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MER - Washington - 2 October, 1997:

Anyone who believes this week's Jordanian hype about saving the leaders of Hamas -- one with a secret poison antidote obtained from the Israelis after King Hussein threatened to break relations or else -- needs a remedial crash course in history.

The Jordanian regime has been collaborating, colluding, and more recently closely coordinating with the Israelis going back to the pre-State days of the 40s.  The brilliant story of how the Israeli-Jordanian collusion began as a secret plot to divide historic Palestine between the Zionists and the Hashemites -- and then matured into ongoing coordination to control the remaining Palestinians through secret police, informers, and ever-growing forms of repression and intimidation -- can be found in detail in COLLUSION ACROSS THE JORDAN by Professor Avi Schlaim (Oxford University Press).

A much more likely scenario than the one the Jordanian, Israeli, and American governments have foisted on a gullible press in recent days is quite different from the officially-promoted version.   It goes something like this, though it must be stressed this is educated best guess at the moment:

The Jordanians have gotten very nervous over the rise of Hamas, the terror bombings, the collapse of the "peace process", the upcoming summit with Israelis (including Arab-nemesis Ariel Sharon) in Doha.
They have coordinated with the Israelis to let Jordan serve as dumping ground for deported Hamas leaders -- intending to infiltrate them and "moderate" them if they can, and certainly to learn as much as possible about them and from them in any case.  In all likelihood they have also been secretly helping the Israelis determine which of the Hamas leaders might be candidates for pushing aside or "elimination", and which ones can be worked with and maybe even brought around.  After all, a very similar approach was taken to the PLO throughout the 70s and 80s; and it resulted in the assassination or removal of the best of the PLO leaders until only Arafat and a few corrupted and incompetent cronies were left.

Last week, it seems, Hussein may have panicked after the assassination attempt against one of the senior Hamas officials was botched, and maybe even more so because the Israeli agents were caught and their Canadian cover discovered -- and all right there in Amman!   Did the Jordanians know about the Israeli plot? -- very possible.  But whatever, what was he going to do with them?  What if some of the details of Jordanian collaboration leaked out somehow?  What if Hamas decided to hit Israeli officials in return, maybe even there in Amman?

Urgent consultations with Israel followed.  A secret top delegation of  Israelis rushed to Jordan last weekend -- the Defense Minister, Cabinet Secretary, and Minister Sharon among them.  The King himself then made a quick public statement calling for the "release" of Sheik Yassin whom in fact the Israelis had already decided to "release".  And the Crown Prince himself was dispatched to brief the Americans, reportedly including President Clinton directly.

The reality is that the Israelis have wanted to get rid of Sheik Yassin for a long time, fearful of his martyrdom should he die in their prisons and unleash another wave of revenge suicide attacks. And further urgency was given these matters with the latest anxiety that some of the deep-underground Hamas cells might fulfill their threats not only to continue bombings in Israel, but also to start taking their attacks elsewhere in view of Israeli provocations including the Amman assassination attempt.

Meanwhile Hussein desperately wants to get on the good side of Hamas plus as much good press as he can.  The "peace process" is very unpopular among many Jordanians, with major political groups in fact boycotting Hussein's upcoming Parliamentary "elections."  Though Hussein firmly runs Jordan, and though Jordan remains closer to a monarchistic police state than to the "fledgling democracy" of the press releases, Hussein still wants to keep the rubber stamp Parliament as pliable as possible, to divide the  opposition as much as possible, and to portray an image for businessmen and tourists of a "stable and friendly" country. Plus of course Hussein now had those Israeli agents in his jails; and if he didn't find a way to get rid of them he might have to bring them to trial -- God forbid!

So here are the more likely intrigues surrounding the recent "release" (i.e., deportation) of Sheik Yassin, the "return" of Israel's  agents, the poison antidote story, etc.  The odds that all this fits right into the long historical record of Jordanian-Israeli collaboration -- all with the increasing assistance of the US of course -- are much better than the chances that what's been in the major media the past few days is the actual rather than the planted story.

Nevertheless, let it be stressed once again that the above outline is mostly educated conjecture combined with circumstantial information at this point.  Even so, with the media falling all over itself to report what the combined propaganda apparatus of the Israelis, the Jordanians, and the Americans want them to, it can reasonably be suspected that this outline is closer to the truth than what's been coming from the
major news sources. (c) MER


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