Hussein's Washington visit. Jordan's leader seeks US help to set Mideast peace process moving -- likely response: `It's up to you'
Officially, it's billed as a personal visit. But now that he has attended his son's graduation from Brown University Saturday, Jordan's King Hussein will take care of some business as well.
In a round of meetings this week with American officials, including President Reagan Wednesday, King Hussein is expected to press for more active United States involvement in the Mideast peace process. In addition, Hussein will take his case to Congress for more US aid to Jordan.
Jordan has become the central player in efforts to form an alliance of moderate Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to negotiate the return of territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.
The peace process received a substantial boost last February when PLO chief Yasser Arafat agreed to help form a joint Jordanian-Palestinian team for possible peace talks with Israel, which would be based on the ``land for peace'' formula embodied in UN Resolution 242.
But the move, which Hussein has described as the ``last chance'' for peace in the Middle East, quickly bogged down over the question of who should speak for the Palestinians.
Palestinians insist that the PLO is their only legitimate bargaining representative. Israel has refused to talk with any Palestinians unless they agree to recognize Israel, accept UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and renounce the use of terrorism. Israel recently rejected a compromise proposal calling for the participation of non-PLO members of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinians' parliament in exile.
Experts say the main problem now is that Hussein is not ready to move without the PLO's approval. In turn, the Reagan administration is not ready to move without Israel's approval. Reagan administration officials are reluctant to push the Israeli government to the point where its ruling coalition loses popular support.
When Hussein meets with Mr. Reagan tomorrow, the focus will be on the process of getting to negotiations.
``The two parties approach each other with quite different agendas,'' says William Quandt of the Brookings Institution. ``Hussein feels the need for some positive sign from the Americans to pull Arafat over the last hurdle to get a formula for the delegation.''