Olmert plans to visit Jordan Thursday

PM to meet with Abdullah for talks on reviving the peace process.

abdullah of jordan 298ap (photo credit: AP [file])
abdullah of jordan 298ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will travel to Jordan Thursday to explain the logic of his "realignment" plan to a skeptical King Abdullah, who has already expressed his deep misgivings about the move. Abdullah, in a letter to US President George W. Bush last month, warned of the "negative repercussions" of any unilateral move by Israel on the West Bank. He said these negative repercussions would not only be felt by the Palestinians, but also by the Arab and Muslim countries, and that a severe deterioration in the Palestinian territories could impact negatively on Jordan's national security. Abdullah delivered the same message when he met Bush last week in Washington, just a few days after Olmert met Bush. Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh told AP Tuesday that Abdullah would press for Israel to restart talks with the Palestinians, and to put aside thoughts of unilateral action. Judeh said Abdullah would articulate to Olmert Jordan's position that "Palestinians and Israelis must return to the negotiating table." Abdullah will also urge Olmert to "refrain from (undertaking) unilateral actions that could prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations" between Israel and Palestinians, Judeh added. The spokesman said Abdullah "will also reaffirm the necessity of easing the suffering of the Palestinian people and that they should not be victim of any unilateral Israeli action." Israeli diplomatic sources said that Abdullah - facing serious challenges both on his eastern border with Iraq and to the north with Syria - is concerned that Olmert's realignment plan could thrust the West Bank into the type of anarchy, poverty and chaos that could send hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across the river into Jordan looking for a better life. The sources said Abdullah is concerned that this could in turn be a serious destabilizing factor for his regime. According to Israeli sources, Olmert will explain the logic behind an Israeli withdrawal, and will try to reassure the King that if Israel pulls out, it will be done in a way that will ensure that a vacuum is not left behind in the West Bank that could destabilize Jordan. Israel, according to sources in Jerusalem, will need to reassure Jordan that there will be no surprise moves and that the Jordanians will know exactly when and where Israeli intends to pull out. Olmert's trip to Amman, where after an early afternoon meeting on Thursday the two leaders will give brief statements but not take any questions, will be the first Israeli prime ministerial visit to Jordan since Ariel Sharon attended the Aqaba summit in 2003 with Abdullah, Bush, and Mahmoud Abbas. That was Sharon's only visit to Jordan as prime minister, although Abdullah visited Sharon once at his Negev ranch on a secret visit. Olmert's trip to Jordan will come just four days after he went to Egypt for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and three days before he is scheduled to leave Sunday for a trip to Britain and France. He visited the US two weeks ago. Olmert, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet another Muslim leader Wednesday when he meets visiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Sezer arrived Tuesday night for a 48-hour, largely symbolic visit that will include an address Wednesday morning to the Knesset. Another visitor currently in the country is John Edwards, the former US senator who ran unsuccessfully with John Kerry as his vice presidential candidate in the 2004 US presidential elections. Edwards, largely touted as a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, arrived Sunday as the guest of the American Israel Educational Foundation, a sister foundation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Edwards met Tuesday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and by the end of his visit Wednesday evening will have met with Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Labor MK Ephraim Sneh, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz.