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Palestine Rock Rolls Back on Jordan

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JORDAN is in trouble. King Hussein is concerned and bitter. He, like Sisyphus, has for years rolled Middle East stones up the hill for the Palestinians, Arabs, Israelis, Americans, and Europeans, only to see them roll back down upon him. Hussein was prodded in his Palestinian policies and peace negotiation efforts by Israel and the United States, as well as the moderate Arab states, the European Community, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the UN Security Council. All of these backers, however, undermined Hussein's position through their lack of imagination, vision, and political courage.

The Israeli election on Nov. 1 signaled to Jordan that the next government in Jerusalem will be no more likely to accept a viable Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza than were its predecessors. With new Israeli settlements scheduled in these territories, Hussein sees the share of the land left to resident Palestinians shrinking to less than 50 percent, leaving little room for even a confederated entity.

Where might displaced Palestinians go? The idea of Jordan becoming the Palestine state has entered the minds of certain Israeli conservative politicians and rabbis, at least a few members of the PLO, and some Jordanians of Palestine origin. In the Israeli political lexicon, this is called ``transfer.'' King Hussein fears that diplomatic and political developments may leave Palestinians with a state located on the East Bank of the Jordan as their only option. Hussein understands what ``transfer'' would mean for Jordan, and he believes that if he is to survive he must ensure the demographic balance between legitimate East Bankers and Palestinians on the West Bank of the river.

The uprising in the West Bank and Gaza signaled to Hussein that events had passed him by and, indeed, are a repudiation of his leadership. The PLO's answer to the uprising is the declaration of a ``Palestinian state'' on ``our Palestinian territory.'' According to international law and customs, a state is a legal concept existing on a territory within defined boundaries, organized under common political institutions, and having an effective government. Palestinians cannot yet lay claim to a territory within defined boundaries because they occupy land in the East Bank under Jordanian sovereignty and on the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty. Palestinians must, therefore, define boundaries through negotiations; there is no other civilized choice.

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