Ken Stein Interview with former Jordanian Prime Minister Zaid Rifai, Amman, Jordan
Jordanian Prime Minister Zaid Rifai, public domain

January 9, 1993

Born in 1936, Ziad Rifai provides wonderfully clear assessments of Jordan’s political interests over a fifteen year period from the mid-1970s to the end of the 1980s. Underlying his recollections are how the Kingdom preserved perennial Syrian and PLO pressures to compromise Jordanian national independence and self-determination. Rifai served three terms as Jordan’s Prime Minister. During that time, he witnessed Jordan not participating in the October 1973 War but represented Jordan at the 1973 Geneva Middle East Peace conference, expecting that there would be a Jordanian-Israel agreement that could come out of the war, not knowing that neither Meir/Rabin nor Sadat wanted to complicate the fragile infant negotiations between their countries by raising matters of the West Bank, PLO, and Jerusalem. 

He tells us that that though Egypt and Syria were warming relations with Jordan just prior to the 1973 war, and King Hussein had meetings with both Egyptian President Sadat and Syrian President Assad just prior to the war, neither shared with Hussein that the war was at hand. He provides extraordinary detail of how Henry Kissinger misunderstood Syrian President Assad. He recounts virtually verbatim from Kissinger’s memory of how Assad enchanted Kissinger and then flatly turned down the US invitation to attend the 1973 Peace Conference. This recollection alone is worth reading the interview.

Though Rifai was not in office during the Carter administration, his analyses of Sadat’s motivations for heading toward a bilateral agreement is well reasoned. Rifai served during the period of Jordan’s ‘disengagement’ from the politics of the West Bank in the late 1980s. This interview is revealing for its analysis of the Jordanian-PLO relationship. Rifai is articulate without embellishing. 

Ken Stein Interview with former Jordanian Prime Minister Zaid Rifai, Amman, Jordan, January 9, 1993

KWS: I promise to be discreet.

ZR: Well, the best part [unintelligible].

KWS: Well.

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: If you want to be indiscreet let me know — 

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: — I’ll take out a pen. Umm — [To someone else: Thank you, sir.] Umm — I’d like to go back to Geneva or the ’73 War. 

ZR: Mm-hmm.

KWS: And your position then was?

ZR: Prime minister and foreign minister.

KWS: At the same time. And you, you took that position when?

ZR: Umm, I think it was in April of, umm, ’72.

KWS: April of ’72. And at that time when you were prime minister and foreign minister, you served in that capacity through — ?

ZR: It was the end of ’76.

KWS: Umm, during, during the ’73 War itself, what contacts were there between Jordan and the state department at all about the war or its outcome or the negotiation process?

ZR: Well, the contacts between Jordan and the United States were an ongoing process. It was continuous. And of course there were more contacts in the aftermath of the war and the preparation for the Geneva Conference, and presenters, visits, additions, or the various correspondents that we had. There were even more intense contacts but, uh, but just more intense but not something what has happened.

KWS: Were you aware of what Syria and Egypt had planned and what —

ZR: No.

KWS: —Sadat’s goal was?

ZR: No.

KWS: No.

ZR: We, we had, uh, no idea whatsoever that the war was coming and it was very strange because when I was, when I became Prime Minister, we had no relations with either Egypt or Syria. They are both broken in regards to relations with, umm, Jordan, a couple years before that. And I came to a, a new post after being the political advisor to His Majesty and I had made a number of secret visits to Egypt, and Syria, that were not announced at the time for the purpose of the establishing of the relations between the two countries. And, uh, and it was finally agreed that His Majesty would meet with, uh, President Sadat and President Ah— Assad in Egypt. Uh, I think, uh, the timing was, as it turned out to be, was — I can’t remember the exact dates, but ten days, eleven days, before the war. And, uh, we went to Egypt, met with both presidents. We talked about everything else, except the war. They never mentioned it. They never said, uh, that there was a war. President Sadat tried, eh, just sort of talking, exploring, to see whether it would be possible for Jordan to allow the feyadeen back into the country. And apparently he had — it’s a long story, I can tell you that — but he had in mind that he wanted them here when the war started, so that he could start possibly any time; he wanted on our time. We did not like that but, uh, it was a matter of principle. We just refused, eh, to allow them back. As a result of the, eh, anything that Egypt thinks [unintelligible]. Uh, Sadat said that as far as relations between the two countries are concerned, of course he would reestablish them immediately. Yet it is not possible to have His Majesty visit Egypt without relations being restored. And so that was that as far as Egypt was concerned. Eh, President Assad said he would do the same, but he needed a few more days to go back to Damascus and inform the leadership and the party. He went back and a few days later, we announced the reestablishment of relations with Syria as well. So, we had diplomatic relations with them and normal relations just the week before the war started, but the war was never even, uh, mentioned. 

KWS: You think — I mean, there are a few — you could be all sorts of conspiratorial and you could say they took Jordan in, they wanted to make it appear and said everything was fine and dandy to the rest of the world, that diplomacy was being established. I mean, they’re sending one message to the diplomatic and foreign policy community and, of course, they — and Amnesty tells me they’ve been planning this war now for almost a year.

ZR: Oh, more than a year.

KWS: Since April of eighty — April of ’72. 

ZR: Um, I, I felt that the, the war was coming.

KWS: Oh, you did.

ZR: Uh, long before our meeting occurred. I, I — It was just the sort of a logical conclusion to my analysis of the situation. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

ZR: And I think His Majesty also felt the same way. We had no idea when it was going to come, or how, but we, we knew that something was, eh, bound to, you know — just when it would be. And, and, uh, there was a lot of discussion. We certainly were not prepared for war. We could not think of war. We could not afford to enter the war. And there were two schools of thought as to whether it would be better — if we wanted to stay out of the war, in the eventuality that it came — whether it’s better not to have relations with both of those two countries or to have relations with them. And, uh, uh, and I said that if the war did start and if we were to stay out of it, the only way we could possible do that was to be on very good relations with Egypt and Syria, and not the other way around. That’s what happened to us anyway in ’67, eh, when we were dragged into the war just because we had had such bad relations with Nasser and everybody else before the, the war. And, and so we benefitted from that in the sense that we were in close contact with both countries during the war but, uh, they really understood our situation and they did not count on our participation, and they did not involve us in anything, eh, that they had, uh, planned for over a year when they got in the war.

KWS: But how about the diplomacy? 

ZR: Uh, not —

KWS: You said you discussed other things at Alexandria?

ZR: Yeah. Umm, it was things that, that came to the relations between the two —

KWS: I see, I see.  

ZR: — countries and so on. I guess — But, uh, anyway, look back, I thought was fascinating because, uh, when the war started —

KWS: Mmm.

ZR: — Sadat would, uh, get in touch with us and send us messages that, uh, uh, in effect, said, “Don’t get involved in the war. Keep out. Just look after your own boundaries and borders,” and that any loss on the Jordanian front would undermine his successes and military victories on, uh, his front. And at the same time, we were getting continuous telephone calls and messages from the Syrians telling us, “What are you waiting for?”

KWS: [Laughs.] 

ZR: Uh —

KWS: [Laughs.] I’m sorry for laughing.

ZR: Yeah, okay. Eh, then of course when the situation deteriorated on the Syrian front, eh, we sent them our military reserve. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

ZR: Strategic reserve to fight with them. And so they didn’t expect us to open another front while our reserve was in, uh, Syria. I have between two brackets. Later on, we understood from the Syrians that Sadat was telling them, “Why don’t you get in touch with the Syrians? Get them to open a front,” at the time that he was telling us not to open a front.

KWS: He was telling the Syrians to tell you to open a front?

ZR: Yeah. So, I feel that, uh, that it is for the benefit of another that he wants it to be another thing. And then, strangely enough, eh, two days before the Security Council cease-fire — I am very bad with dates, I remember events very well —

KWS: Just —

ZR: But, uh —

KWS: I’ll fill — I have the chronology. I’ll take care of it.

ZR: I think, I think it was 19th, 18th of — 

KWS: [UN Resolution] 338?

ZR: Yes.

KWS: 22nd.

ZR: Yeah, it was just three days before.

KWS: Three days.

ZR: So, uh, it was the18th or the 19th. The American ambassador and the Soviet ambassador informed us that Sadat had, uh, accepted, uh, the last of the resolution and that the council would meet to accept it and they expected a cease-fire —

KWS: On the 19th, you said?

ZR: Yeah, yeah. There is two days or three days before the adoption of the —

KWS: That’s a very interesting — May I explain something to you? Um, [Soviet Prime Minister Alexei] Kosygin was visiting Cairo —

ZR: Mm-hmm.

KWS: — from the 16th to the 19th. 

ZR: Mmm.

KWS: And I tried to ask Joe Sisco how did 338 come about. And he told me it was a Russian draft which was presented to them in Moscow when Kissinger showed up in Moscow before he went on his way to Jerusalem. 

ZR: Mmm.

KWS: And I asked him, I said, “Where did the Soviets get the draft?” and, and Hafez Ismail told me, several days ago, that the draft came out of the Kosygin visit. 

ZR: Mmm.

KWS: And so you’re technically confirming it by telling me that on the 19th —

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: — there was already a cease-fire resolution that had been discussed. 

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: So, I’m, I’m —

ZR: Yeah, mmm.

KWS: Okay.

ZR: So, we kept the information to ourselves and then, on the — I think it was on the 20th, we were contacted by our military commanders on the Syrian front and saying there were fifty Egyptian commanders, uh, seeking permission to enter Jordan. I said, “No way. Why are there fifty Egyptian commanders? “What do you want?” They insisted. They said they had instructions from their president to bring their commander over. And he came, and so I said, “What do you want? Why?” He said, “I have instructions to bring those fifty commanders into the country and cross into Israel from Jordan from the south and cross into the Sinai and attack the Israeli forces from the rear.” I said, “Fifty commanders? And you expect to enter Jordan from the south and cross all of Israel undetected? And then get into Sinai? And then stop the Israeli divisions that are already on the other side of the map?” They said, “Yes, this is our plan.” I immediately became very suspicious and the only logical explanation we could find to this, uh, stupid scheme, which I can tell you made no sense whatsoever, was that Sadat wanted to involve us in the fighting because the minute any commanders crossed Jordanian borders into —

KWS: Israelis would reply

ZR: — Israelis would reply. And we didn’t know whether they would go and start shooting people up in Israel, for all we know. 

KWS: Mmm.

ZR: And, and, and we wondered, why would Sadat want us to become involved in the fighting at the time when he accepted the cease-fire resolution. And then later on we discovered that, uh — and this is very controversial I know, but, well, we’re convinced of it — that you already had a deal, uh, for Geneva for the negotiations.

KWS: What date?

ZR: On the 20th. And, and, and they had an agreement for the negotiations. He knew that, uh, the negotiations would take this and, and he wanted Jordan to be involved in the negotiations. And the best way to involve Jordan in the negotiations is to have, uh —

KWS: — belligerence.

