King Hussein yesterday said he hopes Europe will supplant the moribund Camp David peace process with a fresh approach to solving the Palestinian question.
"As strong and as great as the United States is, it has a great weakness -- a lack of continuity that brings us to constantly speak of what happens after the elections," Hussein said in an interview.
Other key Jordanian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Sharaf and Crown Prince Hassan, echoed the king's pessimism on the Camp David accords. They also warned of the possibility that continued Middle East stalemate would lead to steady radicalization of the Arab world, with the result that the Arabs and the United States would end up in opposing camps.
Hassein seemed saddened that the Arabs had not been able to agree on a common initiative of their own as an alternative to Camp David.
"Maybe time and circumstances and events in the area did not permit us to reach that far," he said.
The king said the impetus in Europe, which favors recognizing the right of the Palestinians to self-determination by amending U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, should be seized upon by both the Arab world and the West as soon as it becomes clear to Israel and Egypt that the negotiations on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip are headed nowhere.
Resolution 242, which has been the basis for all Arab-Israeli peace moves since 1967, has been rejected by the Palestine Liberation Organization because it refers to the Palestinian question only in terms of a refugee problem and makes no reference to self-determination.
The United States and the Soviet Union have a role to play in a new forum for negotiating Middle East peace, Hussein said, but the European nations should shoulder much of the responsibility for seeking and end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"With all due respect to the two superpowers, many of us are beginning to feel more and more that there are other countries that can contribute to a solution to the problem, and have a right to do so . . . I do feel Europe is closer to this area, has a closer link to its destiny and future, to be under pressure," Hussein said, obliquely referring to the United States. "In other words, there is more continuity of policy.There is more emphasis on principle," he added.
Hussein, who has opposed the Camp David peace process from the beginning, suggested the political structure of European nations made them less vulnerable than the United States to external and internal pressures and the flickleness of the electorate.
The king's brother, Crown Prince Hassan, said he expects an "anguished protraction of the bankrupt (autonomy) process" after the May 26 target date for agreement on elections for the proposed West Bank-Gaza autonomous council.
After that, Hassan said, the challenge would fall to Jordan to advance an alternative, whether it be based on wider international participation in the peace process including the Sovie Union, or on amending Resolution 242.
Prime Minister Sharaf was asked whether the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had changed his views of Soviet participation in a settlement.
He replied, "I don't want to justify the intervention, but an overriding ideological imperative almost forced the Soviets to intervene, which we can understand, even if we do not agree.
"The Israeli myth is that American support of Israel is necessary to prevent Soviet expansionism. This [Palestinian] issue should be discussed not on the basis of the East-West conflict, but on its own merits."
Hussein warned that the alternative to scrapping the deadlocked Egyptian-Israeli autonomy talks and adopting an initiative such as Europe's -- which yesterday was endorsed by the parlamentary assembly of the 21-nation Council of Europe -- is a level of instability in the Middle East so high that it could result in war.
"The state of confusion, the state of growing anger is fast approaching a time when maybe even hope could finally be lost. And God knows we would be set again on a course of disaster that could not only affect the people of this area but maybe the world also," he said.
Sharaf, who was appointed premier in December, repeated the king's warning that a new initiative was needed.
"Nothing will change," he said, "Unless there is a shift in the balance of power between Israel and the Arab nations, or a change in the Israeli and American relationship, or a steady radicalization of the Arab world which would lead to the Arabs and the United States becoming in two opposing camps."
The prime minister made clear that he considered the third alternative most likely and that it was the one that worried Jordan most.
Hussein, asked about Israel's deep-seated fear for its security, replied it is the Arabs, not Israel, who should be fearful. But, he said, "sooner or later, the balance of power is going to shift. It is not going to be constant. Therefore, the sooner we move toward a solution, the greater the safety for all of us.
"New weapons are being introduced and the possibilities are infinite. This area can become a jungle, more than it is, with methods of destruction that could be devastating, not only to this area but to the world as well.Therefore it is not a question of positions on the ground, a position of certain weapons that is going to make the difference -- certainly not positions and settlement and occupation of hilltops," he said.
When asked whether he held hope in an ascension to power in Israel by opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, Hussein said: "Labor was in power in Israel, and no success was achieved over all these years in trying to move toward the establishment of peace. Likud has been in power and they have shaken the world time and again by the ugly face of truth the terms of the real intentions . . . within the Zionist movement.
"But after all these years, Mr. Peres, as intelligent as he is . . . cannot seriously expect us to be as naive as that . . . We are not new to the game. We've been involved in it since 1967 with its ups and downs."