Israel's Cabinet reacted lukewarmly today to overtures by Jordan's King Hussein at the United Nations for direct negotiations with Israel, saying Hussein's offer will be "judged by its results and not by its repercussions."
In a statement attributed to Prime Minister Shimon Peres and agreed upon by the Cabinet ministers, the government rejected Hussein's insistence on negotiating in an international forum with the involvement of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Peres said that "this is the first time that the king of Jordan speaks about direct and immediate negotiations, and there is no need for additional frameworks, which will only add more problems and result in everlasting delays."
Peres was referring to Hussein's insistence, in a speech Friday to the U.N. General Assembly, that negotiations between Jordan and Israel for a comprehensive Middle East peace include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and "all parties to the conflict," which means the inclusion of the PLO.
Such an international forum would necessarily involve the Soviet Union, which is unacceptable to both Israel and the United States.
Peres, in the first official reaction to Hussein's speech, congratulated the Jordanian monarch for his "vision of peace," but emphasized that Israel "does not see the PLO as a partner for negotiations and that the objection to the PLO has intensified further in recent days due to terrorist activities."
Peres, according to the Cabinet statement, criticized "the differentiation in the king's speech between terror and national liberation actions. Violence is violence, and no liberation movement can justify the murder of innocent men, women and children."
He added that "no speech can justify arms sales, and Israel continues to oppose arms sales between the United States and Jordan."
Peres' statement, which reportedly was worked out in consultation with Deputy Prime Minister David Levy of the Likud bloc, appeared to reflect an attempt to strike a balance between what Cabinet sources said was a positive initial reaction by Peres and the reaction of Likud Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Shamir shrugged off Hussein's speech as "verbiage" containing no new proposals.
A Cabinet source said Hussein's speech was regarded by most ministers as sufficiently ambivalent that "those who want to see this speech as positive have some real problems. The only positive element is this one sentence about direct talks."
However, some ministers said they felt the Israeli statement did not go far enough in welcoming Hussein's offer. Ezer Weizman, of the Labor Party, urged the government to "seize this opportunity and open peace talks with Jordan." Economics Minister Gad Yaacobi referred to Hussein's speech as "an important opportunity that must not be missed."