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Why Hussein Trembles as Soviet Jews Depart

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AS charges are raised with increasing intensity throughout the Arab world that Soviet Jewish migration to Israel may endanger political stability, the loudest pleas have ironically originated from Israel's politically moderate next-door neighbor - Jordan. King Hussein has vehemently pressed the United States to help stave off what he perceives as a tidal wave of West Bank immigration, and has held talks with several Arab leaders to urge an emergency Arab summit to coordinate an appropriate response to Moscow.

The roots of Hussein's concerns run much deeper than the mere arrival of Soviet Jews in Israel. The king believes that new West Bank settlement likely to result from the influx will encourage more Palestinians to migrate to the East Bank. Those migrants would arrive on the heels of a flow of Palestinian laborers returning to Jordan from lost jobs in the Persian Gulf.

Nearly 24,000 Palestinians left the West Bank for Jordan in 1989 alone because of political unrest, adding to a community whose population of 1.5 million already comprises roughly 50 percent of the Jordanian populace.

Since Israel's war for independence, Hussein - and before him, King Abdullah - has fought to contain the Palestinian nationalist presence in his midst. His relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization have fluctuated between cold and downright frigid. The crackdown on Palestinian nationalists in ``Black September,'' 1970, has never been totally forgotten, let alone forgiven.

As the possibility nears of negotiations on creation of a Palestinian ``entity'' on the West Bank, trepidation reigns in Jordan's Parliament, as in Israel's Knesset. Even senior PLO official Salah Khalaf's assertion that the Palestinians support ``an independent state, but in confederation with Jordan,'' provides Jordanian leaders with little solace. For in the long run, the Palestinians of Nablus and the Palestinians of Amman will always share more culturally and historically with each other than with Hussein's ruling Bedouin Hashemite clan.

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