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November 28, 1986 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-11-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

King Hussein is hoping
not to crush the PLO
completely but to bend
it to his will.

HELEN DAVIS

Special to The Jewish News

erusalem — Five years ago, the
Israeli military authorities deposed
Rashad al-Shawa as mayor of Gaza
because of his enthusiastic support for the
PLO and his virulent opposition to the
Camp David autonomy plan for Palestin-
ians living in the Israeli-occupied
territories.
Last month, al-Shawa, widely considered
to be the elder statesman of Palestinian
politics and an unquestioned Palestinian
patriot, dropped a bombshell when he
declared that most of the 1.2 million
Palestinians now living under Israeli oc-
cupation in the West Bank and Gaza are
in favour of a confederation with Jordan.
He went on to chide the PLO for being
unresponsive to the wishes of the people.
Viewed in the context of the serious rift
between Jordan and the PLO, al-Shawa's
statement represented an act of almost
reckless personal courage and a smashing
victory for King Hussein, who is anxious
to re-establish hegemony over the ter-
ritories which were conquered by Israel in
the 1967 Six Day War.
Indeed, it was the first fruit of an ap-
proach that the Jordanian monarch em-
barked on earlier this year when he effec-
tively broke with Yasser Arafat, the PLO
chairman, because of his continued refusal
to make the necessary political concessions
to enable PLO participation in peace talks
with Israel.
While parting ways with Arafat, King
Hussein called on the "silent majority" in
the occupied territories to stand up and be
counted; to produce a moderate, pragmatic
leadership which would work with him
towards some form of political settlement
with the Jewish state.
In this he has the unspoken blessing of
Jerusalem, which is delighted by the rift.
and recently moved to bolster Jordan's ef-
forts to erode PLO power centers on the
West Bank and foster what amounts to an
alternative Palestinian leadership.
Israeli authorities have restricted pro-
PLO newspapers and closed two West
Bank universities which are strongholds of

j

pro-PLO sentiment. In addition, Shimon
Peres held a rare meeting in Jerusalem
recently with 25 mayors and businessmen
from the occupied territories. The Israeli
leader took the opportunity of pushing his
own policy of "devolution," a variation on
the old autonomy plan, which would inten-
sify the involvement of Palestinians in
their own affairs, thereby both increasing
the profile of the moderate Palestinian
leaders and reducing the profile of the
occupation.
"For the sake of your future and our
future," he told his guests, "we must now
remove the obstacles to dialogue and
negotiations. We are prepared to discuss
the Palestinian problem, which we treat
seriously, in order to find a solution which
will take the desires of the Palestinians in-
to consideration."
But Peres went further, endorsing a prac-
tical plan of action designed by King Hus-
sein to win the hearts and minds of the
Palestinians — improving the quality of
life for inhabitants of the occupied ter-
ritories. The centerpiece of this policy,
unveiled last month, is an ambitious $1.3
billion, five-year development plan which
is aimed at providing low-interest loans for
industries, schools, public utilities and
private housing.
The ultimate purpose, though, is to win
the allegiance of the people. The king is
seeking to show quite simply that while

Arafat can provide the ideology and fiery
rhetoric, only Jordan can put the bread on
the table.
Pro-Jordanian sources on the West Bank
concede that Arafat still commands the
loyalty of the overwhelming majority of
Palestinians living under occupation, even
those who believe that confederation with
Jordan is the only realistic path to remov-
ing them from Israeli occupation.
But the sources note that Arafat, driven
out of Jordan, Lebanon and Jordan again,
is now deprived of an effective base that
is contiguous with Israel and that his sup-
port in the West Bank and Gaza must
therefore be considered vulnerable.
"I personally regard the PLO as the
representative of the Palestinian people,"
said one pro-Jordanian businessman, "but
its leaders are not prepared to do anything
practical for the people living under oc-
cupation. Ultimately, the man in the street
is not interested in grandiose ideologies
but in economic well-being and he would
not shrink from taking Jordanian money.
A flag is important, but you can't feed your
family on flags."
There may, however, be more to King
Hussein's proposed seduction of the oc-
cupied territories than meets the eye. Ac-
cording to political analysts in Jerusalem,
the king's long-term game plan is not to
crush the PLO completely but rather to
bend it to his will. They believe that the

Israeli contractor
and Arab workers in
Efrat, a West Bank
settlement.

15

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