ZR: Belligerence, or have some of its state occupied. Uh, we refused anyway. The cease-fire you have accepted, it was accepted two days later. And then Sadat went all over the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia — and this actually happened — telling each and every single head of state that he visited that the reason for his military defeat in Sinai and, and the reason that the Israelis were able to cross the canal was that Jordan would not allow his commanders to attack the Israelis from the East. 

KWS: And yet everything he said in public was. “This was a military victory.”

ZR: And, uh, it was a victory in the beginning. And now he made, he made a deal with Assad. They actually swore an oath on the Koran. We discovered this later on from the Syrians that this was going to be, according to Saddam, “The Mother of All Battles.” And that they would, eh, go on fighting, uh, until they liberate all the occupied territories, or Cairo and Damascus are occupied. It was all out war. No ifs and buts. And that’s why the Syrians threw everything they had into their effort. And they did get to the Jordan because they threw their whole heart in it. And, and, and when Sadat crossed the joint plan — Syrian-Egyptian plan — called for the Egyptian army to proceed to the passes and stop there, and then regroup and advise. Sadat had his own plan, though different from the Syrian-Egyptian plan, that was just to cross the canal and stop. 

KWS: After ten kilometers?

ZR: Yes, and he, eh, stopped.

KWS: Let me, let me clarify. [Egyptian General Mohamad Abdel el-] Gamasy had a plan to go to the passes. [Egyptian Field Marshal] Ahmed Ismail told Gamasy before the war started, “Now you have told all your generals that this is our plan, but I want to tell you that we’re going to take a pause on October 10th or 11th. And we’re not going to continue.” And when they got to October11th, Gamasy was told by Ismail that, uh, “Here’s the pause,” and he said, “But General, we, we think we can move out from underneath the missile umbrella” and the General said, “No, you stay where we are. Eight to ten kilometers is where we stop.”

ZR: Yeah. This was completely different from the joint —

KWS: Plan.

ZR: — plan. And, uh, looking back at it, I wonder, when I visited Sadat, uh, on one of the secret visits —

KWS: Earlier?

ZR: Earlier, when I was political advisor. And he spoke of war in very general terms. And he said, “The only way we are going to get the Israelis to move or to get the Americans involved and get the Russians involved and interested is to create a crisis.”

KWS: That’s right.

ZR: And I told him, “How, how would you do that, sir?” And, and he said, “I’d start a war.” And I said, “What kind of war?” And he said, of course in Arabic, he said, “[Arabic], a war for movement.”

KWS: [Unintelligible] and a war for libera—, a war for liberation.

ZR: And not a war for liberation. And I told him that once you start, uh, any kind of fighting, the Israelis aren’t going to play the game according to your rules. Once you start, it’s all-out war. And he said, “In that case, I’d be able to defend myself. But I certainly will not get bogged down in Sinai.” And then he said, “I know nothing — my army knows nothing about the yelitzreig,” Blitzkrieg, as he pronounced it. 

KWS [Laughs.]

ZR: “Israelis are good at yelitzreig; for me I cannot do that. I will just cross the canal and stop.” And, uh, I thought it was just one of his usual statements. You know, he had made so many statements about fighting and war and [unintelligible] and uh — 

KWS: Year of decision.

ZR: Yes, Year of decision. But that’s what he did. So, he had his own plan. And the Syrians were really mad at him after all, because they said had they known that, they could have agreed. They could have easily occupied two kilometers from the Golan and stopped. And, and, and not get all their army and all their men into all-out war as they did. But, uh, since you are asking us about the military part, he wanted us to get involved in the —

KWS: — political game.

ZR: — political game, in the negotiations. And, uh, when I went to Geneva to head our delegation — We had gone on the understanding and basis that this was going to be a real full-fledged international conference that will continue, uh, until, uh, agreements are reached. We even rented apartments and villas for our delegation. We were planning to stay there for months. And we had no idea that we were just needed there to give legitimacy to the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations. We only had, uh, one meeting. We gave speeches for local consumption. And then, out of the blue, as far as we were concerned — and by the way [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail] Fahmy had instructed the Egyptian delegation, a lot of them were very [unintelligible] not to have any contact with the Jordanian delegation. None whatsoever. So, we, we had no coordination with the Egyptians and they were forbidden even to talk to us. And then we were surprised to see a suggestion calling for the formation of an Israeli-Egyptian —

KWS: Military and political talks.

ZR: Uh, uh —

KWS: The committees.

ZR: Yeah, disengagement committee. And I objected. Why committees? We were coming here to negotiate. Well, I said to him —

KWS: That session wasn’t made in the plenary session.

ZR: No, no. We adjourned a little. And then we had sort of a session. After, all the reporters and the speeches were in the public session and then we had a private bit. They said, “No, it has to be done in stages.”

KWS: The Egyptians said no?

ZR: Eh, mostly [U.S. Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger. The Americans said no.

KWS: But, can I be bold as to say by now you must think that Sadat, at least, is duplicitous, and maybe Kissinger too? 

ZR: I, I’m sure both of them are, yes. 

KWS: I, I mean, just for this one period of two and a half months.

ZR: And I told Kissinger that and I told Sadat that, that they certainly were. I’ll tell you how, uh, very interesting —

KWS: You mind if I smoke a cigar?

ZR: No. Here, I’ll give you one, if I may? 

KWS: Oh, you have one? Very nice. Thank you.

ZR: Welcome. Uh, eh, when the, eh [unintelligible] was all agreed on, I said, “All right, then let’s have a Jordanian-Israeli disengagement, eh, committee also.”

KWS: You said that in Geneva?

