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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israelis Feel Chill from Jordan's Hussein

JERUSALEM -- Israeli President Ezer Weizman announced plans Thursday to visit Jordan, amid growing signs that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline policies are alienating the Jewish state's closest Arab friend.


The news came as Israeli media was dominated by talk of a crisis in relations with Jordan's King Hussein, the only Arab leader who had not expressed alarm when Netanyahu was elected last May.


"He was invited long ago," a presidential spokeswoman said about Weizman's visit to Jordan. "The visit will probably come about in the next week or two."


King Hussein has become outspokenly critical of Netanyahu since the Israeli leader opened a new entrance to a tunnel near Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City last month, triggering violence that killed 60 Palestinians and 15 Israelis.


The Israeli move angered the king's largely Palestinian population and appeared to ignore his "special role" in the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty over Islamic sites in Jerusalem.


Weizman has used his largely ceremonial position to take on a central role in regional diplomacy as Netanyahu's relations with Arab countries deteriorate.


This week, he met Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, an encounter first announced two months ago when Netanyahu was refusing to see Arafat. Next Monday, he is to visit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who also has poor relations with Netanyahu.


Weizman, asked on Army radio about a newspaper report that Netanyahu's office was angry at his forays into foreign policy, said, "No criticism by the prime minister has been directed at me. ... Everything I am doing is coordinated."


Israeli newspapers reflected the contrast between the close ties shared by Jordan and Israel since the peace treaty and the new criticism by Amman. Despite deep skepticism among his own people, King Hussein personally drove relations forward.


"Of all the leaders in the region who voiced their disappointment in Benjamin Netanyahu since May, the disappointment Jordan's King Hussein has expressed is of special significance," said an editorial in the daily newspaper Haaretz that accused the government of weakening the Jordanian leader.


?Arafat said Thursday that a week of fresh talks with Israel on a long-overdue withdrawal from the West Bank town of Hebron had achieved nothing.


Arafat spoke to legislators in Ramallah during his first trip to the West Bank since fierce Israeli-Palestinian clashes last month.


"Until yesterday night, the brothers returned from the meetings and they have not reached anything," Arafat told the Palestinian Legislative Council, referring to Israeli-PLO talks in Gaza.


"Thus, we must be fully prepared ... to confront all possibilities," he said. The talks were renewed this week after unprecedented gun battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip posed the biggest threat yet to Israel-PLO peace moves since they were launched in 1993.








Israeli officials said in response to Arafat's remarks that the Jewish state was bargaining in good faith.