AMMAN, Jordan — For the last five months, few Palestinian leaders have come forward to support Jordan's King Hussein in his decision to break off political coordination with the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Instead, Hussein was burned in effigy and his policies criticized on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
Now, Hussein is getting support from an unexpected quarter: Former Gaza Mayor Rashid Shawaa went on Jordan's national television to announce his support for the king.
"I have full confidence in the King," Shawaa said in an interview Saturday. "We have no alternative but to be closely linked with Jordan."
The former mayor said that he has been saying the same thing in private for the last 10 years and that he had advised the PLO leadership that he planned to make his views public.
U.N. Resolutions Cited
Shawaa, 77, a businessmen who served as mayor of Gaza from 1971 until he was removed by the Israelis in 1982, said he is convinced that the only solution lies in the acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which implicitly guarantee Israel's right to exist within secure boundaries in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967.
The PLO has rejected Resolution 242 as the basis for talks because the measure deals with Palestinians as refugees. The failure by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to endorse the key resolution led King Hussein on Feb. 19 to announce that he was calling off a yearlong effort to arrange peace negotiations in concert with Arafat.
"Resolution 242 is the only available matter we can deal with now," Shawaa said. "I think the overwhelming majority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip accept this."
The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and seized by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. The Egyptians have always kept the territory at a political distance and never offered its 600,000 residents Egyptian citizenship, as Jordan offered passports to residents of the West Bank.
Shawaa said Jordan has now agreed to issue Jordanian passports to the estimated 70,000 to 80,000 former residents of Gaza who now live in refugee camps in Jordan. Previously, Gaza refugees have carried laissez-passers (a type of pass) and were unable to own land or automobiles in Jordan.
Shawaa denied suggestions that the Jordanian decision to issue the passports was part of an overall plan to put pressure on residents of the Israel-occupied territories and to make them more dependent on the Jordanian government, isolating the PLO.
His remarks were in contrast to the silence of other prominent Palestinians, especially after the assassination of Zafer Masri, who was appointed mayor of Nablus in the West Bank, last March. Jordan recently has failed to persuade three Palestinians to accept appointment by Israel as mayors of three West Bank towns after the PLO objected.
Shawaa said he intends to return to Gaza despite reports from the area that he was being criticized as a quisling for supporting the king in his dispute with the PLO.
"I don't care what the consequences are; I believe in what I said," Shawaa remarked.
As he spoke, a delegation of eight businessmen from Gaza arrived at his hotel suite in Amman to congratulate him on his television appearance.
"The speech was very widely accepted by the people of the Gaza Strip," said Amin Mushtaha. "Shawaa is one of the few leaders who express the views of the people."
Shawaa insisted that despite his stand, he has no intention of forming part of an alternative leadership to the PLO. But he criticized the guerrilla organization for "imposing its will" on the Palestinian people instead of responding to their aspirations.
With 2,200 people per square mile, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Shawaa said a way must be found to unite the West Bank and Gaza Strip so that the area would retain its "Arab face."