King Hussein of Jordan today dismissed the Reagan administration's efforts to build a Middle East policy around an anti-Soviet "strategic alliance" with Israel and friendly Arab nations as a "simplistic" idea that ignores the true causes of instability in the region.
Until the Reagan administration faces those causes -- Palestinian rights and Israeli occupation of Arab lands -- with honesty, evenhandedness and justice, the traditionally pro-Western monarch said, instability will continue to threaten U.S. interests in the area, strategic alliance or not.
"Obviously unless this is achieved adequately, with justice, peace eludes us in this area and the danger grows," the Hashemite monarch said in an interview given as he prepared to visit the United States Nov. 2.
Hussein also had praise for the eight-point peace proposal Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Fahd advanced last month. Terming the proposal "obviously important," he said its contents were not far from what Jordan itself had been advocating "for many years."
The king, who alone among Middle East leaders has dealt with every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower, prefaced his remarks by insisting that he did not want to make any "premature" judgments on U.S. policy, since he will soon meet with President Reagan.
Sporting a tan from a recent holiday in the Canary Islands, the dapper 43-year-old Hussein said that though there were "already indications" of a U.S. tilt toward Israel, he remained "hopeful" that this was not the case.
He said he hoped Reagan would wait, as publicly promised, until personally sounding out all key Middle East leaders to define U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Egypt's President Anwar Sadat visited Washington in July and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin did so this month; Hussein is to be followed by Saudi Arabia's Fahd.
However, Hussein dismissed Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.'s notion that the "strategic alliance" agreed to during Begin's visit could embrace Arab nations as well as Israel.
The king noted that Haig's concept had some parallels with the late secretary of state John Foster Dulles' ill-fated Baghdad Pact in the 1950s, which, despite much Arab opposition, sought to create an anti-Soviet defense alliance in the northern Middle East stretching from Turkey to Iran. The pact triggered the Iraqi revolution of 1958 that toppled the Hashemite monarchy of Hussein's cousin, King Faisal II.
"That sort of thinking is exactly why I think sometimes Washington has a rather simplistic attitude towards this area," Hussein said. "Unless--and until--the Palestinian problem is resolved with justice and there is a just and lasting peace achieved, there will be too many obvious elements against such a plan."
Hussein said that the Soviet threat as perceived by Washington runs counter to Arab experience that the real danger comes from Israel.
"When the United States speaks of Soviet threats and then Israel bombs a nuclear reactor in Baghdad, in a country which doesn't even border Israel," he said, "Washington's argument is lost as far as very, very many of us are concerned."
Having said that, he was at pains to emphasize his hopes that "unfortunate developments"--his opposition to the Camp David accords that chilled U.S.-Jordanian relations under the Carter administration--could be put behind and a new relationship established.
The reestablishment of close relations, which the king left no doubt he wants, would still depend on the Reagan administration's general attitude on the Middle East. Finding that out in person, he said, will be the main object of his visit to Washington.
"What we hope for, and wish most, is for the United States to be free to act on its principles and ideals, " he said, "to resolve the Middle East problem according to the traditions which made it the greatest nation of the world in our time."
Hussein said he hoped to find that the United States was still willing to act in the area "free of outside pressures" in pursuit of justice and its own national interest.
"What I want to find out is how much the United States is still able to contribute towards the establishment of a just peace," he said. "Or, on the other hand, has it already taken a course that puts it on one side in this conflict--fully, totally and irrevocably? If the latter is the case then it is obvious the United States has compromised its ability to make a contribution."
Hussein allowed that he would go to Washington without concrete proposals despite his recent support of a 1977 Soviet proposal for an international peace conference on the Middle East.
The king also gave the recent Saudi peace proposals a backhanded boost. The proposals call for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territory occupied in l967, dismantling of Israeli settlements in occupied territories, recognition of Palestinians' rights, establishment of a Palestinian state and international guarantees of peace for all states in the area.
Though the king was originally miffed that Fahd had not sought a common stance on the issue before unveiling the proposals, he said, "Fahd's suggestions are those we have been seeking." He noted he would probably add the need for the Palestinians to have the right of self-determination.
Hussein has a lot more riding on this visit to Washington than he will admit publicly. Frustrations with the continuing lack of progress on the Palestinian question and anger over Israeli attacks on Baghdad and Beirut this summer have triggered growing anti-Americanism among his 2.2 million subjects--60 percent of them Palestinians.
The disaffection extends clear from the heated private debates of embittered elites all the way down to the marketplace and the streets where a public campaign has just been launched to boycott U.S. goods in protest against what is popularly perceived as Washington's unconditional support for Israel and dismissal of Arab points of view.
In a kingdom where demonstrations are illegal and public political expression proscribed, the true magnitude of the disaffection is hard to judge, though diplomats, and many Jordanians, consider it potentially explosive.
"We have begun to feel that the United States has not only failed to give us any hope, but with this new strategic alliance with Israel, Washington has given us the impression it simply does not care," Jordan's minister of information, Adnan Abu Odeh, said this week.
Hussein and his younger brother Crown Prince Hassan, who will visit Washington this week on his way to the United Nations General Assembly, hope to find out that the United States in fact does care.
So far, however, he has had plenty of reasons to believe that it does not. Having greeted Reagan's election as a chance to begin ties anew with Washington, he believed he could meet with Reagan even before the inauguration--a hope that led to Hussein's being appointed by the Arab summit here last November with presenting its views to the new administration.
That meeting never materialized. As the administration concentrated on domestic affairs, Hussein's visit was put back, much to his disappointment and regional loss of face, to the spring, then the summer and now for November.