Before Talks With Netanyahu, Obama to Meet Jordan King

Ahead of king's meet with U.S. president, ex-Jordanian PM says Arab states may declare Israel is no peace partner.

King Abdullah of Jordan is to visit the White House at the end of the month to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to move ahead with the Arab peace initiative. Abdullah would be the first Middle East leader to meet with Obama in Washington, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Jordanian source told Haaretz that the king would assure Obama of Jordan's commitment to a two-state solution, and would encourage him to support a united Palestinian government.

Abdullah has recently criticized the lack of progress in talks toward a final-status agreement, Israel's settlement policy and the destruction of Arab homes in Jerusalem. He has sought international intervention on these matters.

Abdullah has also expressed disappointment that the Israeli cabinet has not discussed the Arab peace initiative, of which Jordan is a key supporter.

Over the weekend, the Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat quoted senator and former Jordanian prime minister Marouf al-Bakhit as saying that if Palestinian interests required it, all Arab countries might declare that there is no Israeli partner for peace.

American presidential envoy George Mitchell is to arrive in the region this week for the third time. Mitchell's staff will set up permanent offices in East Jerusalem.

The recommendation of a committee headed by Mitchell calls for a complete freeze on construction in the settlements, including for natural increase, and a dismantling of all outposts built since March 2001.

In an article last year for the U.S./Middle East Project at the Council on Foreign Relations, Frederic Hof wrote that American efforts toward implementing the committee's report could have stopped the deterioration of the situation in the territories and spurred dialogue between the parties. Hof was the Mitchell Committee chief of staff at the beginning of the decade.

Mitchell believed that in light of the mutual mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians, nothing would happen if the United States did not firmly lead the process, Hof wrote.

Hof, who is to be appointed one of Mitchell's four deputies on Sunday, will apparently be put in charge of the Israel-Syrian track. In a recent opinion paper, Hof presented a model for a peace agreement in which much of the Golan Heights would be declared a nature reserve open to Israelis during the day.

His basic assumption is that an agreement will have to satisfy the Syrians' territorial demands and satisfy Israel on security issues, including Syria's links to terror groups.