AMMAN, Jordan — As several hundred Palestinians on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River demonstrated against his rule, King Hussein of Jordan said Monday that "firm controls" are needed to restrict the flow of people between the West Bank and Jordan.
The king's statement appeared to be an attempt to justify his government's crackdown on the movement of Palestinians between Jordan and the West Bank, an area annexed by Jordan in 1948 and occupied by Israel since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967.
Falling-Out With Arafat
The crackdown began soon after the king broke off political coordination last February with Fatah, Yasser Arafat's wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Speaking to a conference of emigres in Jordan, the king said that despite the failure of the coordination effort, his government will pursue an "open bridges" policy, maintaining links between Jordan and the West Bank even though Israel occupies the area. The West Bank is linked to Jordan by two bridges over the Jordan River.
But the king said that Jordan will take "necessary measures to keep the bridges as veins that pump life and Arabism into our people instead of becoming a door through which the steadfastness is filtered or an outlet which the evils of our enemies might penetrate."
This appeared to refer to controls imposed on a number of prominent West Bank residents who have crossed into Jordan. These controls include interrogations by the security police and the revocation or seizure of Jordanian passports carried by opponents of the Hussein government.
Last week, Jordan escalated its differences with the PLO by closing 25 offices belonging to Fatah and expelling Khalil Wazir, a senior Arafat aide.
According to an official English-language translation of the king's speech, Hussein described the PLO as an "anomalous group" that "tolerates the (Israeli) occupation after it made out of it a source of profit and livelihood. . . ."
In recent days, Jordan has undertaken a press campaign to improve its image abroad after published accounts of the clampdown on the activities of Palestinians, including journalists.
The kingdom has announced a plan to spend $1.3 billion in the West Bank area over the next five years and to greatly expand the Jordanian government payroll in the area, apparently in the hope that a moderate, pro-Hussein leadership will emerge among the Palestinians.
Such hope seemed remote Monday. Israeli troops moved in to prevent an anti-Jordanian protest on the campus of An Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus.
In East Jerusalem, about 300 Palestinians attended a protest demonstration at a theater. According to an Associated Press report, leaders of the protest attacked the closure of the Fatah offices as well as American policy in the region.