With condolence visit to Israel, King Hussein spurs talks
March 16, 1997
Web posted at: 8:34 p.m. EST (0134 GMT)
From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel
BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (CNN) -- It was a courageous gesture,
but it wasn't enough to win concessions from Israel on a
hotly disputed settlement in East Jerusalem.
King Hussein of Jordan knelt in mourning Sunday with the
families of seven Israeli schoolgirls gunned down last week
by a Jordanian solider, saying they were all "members of one
The shootings along the northern Israel-Jordan border were "a
crime that is a shame for all of us," Hussein told grieving
parents. "I feel as if I have lost a child of my own. If
there is any purpose in life it will be to make sure that all
the children no longer suffer the way our generation did."
Many Israelis were touched by Hussein's condolence call,
including Yehezkel Cohen, whose 13-year-old daughter Nirit
was killed in last Thursday's shootings. "I really love him.
Despite the sorrow, I say this: I hope and believe in King
Hussein and a real peace."
Low ebb in peace talks
The king's visit occurred as relations between Jordan and
Israel reached a low ebb with the exchange of harsh rhetoric
over Israel's unilateral building plans in East Jerusalem.
In a joint news conference Sunday with Hussein after the
visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warm
words for the Jordanian leader.
"I believe we can reach an agreement," Netanyahu said.
But the Israeli leader refused to budge on his commitment to
Har Homa, the 6,500-unit housing project. "I said it will
start this week -- it will begin this week," Netanyahu said
The Israeli decision to continue with the project ignores
vigorous warnings by their security police and military
chiefs that the move may provoke wide-scale trouble.
Palestinian leaders said that if Israel goes ahead with the
project, it could spell the end of the peace process.
Israeli leaders had been charging Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat with gearing up for a violent Palestinian reaction,
should the bulldozers move in to the Jerusalem hillside.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as a capital.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli Justice Minister Tsahi Henagbi
threatened exile for Arafat if that happened. "Anybody who
opens the suitcase of weapons may find himself very soon
packing a suitcase and wandering back and forth between
Tunisia and Baghdad as he did for many years," he said.
Deal on Gaza airport
In an effort to ease the escalating tensions, Hussein and
Netanyahu later telephoned Arafat. The calls focused on
efforts to set up a meeting between the prime minister and
the Palestinian leader, but nothing definite was decided.
"A line of communication has been opened," the prime
minister's office said Sunday.
Netanyahu did agree to reopen the Gaza airport, which has
been a sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian talks. The
airport had been closed due to Israel's insistence on
complete control over security over it.
Arafat immediately will be allowed to take off and land from the airport, and
discussions on its future will continue.
If nothing else, King Hussein's visit jump started the
stalled dialogue between the two countries
Netanyahu seemed to hint at a new approach. "We cannot solve
all the problems right now, but we can create a different
basis of dialogue between us and the Palestinians."
Added said Uri Savir, former Israeli chief peace negotiator:
"The king has influenced the hearts of Israelis and we shall
see if he is able to influence the minds of Israel's
- Shootings in Jordan strain peace process - March 14, 1997
- Israelis mourn slain schoolgirls - March 14, 1997
- Jordanian soldier kills 7 Israeli schoolgirls - March 13, 1997
- U.N. condemns Israel's settlement plan - March 13, 1997
- Israeli housing project criticized at U.N. assembly - March 12, 1997
- Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of creating 'crisis' - March 11, 1997
- Arafat: Peace process must 'carry on,' despite housing dispute - March 4, 1997
- Clinton supports Arafat, questions Netanyahu's timing - March 3, 1997
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