ZR: Yeah. And [Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba] Eban objected. And I said, “Any Jordanian-Israeli disengagement committee would discuss territories occupied in the ’67 War and now we’re involved with territories occupied in the ’73 War.” And I said, “So, are we being penalized because we were not getting involved in the war?”

KWS: Umm [pause], uh, just to refresh the memory, uh, Eban told me, quote, “Rifai told me that ‘We definitely wanted a disengagement agreement with Israel as well.’” Those are his words. 

ZR: Right. Exactly what you said, yeah. Yeah.

KWS: Umm, let me —

ZR: But they, they objected.

KWS: They did?

ZR: Mm-hmm. And, and again —

KWS: Who, who objected? The Americans or the Israelis?

ZR: No, the Israelis. But the Americans supported them.

KWS: Why did the Israelis object? 

ZR: Uh, for that same reason. That they did not want to discuss withdrawal from the ’67 territories.

KWS: In other words, they wanted to take care of business first on ’73.

ZR: I’m sure they never, uh — From ’67 they decided not to withdraw from occupied territories. 

KWS: At least, they weren’t prepared at that juncture. That’s for sure.

ZR: Because after that, when Kissinger was working on the disengagement between Egypt and, and Syria and Israel —

KWS: Thank you.

ZR: — uh, we presented to him a disengagement agreement, a proposal, to give to the Israelis. It called for the, uh, withdrawal of Israel, eh, ten kilometers west of the river, to the foothills. 

KWS: Was this in January of ’74?

ZR: It was during one of his shuttles of diplomacy. I don’t remember the exact, uh — 

KWS: Between January and May, anyway.

ZR: And, uh, Kissinger, uh, took the proposal to the Israelis and came back and said, “They, they don’t accept your proposal. They have a counterproposal.” “Fine, what is it?” He said, “They suggest that they withdraw, uh, horizontally instead of vertically,” such as it was. I said, “Henry, do you mean they withdraw from East to West instead of from North to South?” And he said, “Yes.” [Phone rings.] And so, they withdraw not from all their positions on the Jordan River and, and the valley, but from part of it. But it’s dealing to other parts. And he said, “Yeah, but they’ll give you back 90% of the land and 95% of the population.” And I said, “The 10% of the land they keep is Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley?” And, uh, “Yes.”

KWS: So, you were, you were thinking the Alon Plan?

ZR: Exactly. So I said, “So they just have a little corridor?” “Yes.” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “So this is the Alon Plan?” He said, “Never mind the names.” 

KWS: [Laughs.] Just ’cause you know it, never mind [laughs].

ZR: I told him, “Okay and it’s a deal. We accept this disengagement proposal from the Israelis.”

KWS: You didn’t really say that, did you?

ZR: I did, yeah. And he said, “Oh no, no, no. Wait a moment. This proposal is not a disengagement agreement. This is proposal for a final peace treaty.” 

KWS: No.

ZR: Yeah [unintelligible; laughs]. And so, and so we were talking disengagement, you see. He doesn’t expect us —

KWS: Give up Jerusalem.

ZR: — to give up Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and unilaterally sign a peace treaty to seal it. Of course not. And, and that’s why he dropped it. He did not become involved in any effort. He later on admitted to me that that was a big mistake. He had a chance, but it was the Israelis that, uh, uh, objected and he wanted to succeed. You know, “Super K.” And he realized that it’s much easier to have a “Sinai 2” and a “Golan —”

KWS: One.

ZR: “— 1” than to have anything on the Jordanian front. Eh, they, they dropped it, completely.

KWS: The window closed in October ’74.

ZR: And, and in 1986, I went to Washington and was doing my best to convince the American administration to accept the convening of an international peace conference. Or to reconvene Geneva because technically it never was ended, just adjourned meeting. 

KWS: [U.S. Ambassador at Large and head of U.S. delegation] Ellsworth Bunker died in office. 

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: Did you know that? 

ZR: Yeah, yeah.

KWS: He never left his position. 

ZR: Yeah, yeah. So, I met in the basement of the White House with members of the National Security Council, it was [Frank] Carlucci at the time. 

KWS: Mm-hmm.

ZR: I met with all of them. First, making my pitch, and telling them, “I really don’t understand why the U.S. objects to our international conference. International conference was an American idea. You proposed it. You invited us to it. We went. We adjourned. Technically, it’s still there. And we can either reconvene this conference or we can call for a new conference and have the five permanent members of the council there, the security council there. So how can you say you are against an international conference which was originally suggested by you?” And one of the persons who interviewed me was your friend Peter Rodman. He said, “The conference you’re suggesting is different from the Geneva Conference.” I said, “How different is it?” He said, “The Geneva Conference had a ceiling.” I said, “What ceiling?” He said, “There was a secret agreement between the United States, Egypt, and Israel which Jordan was not privy to. And, and, and we had agreed that we will have this conference only to set up the disengagement committees.” I told him, “Peter, this is very serious talk.”

KWS: Had that been the first you heard of that?

ZR: First time. 

KWS: So His Majesty hadn’t heard of it?

ZR: “This is very scary. You are telling me that you betrayed us. That you have deceived us. You took us to Geneva thinking that we’re going to have negotiations for a comprehensive settlement. And you just wanted us there as witnesses to legitimize what you are doing between Egypt and Israel, so Sadat would not be —”

KWS: — be signing a separate peace.

ZR: “— be signing a separate peace.” Which he did. Now, I’m convinced that Camp David started with this, uh —

KWS: Camp David started in ’73.

