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Jordan Nixes Anti-Israel Rally, But Fails to Snuff Resistance to Peace Pact

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THE Jordanian police turned back hundreds of participants on the outskirts of Amman, planning to attend a conference calling for an end to normalization of relations with Israel yesterday.

After initially authorizing it, the government made a last-minute decision to ban the rally, organized by leftist, Islamist, and nationalist parties.

Analysts, including former and current government officials, warn that banning the rally will not suppress widening discontent about King Hussein's promotion of peace with Israel.

Former prime minister and chief of Jordanian intelligence Ahmed Obeidat was the scheduled keynote speaker at the meeting.

Mr. Obeidat, who was sacked from the royally-appointed upper house of parliament for opposing the treaty, has emerged as the most outspoken critic of Jordan's drive to foster peace with Israel.

''There is a serious crisis of confidence between the leadership and the people,'' Obeidat says. ''If the social cohesion is fractured, Israel will use Jordan as a gateway to gain a foothold in the region.''

Many staunch supporters of the monarchy argue that Israel could be using the peace treaty to cover its continued occupation of Arab territories and its repression of Palestinians in the West Bank.

''Jordan cannot be a fig leaf to cover Israel's naked aggression against the Palestinians,'' says one former Jordanian official.

King Hussein has strived to ban Palestinian commando attacks being launched on Israel from Jordanian territories for decades. And because of Jordan's long borders with Israel, it has acted as a ''buffer'' between Israel and other Arab states.

Now many here fear that if Jordan makes peace with Israel, the buffer could collapse, giving Israel an upper hand in negotiations with other Arab countries in the ongoing Mideast peace process.

Without a solution to the Palestinian problem, many Jordanians fear that violence in the West Bank will spread to Jordan, triggering unrest in the country's 11 Palestinian refugee camps.

But King Hussein, who celebrates the 41st anniversary of ascendancy to the throne tomorrow, sees things differently.

The longest surviving ruler in the world has perfected a delicate balance between public opinion, highly influenced by the Palestinian's plight, and the need to ensure Jordan's role in the region.

While supporting Palestinian national demands, he held continuous secret talks with Israeli leaders throughout his reign, partly to make sure that Israelis would not transform Jordan into a Palestinian homeland and to assure Israelis that Jordan would not be used as a launching pad for Palestinian fighters against Israel.


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