Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank today predicted a long period of inaction in the Middle East peace process following Jordanian King Hussein's announcement that he was breaking off his joint effort with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Palestinians suggested that Hussein would seek to enlist the support of other Arab states in his stalemated peace initiative. Some forecast that the king would make fresh overtures to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to accept U.N. resolutions recognizing Israel's right to exist within secure borders in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab territories.
They noted that in his three-hour speech last night, Hussein made no reference to direct talks with Israel. The interpretation of the Palestinian leaders was that Hussein's message was clear: He had done his best and if the other Arab states now want to join his peace initiative, they are welcome. But if they do not, Israel will continue its creeping annexation of the West Bank.
"No Palestinian can accept an alternative to the PLO and the PLO's demand that the United States recognize Palestinian self-determination," said Mustafa Natche, the deposed mayor of Hebron.
Zafir Masri, who was approved by the Israeli military government in the West Bank last month as the new mayor of Nablus, also said there could be no peace talks without the PLO, noting that neither Hussein nor any other head of an Arab state had turned his back on the 1974 Rabat Arab summit's designation of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, regarded by Israeli officials as one of the West Bank's more moderate Palestinian leaders, stopped short of ruling out PLO participation and said Hussein had forced Palestinians to "face up to reality."