ZR: Yeah, ’73. And, and then Carlucci turned around to Peter, “I think you’ve said more than you should have.” And now I understand. I mentioned this to some friends who saw Peter and he denied saying it. [Laughs.] But he did, I certainly didn’t invent it. [Laughs.]

KWS: Let me go back, just for a moment, to the period from the end of the war through the end of January ’74. Umm, when I interviewed Joe Sisco, he said, quote, “King Hussein considered himself at the end of the ’73 War as the patron of the West Bank, and he did so after the ’73 War, and he never contemplated having to check with anyone else about the future disposition of the territories.” He said, “Hussein wanted to speak on behalf of the West Bank, but not necessarily on be— on behalf of the Palestinians, even then. But certainly in terms of territory.” Is that accurate?

ZR: Eh, yes, I think so. When you say the West Bank, not Palestinians. Because the Palestinians in the West Bank are Jordanians, were Jordanians.

KWS: Right.

ZR: And, and, uh, we never claimed that we had the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinians in the diaspora. They had their PLO. But we, at that time, did not feel that the PLO had any right to represent the Jordanians of Palestinian origin whether they’re on the East Bank or the West Bank. And that [UN Resolution] 242 referred to territories occupied from Jordan. 

KWS: There was an Arab Summit meeting in the end of November of ’73. And Jordan announced just prior to the meeting, I’m sure you remember, that it would boycott the proposed peace conference with Israel if the Arab Summit Conference — sorry — if the Arab Summit Conference endorsed the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. 

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: I think you were the one, who in fact, made the statement. Umm, but Jordan, you know, you still participated in the conference. And, in fact, the Rabat Resolution of ’74 was really made in Algiers of ’73.

ZR: Yeah. And we, we did not support it.

KWS: Exactly. I just want to be sure I have it right. Umm, did you have any — did Jordan, or His Majesty, have any intended role through the United Nations other than legitimacy of UN Resolution 242? I mean, did you understand that this was Kissinger’s show? Did you understand that this was going to be Kissinger’s choreography? Or did — the way you explained it to me earlier on, you explained it to me earlier on as you really believed you were going to an international conference, and you were going to sit there and you were going to negotiate.

ZR: Oh yes. 

KWS: Under who’s, I mean, who did you think was going to be, like, the maestro of all this? 

ZR: Well, obviously we knew the United States would play the major part. But, uh, the, uh, conference, uh, invited for by the secretary-general of the UN. He presided over the conference. He had who could sponsors the Soviets and the Americans. But, it was the United Nations. [Kurt] Waldheim was there. He headed the conference. The invitations came from the United Nations. And we certainly visited the royal [unintelligible] of the UN, not during the negotiations only, but later on when we were talking about security arrangements, guarantees, Security Council endorsement of the agreements. And there we realized that Kissinger and the United States would play the major role.

KWS: And not Moscow at all.

ZR: No. 

KWS: What were your relations with Moscow after the war? What were they like?

ZR: Oh, they were very good. We always had a very good working relationship with the Russians. And, uh, I know in Washington, it is like fighting mother. But, when you say the Soviets and, uh, the Communist reputation, the area, they were trying to find a role for themselves. As a matter of fact, they were very constructive. And they were very helpful. And, and they, they were actually a restraining element on, on the Arab extremists, and not the provokers of Arab extremism. And, uh, they certainly did not want to get into confrontation with the United States over the Middle East. And, uh, I hope I’m wrong, but, I think history would prove, in years to come, that the, the Cold War had a very stabilizing effect on the Middle East. And that with the absence of the Cold War, now you are going to have more regional conflicts than when you have the two superpowers.

KWS: Or, at least, more indigenous instability because of social and economic problems. Umm, when I was — as I’ve put this thing together, this rendition of what happened, Geneva, many people have said that your talk, your presentation, your speech was harsher than Fahmy’s. 

ZR: Yes, it was. 

KWS: That you gave, perhaps you gave — I mean I’ve read it — you gave a litany, an agenda, you listed Israel’s, uh, umm, mistakes, errors. You called Israel an “authority of terror and aggression, the conduct of which is always characterized with defiance and arrogance. The seeds of oppression which you planted in the Arab soil grew with hatred.” Those are your words —

ZR: Mmm.

KWS: — or whoever drafted this speech. 

ZR: My words.

KWS: Umm, you made it clear that Jordan was not prepared to conclude any partial settlement on matters which were not of joint interest with the Arab world. But you still didn’t know, even when you prepared your remarks, that Kissinger and Sadat were prepared to take the Kilometer 101 Talks, move them through a military committee process and achieve the disengagement?

ZR: No. We had no idea. 

KWS: I mean, that’s the only way I can explain your remarks. 

ZR: No idea.

KWS: I mean, granted, I mean, these are all things that you may have felt, indeed.

ZR: And then, uh, the Israelis were harsh, also the Egyptians were up to a point. 

KWS: Well, Fahmy wasn’t exactly moderate.

ZR: Yeah, yeah. So, it was the first time that the Arabs and the Israelis sit publicly in an international conference to negotiate after seven years of war. And, and those opening statements — and I think this point is proven — Just read [Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak] Shamir’s statement in Madrid [Conference of 1991].

KWS: No, they were made for domestic consumption. 

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: I mean, you said that earlier. 

ZR: Yeah, yeah. So, eh, you have to address different [unintelligible]—

KWS: — constituencies.

ZR: Once that’s out of the way, we were prepared to sit down and negotiate seriously. 

KWS: [Pause.] Is it fair to say that you always wanted an international conference, even afterwards, because you found it as a mechanism to counter-balance American influence?

