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After 46 Years, Israel, Jordan Vow End to 'Bloodshed, Sorrow' : Mideast: Historic declaration closes official state of war. Both sides pledge to move toward full peace treaty, but key details remain unresolved.

July 26, 1994|NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Israel and Jordan drew 46 years of suspicion and hostility to a close Monday as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, in a declaration signed on the White House lawn, pledged to "bring an end to bloodshed and sorrow."

In a ceremony that President Clinton said marks "a new chapter in the march of hope over despair," the Israeli and Jordanian leaders promised to resolve disputes peacefully and vowed not to "threaten the other by use of force, weapons or any other means."

"Out of all the days of my life, I do not believe there is one such as this," said Hussein, a once-dashing young monarch who has grown bald and gray in four decades on the Hashemite throne--all of them under the shadow of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He said the ceremony would bring both nations "security from fear, which I must admit has prevailed over all the years of our lives."

Rabin, Israel's army chief of staff in the last shooting war between Israel and Jordan in 1967, said the agreement shows the neighboring countries can "accelerate our efforts towards peace, overcome obstacles (and) achieve a breakthrough."

Despite the soaring rhetoric, their declaration merely ended the technical state of belligerency between the two countries, falling short of an official peace treaty because key details--which neither side has disclosed--remain unresolved.

Rabin and Hussein promised intensive negotiations aimed at completing the second formal treaty between Israel and an Arab state following the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement.

"We have gone here a long way toward a full treaty of peace and, even though our work has not yet ended, it is my hope and belief that not long from today we shall return to signing a final and a permanent treaty of peace," Rabin said.

For Hussein, Monday's ceremony marked a dramatic break with Jordan's traditional determination to keep its foreign policy firmly within an Arab consensus. For years, Hussein made it clear he was interested only in a comprehensive peace agreement that would cover all Arab countries, especially Syria.

To be sure, Hussein has not yet signed a peace treaty. But his declaration Monday puts Jordan far ahead of Syria and threatens to isolate Syrian President Hafez Assad. In the past, Syria has responded angrily to any suggestion of a separate peace between Israel and any Arab state. Relations between Damascus and Cairo were frosty for years after Egypt made peace with Israel.

Clinton sought to smooth Assad's reaction to the Israel-Jordan declaration. In a telephone call just before the signing ceremony, Clinton assured him the United States considers Syria a major factor in the Middle East and that Washington will continue to try to mediate a peace between Syria and Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who plans to resume his Jerusalem-Damascus shuttle diplomacy before the middle of next month, said he hopes Syria will be swept up in the momentum created by Hussein and Rabin. "Each one of these historic breakthroughs that happens makes it slightly easier for the next one to happen," Christopher said.

The ceremony--conducted at the same table used for the Israel-Egypt agreement and for the pact Israel signed last year with the Palestine Liberation Organization--marked a welcome foreign policy success for the Clinton Administration, which has been buffeted by crises in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti and Somalia.

The United States served as go-between to set up Monday's meeting. In his speech, Clinton paid tribute to predecessors Jimmy Carter and George Bush for earlier Arab-Israeli peacemaking that helped make the current talks possible.

Clinton made the most of the latest Middle East accord, presiding over the ceremony and signing the document himself to demonstrate his government's support. "History is made when brave leaders find the power to escape the past and create a new future," he said.

It was the first publicly acknowledged meeting between Hussein and an Israeli prime minister. But, unlike other Arab leaders, Hussein met regularly in private with a succession of Israeli prime ministers and foreign ministers in what became the Middle East's most widely known secret.

When the Rabin-Hussein meeting was announced 10 days ago, it appeared that the most significant outcome would be to take the relationship into the sunlight. But Israel-Jordan talks in the last week produced an impressive list of substantive agreements.

Besides better relations with Israel, Jordan is looking for economic assistance from the United States, especially some relief from its $700-million debt. Although he made no promises, Christopher said the U.S. government "is committed to supporting those that take risks for peace."

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