The director of Israel's national museum proposed to his Jordanian counterpart in Amman, yesterday, a swap of objects that are cherished in one country but housed in the other. As no phone or postal service links these capitals, which are as close as Baltimore and Washington, his letter was hand-carried to Europe for posting forward. Soon, such roundabout communication will be unnecessary. The Washington Declaration signed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, also yesterday, promised direct telephone links.
"The long conflict between the two states is now coming to aend," the declaration said. "In this spirit, the state of belligerency between Jordan and Israel has been terminated."
Peace in all its legal aspects awaits a treaty, which must settle complicated border demarcations, water rights and Jordan's role the administration of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. This may take weeks or months to hammer out. The Washington Declaration heralds a period after belligerency and before peace, in which much rather than little may be accomplished. Electricity grid linkage, more border crossings, easy border crossings for third country tourists, an air corridor, police cooperation particularly on drug smuggling and economic negotiations were specified.
As a result of the declaration, cooperation can be implemented in these areas before the difficult problem of water rights is settled. But with the political will to succeed proclaimed from the White House, the imminent achievement of a peace treaty is now as certain as anything can be in international politics.
Finally, after 46 years of war that was never declared over, this is jTC the hour before dawn of true peace on Israel's longest border. A spirit of tacit accord was explored by King Abdullah even before the two wars against Israel in which Jordan took part. Now his grandson, King Hussein, fulfills Abdullah's vision.
Jordan and Israel are in many respects complementary countries, economies and societies. Each was made smaller by being forbidden the other. Each is enlarged by the prospect of trade, tourism, cultural exchange and commercial cooperation between them. Such a relationship is the only context in which the autonomous state of Palestine, now being created between them, can prosper. Small wonder that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat congratulated the king and prime minister yesterday on their achievement.
The losers are those people who insist on perpetual war between Israel and Arabs until the end of one side or the other. The gainers are all the people of Israel and all the people of Jordan and the Palestinians between. The Jordan River will bring people together whom it previously kept apart.