ZR: No, not really. No. Uh, we, we wanted it mostly for, for the giving legitimacy to the negotiations. We were meeting, negotiating among two delegations. Security Council resolutions. The precedent had been set in Geneva, eh, direct negotiations were out of the question. And you had to have the proper framework for the negotiations. This is what I told Rodman when he made that stupid remark. I said, “All right, even when you, and Sadat, and Israel, had already decided that you wanted to have 101 Kilometer talks and disengagement agreements. You couldn’t do that. Egypt even couldn’t do that without getting the legitimacy from the international conference. That’s why you convened it. Why didn’t you just go ahead and say, ‘Let’s meet at 101.’?” They couldn’t have met without the authority of the conference. And we thought the international conference would certainly be the proper vehicle for not only launching the negotiations, but for ensuring the continuity on the right basis and principles of the Security Council. Now, again, after the [1991 Secretary of State James] Baker initiative, why didn’t the Arabs and Israelis sit down and negotiate as they’re doing now without an international conference? And Madrid was an international conference. They can call it what they like, it was an international conference. And, and that was what was envisaged to all of us. You have an international conference, then you break up into committees. But you are negotiating within the umbrella of that conference. 

KWS: So, when you came to Geneva, you envisaged breaking up into bilateral —  

ZR: Oh yes, yes. Yeah, of course. Actually, this was a part of the invitation. That’s my other very funny story with Kissinger which he doesn’t like me to repeat. Because, after we received the invitation from, uh, Waldheim, Kissinger came out and he visited and he said, “We have to have some amendments to the text of the invitation.” I said, “Why?” He said, very frankly, “Because the Israelis refuse to come to the conference if we didn’t change the text of the invitation.” I said, “What changes?” He said, “Just three changes.” 

KWS: Three.

ZR: Yeah. I said, “All right, what are they?” 

KWS: [Laughs.]

ZR: He said, “On the invitation there is the implication that the negotiations will be in committees that will discuss subjects. So you will have an Arab-Israeli committee to discuss war [unintelligible], an Arab-Israeli committee to discuss withdrawal, an Arab-Israeli committee to discuss these by subject, by groupings. And he said, “The Israelis insist on geographic committees. Jordanian-Israeli committees to discuss everything.” So, it was from that time. And I said, “Fine, no problem.” So when we accepted we already knew we were already going to have committees. And they’re geographic. He said the second, “You know there’s nothing new on the list.” He said, “The second arrangement is that the invitation said ‘Palestinian participants’ would be invited at a later stage, and the Israelis object to the word ‘Palestinian.’ And so we would like to change it and say ‘other participants’ will come at a later stage.” Fine. He said, “The third is a technical thing. Instead of the 18th or 19th of, uh, December, I’d like it to be on the 22nd, the 22nd or the 23rd.” I said fine. I didn’t realize the change of dates was under the pretext we had to adjourn for Christmas and then never meet again. That was the reason for it. Then he told me, “Ziad, I’m going from here to Damascus. And I am the first American secretary of state to do this Syrian meeting. This —”

KWS: This was on the 14th of December he was here?

ZR: Yes.

KWS: He was in Damascus on the 15th.

ZR: Yeah. And he said, “We don’t know much about Syria. I don’t know much about Assad. And we have to go and discuss this invitation with him,” and “What advice do you give me since you know them so well?” I said, “Henry, be careful.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “That’s my only advice to you, just be careful.” He went to Damascus. He came back. He said, “I forgot your advice and I fell flat on my face.” “What happened?” He said, “I went and I saw President Assad. He was charming. We sit and we [unintelligible] and we chatted for a few minutes and we joked and we laughed. He was really a very, very wonderful man, nice man. And the atmosphere was so congenial that I decided to immediately get into the business of those amendments. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I said, ‘President you received an invitation?’ He said yes. I said, ‘I’m sorry, but we have to suggest some amendments to it.’ And he said, ‘What are the amendments?’ And I told him, ‘Geographic committees instead of, eh, subject committees.’ And Assad, immediately, without thinking said, ‘No problem.’” Kissinger said, “The first thought that came to my mind was that I really have to fire a lot of those advisors and so forth at the state department who give us wrong information and impressions about leaders in the area. They told me he was fanatic, he was stubborn, he was hard to do business with. And here I was discovering something completely different.” He said, “I told him the second amendment about ‘other participants’ instead of ‘Palestinian.’ And he said yes.” 


ZR: “He said, ‘No problem.’” Kissinger said, “I, I decided to get out of there so we don’t get into any more trouble explaining things. So I told him that ‘I am very busy, I have to leave and end this visit but I promise to come back. I’d like to visit Syria [unintelligible].’ He said, ‘You have an open invitation. You are most welcome to come as our honored guest anytime you like and we’d love to show you around.’ He said —” 

KWS: You’re not embellishing it, this is exactly —

ZR: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Exact. And, uh, fine. So I took my leave. And he said, “The President was so charming and courteous and polite, he insisted on walking me to the outer gate of the palace. And I walked out and all the Syrian officials were lined up so I could shake hands with them. I shook hands with them until I got to [unintelligible], now Vice President — he was Prime Minister at the time.” He said, “I shook hands with him and I told him, ‘See you in Geneva.’ And he said, “That’s when it happened. Assad said, ‘What Geneva?’ I said, ‘The conference in Geneva.’ ‘After what you said, I’m not going to see my Prime Minister there.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘We have no intention of accepting the invitation or going to Geneva.’ I said, ‘But, Mr. President, you just accepted all the amendments to the text.’ He said, ‘Yes, I accept them and any other amendments you like because I refuse the whole invitation, so you can amend it in any way you like. It doesn’t concern me. Put anything you like. Palestinians, others, [unintelligible] Israel, geographic. Amend the wording anyway you like. But we certainly don’t accept the whole invitation, so we’re not going.’” [Pause, then laughs.]

