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Jordan Calls for Aid Funds for West Bank, Gaza

November 09, 1986|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

AMMAN, Jordan — King Hussein called on the international community Saturday to help finance an ambitious $1-billion assistance plan for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip.

The Jordanian monarch's call, to a conference on development that opened here, came amid recurring signs that Jordan's hopes of raising funds for the West Bank are falling considerably short of the announced goal.

As recently as July, the Jordanians were proposing a $1.3-billion plan for the five years from 1986 to 1990. As the conference opened, that figure had been scaled down by $300 million, and there were indications that it would be cut even further before the money-raising effort begins in earnest.

Mixed Views of Plan

The development plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, is part of a package of initiatives negotiated between Jordan and Israel by which the two countries hope to govern the territories.

Supporters term this "improving the quality of life" for West Bank residents, while critics assert that the Reagan Administration, which proposed much of the plan, hopes to achieve a limited form of autonomy for Palestinians without forcing territorial concessions from Israel.

The package also is designed to offset the influence of the Palestine Liberation Organization among the Palestinian population, who in a recent opinion poll said they preferred the PLO to King Hussein by more than 70%.

Among the other points of the program, Israel has appointed Palestinians to serve as mayors of four West Bank towns and has allowed the opening of a Jordanian bank for residents of the West Bank--the first such financial institution since 1967.

In the development plan disclosed Saturday, Jordan is proposing to spend $1.015 billion over the five-year period, including $434 million on construction, $220 million on education, $172 million on agriculture, $96 million on health, $63 million on industry and $28.5 million on what it termed "social development."

"Our goal is to revive the Palestinian economy and enable it to develop an independent structure so that the Palestinian Arab identity could be preserved through a strengthening of the economic, social and cultural fabric," Hussein said.

"This sacred objective, however, cannot be achieved through our own limited resources alone. We must turn to our Arab brethren, friends, peace-loving peoples and defenders of human rights around the globe."

Oil Price Slump Hurts

Other than a token $4.5 million offered by the United States, no country has made a commitment to the development plan, which came in addition to a $9.3-billion plan for Jordan itself, for which the Jordanians are seeking $3.1 billion in foreign assistance.

Jordanian officials concede that anticipated aid was probably far higher than will eventually materialize, largely because Arab oil producers, which traditionally assist impoverished Jordan, have themselves fallen on hard times because of the decline in petroleum prices.

Speaking to journalists before the conference began, Jordan's planning minister, Tahir Kanaan, said of the anticipated shortfall, "If one doesn't have enough resources, there will be a compromise in our ambitions."

He said the government would wait to see how much is pledged to Jordan for the West Bank plan before making final allocations, but he added that if the money is not available, "certain lesser priorities will have to go unfulfilled."

PLO May Have Voice

Arab leaders have further complicated Jordan's position by telling the Hussein government that they are obliged to make any contributions for the West Bank through a committee that was established by the Arab League in 1978. The committee's funding decisions are shared by the Jordanian government and the PLO.

Kanaan has said Jordan expects the oil producers to provide some "assistance in kind," which is generally taken to mean oil shipments.

The success of the plan also depends on the cooperation of the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The agreements with Jordan were negotiated at a time when the government was headed by Shimon Peres, whose party has taken a softer line than Shamir's on the question of the occupied territories. Recently, Shamir has spoken of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a prospect sure to anger Jordan.

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