiations.
Although Hussein has publicaly supported the 1974 Rabat decision that the PLO should be the sole representative of the Palestinian people, he is also on record as saying that once Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank takes place, the PLO role should cease.
It is Jordan's bet that a referendum on the West Bank, taken after a period of peace and stability under international supervision, would favor a link with Jordan in some kind of federation.
The Israeli view is that the Palestinians given any kind of entity, would still thirst for a return to Haifa, Jaffa and other towns within Israel proper. Jordan, however, takes the view that the only way to end Palestinian irredentism would be to give them an identity in terms of land -- although not necessarily a totally independent state.
There is a growing feeling in Jordan that a link with the West Bank is perhaps inevitable and desirable, given the close commercial and family connections -- half the population of Jordan is originally from the West Bank or what is now Israel. But a total integration of Jordan with the West Bank, as was attempted between 1958 and 1967, would not be advisable, it is felt.
Palestinian nationalism was a problem to the Jordanians, although West Bankers had full citizenship rights.
Hussein has said that Jerusalem should never again be physically divided, but he does insist that the Israelis and the Arabs share it. He would not deny Jews access to their holy places.
In short, Jordan wants an Israeli commitment to total withdrawal but would negotiate how and when. Although the Jordanians have not spelled it out, there could be other adjustments in the final boundary. For example, Jordan would probably trade the Latrun salient, a narrow finger of the West Bank that used to cut the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, in return for an Israeli spur which used to cut the main Bethlehem-Jerusalem road.
As it stands now, Israel would not accept anything approaching total withdrawal nor would it remove its settlements from the Jordan River valley.
Therefore progress on a joint declaration of principles between Egypt and Israel, on which Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton is now working, will probably not be enough to bring Jordan into the talks. Hussein says that Resolution 242, to which Israel has agreed, is a sufficient declaration of principles and what he wants is a declaration of intent concerning the West Bank and Gaza.
Hussein sees no advantage for Jordan in joining the talks just to provide cover for Sadat, who then might be tempted to make his own deal in the Sinai and leave Jordan holding an empty bag. Nor does Hussein see any purpose in providing a cover for Israel by joining these talks. Nothing that Israel has done or said since the Sadat visit to Jerusalem has put in question Hussein's reluctance to join the talks, in this view.
The Jordanians remember that Israel refused to agree to a 6-mile disengagement in the Jordan River valley when it was concluding an agreement with the Egyptians in the Sinai. This led to the Rabat conference, which stripped Hussein's right to talk for the Palestinians.
Hussein has spent the intervening years building up his relations with Arab states, especially Syria, and sees no point in joining talks that he feels are clearly going nowhere.