KWS: Henry —

ZR: [Laughs.] That was, that was his first lesson of dealing with President Assad.

KWS: I wonder if Henry had an extra roll of toilet paper. 

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: [Unintelligible.]

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: Wow.

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: Were you surprised not to see the Syrians at Geneva? 

ZR: No. I, I went and saw President Assad and spoke to him for hours.

KWS: You mean between the 15th and 22nd?

ZR: Yeah. And, uh, he was adamant in not going. He did not trust Egypt. He did not trust the United States. He said, “Nothing is going to come out of this conference.” I mean, he was right. He said, “Nothing.” He said, “You’re going to go and come back. Nothing. They just want you there as decoration to, uh, give them some Arab presence.”

KWS: And you didn’t heed your own warning? 

ZR: And when we — 

KWS: [Laughs.]

ZR: We had already decided to go. And, uh —

KWS: [Laughs.]

ZR: — and I told him, “All right. You don’t want to go. We are going, and I hope this will not affect relations between the two countries. I hope you that will not criticize our participation. And, as a matter of fact, I would like your permission to speak on behalf of Syria, as well as, uh, Jordan.” And he said, “Fine. Do that.” And that’s why in my speech I did mention Syria.

KWS: You did.

ZR: Mm-hmm. And suggest the fact that Syria’s seat is vacant doesn’t mean that Syrian rights — and so forth. 

KWS: Umm, the New York Times reported on the 27th of January that, umm, Jordan and Israel were considering a disengagement agreement. Umm, Bill Quandt told me in April of ’91, he said, “There was not a Jordanian-Israeli agreement because Hussein had not been in the ’73 War. For him, a disengagement accord would have been a political step which he, Hussein, was not prepared to make.”

ZR: Ahh, that’s simply not true. We did our best to get a disengagement agreement. We pressured Kissinger as much as we could. Uh, Kissinger knows about it. He told me himself that he, that, in hindsight, he should have, uh, concentrated more on the [unintelligible] at the time because the Israelis refused, not because we were not prepared. Uh, Bill is, is misinformed. 

KWS: Umm, so what prevent — so what prevented King Hussein from moving forcefully for Jordanian-Israeli disengagement in the summer of ’74? Umm, was really Kissinger’s interest in promoting a second Egyptian-Israeli agreement and not even a first Jordanian-Israeli agreement?

ZR: Right. I mean to be fair to Kissinger, that was the ultimate decision that he’d taken, but it was based on the fact that the Israelis simply would not accept to have a disengagement with us.

KWS: Mm-hmm. And that I get from the Israeli side. Epi Evron says Golda Meir, before she turned the reins of government over to Rabin, umm, was just not prepared to make any concessions on the territories. In part, because the trauma of the ’73 War had been so great that she didn’t think that the Israeli government, given the commission inquiry about the failures of the war, would have changed.

ZR: It would’ve changed a lot of things, you know. We wanted to be west of the river. It would have changed it. It would have gotten Jordan involved directly into the future of the West Bank. And —

KWS: But Sadat couldn’t have tolerated you getting into the West —

ZR: No, he didn’t want that. Sadat was very instrumental, uh, in the Rabat decision. Ironically enough, you know, the countries that really, uh, swayed, uh, the conference — the Arab Summit Conference in Rabat — [unintelligible] the countries that had the closest ties with the United States: Egypt, to an extent Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, especially. And without those three countries there wouldn’t have been a Rabat Conference decision. 

KWS: Sadat did his homework, didn’t he?

ZR: Oh yes. Uh, I, I told Henry that, uh, before the summit conference that if, if we don’t get a disengagement agreement before we go to Rabat, that decision’s going to be passed and we are going to accept it. If it is adopted in an earnest way, [unintelligible] Jordan will not continue to object to that resolution, since we have nothing to show.

KWS: Can I quote Hermann Eilts? 

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: Eilts told me Sadat quote “didn’t give a damn about Jordan.” End quote.

ZR: Oh yes, I agree with that. Uh, so — and Kissinger told me, “Don’t worry. The decision will not be taken because we have already spoken to — guess who? — Moroccans, Egyptians and the Saudis.” And, after the [laughs] Rabat decision was taken, he came to visit with us. And I, I was riding with him in the car from the airport, and I said, “Henry, I am sorry. I hate to do this, but didn’t I tell you that this was what was going to happen?” 

KWS: This is when?

ZR: This, after Rabat.

KWS: After Rabat.

ZR: Henry visited after Rabat. And he — I remember his words distinct, exactly. He said “Zaid, I am sorry. We miscalculated our manipulative capabilities.” And when I told this story to — uh, I can’t remember his name, the one who wrote the book about the Arabs, Israelis and Kissinger [The Arabs, Israelis and Kissinger: A Secret History of American Diplomacy in the Middle East, published in 1976], uh, Sheehan.

KWS: Edward Sheehan.

ZR: Ed Sheehan, yeah. And, and I told him the story, and he said, “Can I quote you?” And I said yes. And he put it in his book. And then he has a footnote in the book. He said, “I checked with Kissinger about Zaid Rifai of Jordan and he said yes that was true, but Rifai got one word wrong. I told him, ‘You miscalculated our manipulative capabilities.’” 

KWS: Never say die, huh? 

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: He just wouldn’t — 

ZR: [Laughs.]

