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Israel and Jordan Sign Peace Pact, Enter New Era : Mideast: In desert ceremony, Rabin and King Hussein end generations of hostility. Treaty adds momentum to process of settling Arab-Israeli conflict.


ARAVA CROSSING, Israeli-Jordanian Border — Israel and Jordan on Wednesday signed a peace treaty that will launch their countries into an era of cooperation after two generations of hostility, and thus add momentum to the search for an overall settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

With soaring hopes, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan declared their countries not only at peace but also good neighbors interested in the warmest of relations and partners in rebuilding the Middle East as a region of prosperity rather than turmoil.

Beaming at one another like old friends, Rabin and Hussein spoke as men achieving goals of a lifetime--for Rabin, the acceptance of the Jewish state by another of its neighbors, and for Hussein, political, military and economic security for his sometimes wobbly kingdom from a new and strong ally.

Recalling the thousands of Jordanians and Israelis killed in the wars they had waged against each other, Hussein said: "I believe (the dead) are with us as we come together to ensure, God willing, that there will be no more death, no more misery, no more suspicion, no more fear, no more uncertainty of what each day might bring."

Rabin too noted the historic nature of the treaty and its impact on daily life in his own war-weary nation.

"It is not only our states that are making peace with each other today, not only our nations that are shaking hands in peace here in the Arava," the general-turned-statesman said, addressing Hussein. "You and I, Your Majesty, are making peace here, our own peace, the peace of soldiers and the peace of friends."

In the treaty, Israel and Jordan acknowledged each other's sovereignty, thus removing the core issue in the 46 years of hostility between them. They also pledged not to use force or to threaten to do so in resolving future disputes, and Jordan said that it will not join any future Arab alliance against Israel.

Although the accord dealt primarily with bilateral relations, it effectively shifted the balance of power across the Middle East, making it easier for other Arab states to reach the peace with Israel that many desire, making it harder for Syria to exercise a veto over such agreements and making it tougher for the Palestine Liberation Organization to maintain its position as Israel's principal Arab partner.

"This is peace with dignity," Hussein said, defying those at home and elsewhere in the Arab world who criticize him for signing a separate peace with Israel. "This is peace with commitment. This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come."

Beneath a hot desert sun with a wind whipping pages of the treaty and its many accompanying maps, Rabin signed the accord with Prime Minister Abdul Salam Majali of Jordan to the applause of 5,000 guests from their two nations and 20 other countries.

President Clinton, who had played an important role over the last six months in assuring Jordan of U.S. support if it made peace with Israel, witnessed the signing and praised Hussein and Rabin as "great leaders who saw the bright horizon of this dawn even while the darkness lingered."

"Peace between Jordan and Israel is no longer a mirage--it is real," Clinton said after Hussein and Rabin had spoken. "I say to the people of Israel and Jordan: Now you must make this peace real, to turn no man's land into every man's home, to take down the barbed wire, to remove the deadly mines, to help the wounds of war to heal. Open your borders, open your hearts. Peace is more than an agreement on paper."

The ceremony itself was a first joint enterprise.

The arena had been set up by the Israeli and Jordanian armies in what had formerly been a deadly border minefield. Two howitzer batteries, one Israeli and the other Jordanian, fired a 21-gun salute in unison to celebrate the treaty. Thousands of Jordanian and Israeli troops surrounded the Arava Crossing in a coordinated operation.

To make it all very clear, top military commanders from both sides shook hands and exchanged gifts.

"This great valley in which we stand will become the valley of peace," Hussein said. "When we come together to build it and to make it bloom as never before, when we come to live together as never before, we will be doing so, Israelis and Jordanians together."

Israel signed its first treaty with an Arab state, Egypt, in 1979.

Last year, it signed an interim peace deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization on Palestinian self-government and is now negotiating expansion of that autonomy.

The agreement with Jordan was probably the easiest for Israel to conclude with its Arab neighbors.

The disputes were few--over a small area of the borders and water resources--and the two countries have had secret contacts for years.

To resolve the disputes along their border, Israel and Jordan exchanged territory in several areas and made the frontier conform to geographical landmarks.

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