An agreement by Jordan's King Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat holds out the promise of a Middle East peace in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from the territories it has occupied since 1967, according to a text of the pact, released yesterday by Jordan.
The exact wording of the accord, called "a bid for joint action," has been kept secret since its existence was announced Feb. 11, but U.S. and Arab officials have described it as a vital element in efforts to build momentum toward a new Middle East peace initiative.
On Wednesday the PLO Executive Committee approved the accord after a stormy meeting in Tunis, but with several important clarifications that weakened it as a vehicle for serious negotiations. These clarifications do not appear to be reflected in the text released yesterday by Jordan's acting information minister, Taher Hikmat.
As presented in Amman, the English text of the accord cites five carefully hedged and in some cases confusing "principles" on which Jordan and the PLO have agreed "to move together toward the achievement of a peaceful and just settlement of the Middle East crisis and the termination of Israeli occupation of the occupied Arab territories, including Jerusalem."
First is "total withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 for comprehensive peace as established in United Nations and Security Council resolutions."
This appears to accept a common interpretation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which the Reagan administration and Hussein have said must be the basis of any workable peace process. But on Wednesday the PLO Executive Committee specifically rejected that resolution, which fails to address Palestinian demands for a homeland and treats their problem merely as a refugee issue.
Hussein, interviewed on ABC News, was asked specifically if the pact adopted U.N. Resolution 242. He answered that he believed "the common denominator of all the initiatives" has been Resolution 242.
The Executive Committee called unequivocally for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But the accord released yesterday presents that principle with some confusion:
"Palestinians will exercise their inalienable right of self-determination when Jordanians and Palestinians will be able to do so within the context of the formation of the proposed confederated states of Jordan and Palestine."
The thrust of the Reagan peace initiative in 1982 and Hussein's initiative now is toward negotiations in which Hussein speaks for the Palestinians in league with, if not instead of, the PLO.
The joint accord calls for negotations "conducted under the auspices of an international conference in which the five permanent members of the Security Council and all the parties to the conflict will participate, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestine [sic] people, within a joint delegation (joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation)."
The United States and Israel favor bilateral talks.
The accord also calls for the "resolution of the problem of Palestinian refugees in accordance with United Nations resolutions" and "resolution of the Palestine question in all its aspects."
In the television interview, Hussein responded to an invitation by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, saying that it would be "impossible for me personally for many reasons" to visit Jerusalem.
Regarding the initiative as a whole, he said, "I think we have a very small window at this stage" to move ahead with the peace process. He warned that there are many extremists waiting in the wings and that "if this chance is lost, I think the chance for peace is lost in our area."