(Page 2 of 3)
By 1994, however, two things had happened to alter the king’s calculus. First, his benign attitude toward Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War had gotten him into hot water with the Americans, who stopped supplying Jordan’s armed forces. Second, Hussein was afraid that in the aftermath of the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO, the Palestinians would supplant Jordan as the principal guardians of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. To block the Palestinians and appease the Americans, King Hussein decided to bite the bullet and make peace with Israel.
EFRAIM HALEVY WAS the intermediary between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein in their initial efforts to define the broad contours of a peace treaty. Indeed, Halevy was the person who actually drafted the agreement on common principles that was unveiled in a ceremony on the White House lawn in July 1994, and came to be known as the Washington Declaration. In most countries, drafting a document of this importance would be the task of the Foreign Office; in Israel, however, Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were bitter rivals, so naturally Rabin ordered Halevy to keep Peres totally in the dark about the Jordanian negotiations.
Thus it came about that the Israeli foreign minister never learned the actual wording of the Washington declaration until President Clinton read it out during the White House ceremony. When Clinton was done, Peres turned to Halevy and informed him that the declaration was “a very big mistake,” because it contradicted promises that Peres had made to PLO leader Yassir Arafat regarding Jerusalem. (Of course, Peres had not bothered to inform Rabin of these promises.) When Halevy asked how the Washington Declaration contradicted Peres’s promises, “I received no reply, and was kept wondering, to this very day, what it was that the Palestinians had been promised on the most delicate of subjects, that of Jerusalem, that the Washington Declaration appeared to contradict.”
It took three months before Israeli and Jordanian negotiators succeeded in translating the Washington Declaration into a formal peace treaty. One of the most serious sticking points concerned a swath of land south of the Dead Sea that Israel had occupied as a result of the Six-Day War and that Jordan demanded back. The problem was that Israel had established thriving villages in that area, and that uprooting those villages would be traumatic. Jordanian and Israeli negotiators finally agreed that while Jordan would regain sovereignty over the entire area, Israelis would temporarily be allowed to cultivate the land. But how long would this temporary arrangement last? Once again, Rabin dispatched Halevy to Jordan to work out an arrangement with King Hussein.p>The two men met in Amman in the guest house of Crown Prince Hassan, the king’s brother. Also present was the head of the Royal Court, Aun Hassauna. As Halevy tells it, after a leisurely lunch, the negotiations began: br> /p>
The king turned to me and asked whether I thought that five years was reasonable. I shook my head from left to right, so he offered ten; this time I responded verbally, saying that this was too short a time to allow people on the ground to accustom themselves to a condition that would resemble the relations between Belgium and the Netherlands. The King went up to fifteen and as I shook my head once again he said twenty. By this time Aun Hassauna was beginning to show signs of growing agitation and as I indicated that we had not yet reached the right number, His Majesty said, “Twenty-five,” whereupon Hassauna veritably exploded, urging His Majesty to go back rather than forward. I immediately realized that we could go no further and concentrated my effort on securing the twenty-five-year limit. At a given moment, His Majesty said that it would be twenty-five and that was it. Thus did we secure a quarter of a century of continued exploitation of the land in the south together with the use of the water obtained from the wells in exchange for additional water that Israel would allot to Jordan in the north.br> Halevy’s final contribution to Israeli-Jordanian relations came after he had retired from the Mossad and became ambassador to the EU. (Rabin had wanted to appoint Halevy ambassador to Jordan, but Peres blocked the appointment.) One day, Ambassador Halevy received an urgent summons to Jerusalem to deal with a major crisis. A Mossad hit team operating in Jordan had tried to assassinate a prominent leader of the terrorist organization Hamas, but the attack failed, two of the six Mossad agents were captured by Jordanian authorities and the remaining four had taken shelter in the Israeli embassy in Amman. A furious King Hussein was demanding that Israel hand the four agents over to Jordan, and had ordered a crack Jordanian military unit to storm the embassy if his demand was refused. Such an attack, of course, might well scuttle the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.
Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, looked to Halevy to come up with a solution — and Halevy did not disappoint. He suggested that the Israelis release the jailed founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and hand him over to King Hussein, who would thus gain credit with his people for securing the beloved sheikh’s freedom; in return, Hussein would allow the six Mossad agents to return to Israel. Netanyahu reluctantly agreed, and everything went as planned: King Hussein became a Palestinian hero, the Israelis were allowed to go home, and Jordan transferred Sheikh Yassin to Gaza, where he instructed Palestinian suicide bombers on the heavenly delights awaiting them until he himself was dispatched to the next world by an Israeli bomb in 2003.
Halevy obviously had a unique bond of friendship with the late King Hussein, but the political constellation in Jordan — a straightforward acceptance of Israel among the ruling elite, coupled with a vicious rejection of Israel among the masses — also exists, to one degree or another, in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, and Qatar. As Halevy explains, “Whereas at the senior and top levels of government in the Arab world there has been a steadily growing acceptance of Israel as a reality — and, by some, even as a vital partner in the fight against violence and hate — these very same regimes have nurtured and in some cases even encouraged popular activities that have run contrary to their so-called strategic policies and interests.”
Given this curious state of affairs, I would guess that Israeli leaders have ambivalent feelings about President Bush’s Democracy Initiative. On the one hand, they must surely welcome any American action that encourages Arab governments to confront their dire social problems directly, instead of blaming all their ills on “Zionist conspiracies.” On the other hand, they probably fear that popular inroads into the prerogatives of relatively friendly Arab leaders will only serve to unwind the fragile web of understandings that currently exists between Israel and some of her Arab neighbors. After all, it is inconceivable that King Hussein would so readily have agreed to allow Israelis to cultivate Jordanian land if he had to answer for his decision to a genuinely representative Jordanian parliament.
IF KING HUSSEIN WAS THE ARAB LEADER Halevy most admired, Yassir Arafat was the leader Halevy least understood. He provides numerous examples of the wild, outrageously crude lies that Arafat peddled both in his public pronouncements and in private meetings with heads of state — such as telling President Clinton, during the Camp David peace talks, that Jews had no connection to Jerusalem, or informing European leaders that Mossad agents, rather than Palestinian terrorists, had murdered a prominent Israeli cabinet minister. When Halevy told his Arab interlocutors about Arafat’s lies, their invariable response was, “Are you telling me about Arafat’s lying and prevarications? This is nothing compared to what I have to tell you!” Halevy was never able to decide whether Arafat actually believed his own falsehoods — in which case he was seriously divorced from reality — or whether he was simply a cynical, compulsive liar. Either way, Arafat clearly was not a credible peace partner for Israel.
And yet, in the 1993 Oslo Agreement Prime Minister Rabin had accepted Arafat as Israel’s partner in the search for peace. How did Rabin, a prudent strategic thinker “known to be a stickler when it came to Israel’s security interests,” ever come to embrace the likes of Arafat? In Halevy’s view, Rabin was forced into the Oslo Agreement by his arch-rival (and Halevy’s least favorite Israeli leader), Shimon Peres. As Halevy tells it, when Rabin came into office he was focused on achieving a peace agreement with Syria, not the PLO. He knew that Peres and his acolytes were pursuing covert negotiations in Norway with Arafat, but didn’t think anything would come of the “Oslo track.” Rabin “was himself taken aback by the outcome, but was politically unable to extricate himself from the web that had been woven by the nonprofessionals who had championed and produced what Rabin himself would later come to describe as a piece of Swiss cheese, where the holes outnumber the actual morsels of cheese.” The irony of Rabin’s career is that his name will always be associated with a Palestinian-Israeli agreement that he privately regarded as deeply flawed; the tragedy of Rabin’s life is that he was cut down by an Israeli zealot before he was able to fill the Oslo Agreement’s many holes.
Of course, the Arab leader on most American minds today is the head of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. Halevy believes that al Qaeda seeks to bring about “an Islamic empire that will encompass the entire planet.” To achieve its goal, al Qaeda is fully prepared to use weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations, and it is the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East, and the growing risk that al Qaeda will obtain some of them, that makes the current crisis — Halevy calls it World War III — so dangerous. Like President Bush, Halevy believes that there is only one way to deal with al Qaeda: “Given the character and methods employed by the Islamic terrorists, only their destruction will produce the ultimate solution.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?