KWS: Never say die. Did the, umm — From what you know about the Syrian-Israeli disengagement and how it was negotiated, what influence did the, the oil embargo have on Kissinger or have on Sadat? Umm, did Sadat use the oil embargo as leverage over Kissinger to get Kissinger to negotiate the Syrian-Israeli agreement?

ZR: No, I don’t think so. I, I believe that both Kissinger and Sadat wanted to give the Syrians a disengagement agreement in order to be able to have Sinai 2. And then that can be later on. They couldn’t have done Sinai 2 without a disengagement from the Golan. 

KWS: It would have been too blatant.

ZR: Too blatant and too — and Sadat eventually did it. But, uh, that’s why they needed it.

KWS: When you look back on it, do you think Sadat really was very callous about the Palestinian issue?

ZR: Oh yes. I’m sure of it. Just one thing —  

KWS: No, I mean, not from a — not — I’m asking you not to be a Jordanian now.

ZR: No, no. Just from what I know of it. He, he — Sadat only cared about Egypt. He didn’t care about the Palestinians. He didn’t care about the others. And he was manipulating various other countries and Palestinians and U.S. positions just to serve his own purposes.

KWS: On July 18, 1974 — July 18, ’74, before Rabat — Jordan said the PLO was the representative of Palestinians outside of Jordan. [Pause.] At, at what point did His Majesty feel that Sadat had abandoned Jordan, not that it had put Egypt first, but that it had abandoned Jordan? Before Rabat? After Rabat?

ZR: I think His Majesty was very surprised at Sadat’s position in Rabat.

KWS: Didn’t wh— didn’t they meet in Alexandria beforehand? 

ZR: [Unintelligible] issues a — 

KWS: — a joint declaration.

ZR: — a joint declaration which was denied by the Egyptians the moment we got back to Amman. As a matter of fact, I think I was still in the plane. I got Fahmy to sign it.

KWS: And they denied it. Who do you think was responsible on the Egyptian side for persuading the, the Moroccans and the Saudis to go with the PLO as the sole representative?

ZR: I think the United States was involved in that. 

KWS: You do?

ZR: [Unintelligible.] I’ll give you —

KWS: It sounds very conspiratorial, you know?

ZR: Yes, it is conspiratorial. It’s too much theory, but, uh, I think, let’s put it to you and then you think about it. 

KWS: Let me have your [unintelligible].

ZR: [Unintelligible.] 

KWS: Thanks. I mean, the tendency here is very known to be conspir — conspiratorial about everything. 

ZR: [Unintelligible]. I respect your tendencies. Let’s just go over what happened. Jordan was pressuring the United States and Israel for a disengagement agreement. The Israelis refused. Kissinger knew that he couldn’t get the Israelis to accept one. If he wanted to concentrate on that, he would probably not have disengagement on the Egyptian or Syrian fronts. And he wouldn’t have Sinai 2. So, the best way to relieve the pressure is to have Jordan not the party responsible for the West Bank. If you adopt a resolution at the Arab summit conference in Rabat as the one that was adopted, it becomes the PLO’s responsibility and not Jordan’s to negotiate anything on the West Bank. So you pass a resolution that would exclude Jordan from the peace process in terms of anything pertaining to the West Bank. And up here, you give that right to the PLO. Jordan’s out. The PLO becomes the party responsible and you immediately issue a stipulation saying that you will not negotiate with the PLO, or recognize it because it’s a terrorist organization and it has to accept 242 and 338 and give up armed struggle and accept to be a negotiating partner before it is recognized. Obviously, the PLO refuses to do that, or is unable to do it. And therefore, nobody talks about the Palestinian issue or the West Bank until all the other work is done. Conspiratorial? Too much theory? Just keep it in the back of your mind.

KWS: It fits too well, doesn’t it? You were — You served until the end of 76?

ZR: That’s right. With an option.

KWS: And then what did you do?

ZR: I was in the Senate for a few years.  Eh, I was involved in [unintelligible].

KWS: Were you at all in— umm, well, as, as a sen— In the senate, obviously, you, you’re, you know, your historical memory is superb for, for the king, for His Majesty. Umm, how did Carter’s Palestinian homeland speech, umm, how did you react to something like that? I mean, he — at the Clin— Clinton, Massachusetts when he made the statement that Palestinian refugees deserve a, a homeland, a Palestinian homeland — how did you react to that, or personally, or —? 

ZR: Not, eh — Most of, uh, Carter’s statements argued his position, I think were much more advanced in terms of, uh, giving the Palestinians and the Arab side more justice than previous administrations.

KWS: There’s no doubt about that.

ZR: His only problem, which was unfair to him and, and to his statement and to his position, is that it was tainted in the Arab eyes by Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

KWS: But, well, we haven’t — we’re not there yet.

ZR: When it started, that was fine. Actually, before, uh, Sadat decided to go —

KWS: — to Jerusalem.

ZR: [Unintelligible] Jerusalem, and if Carter had been given more time. There was serious talk about, uh, reconvening a conference.

KWS: No question. I mean ’77 —

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: — was just —

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: — I mean the documents are complete with evidence.

ZR: Yeah. And, and, and you could have started serious negotiations. 

KWS: The Americans believe — and Sadat’s advisors tell me the reason that Sadat didn’t is that he didn’t want to be blocked by either the PLO or Syria —

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: He, he was, he was continuously impatient. Continuously impatient. But when Carter used the word Palestinian homeland, he never gave it a geographic definition. So, if I were sitting in Jordan, and I hear the American president talk about a Palestinian homeland, the first thing that goes in my mind is, “Oh my gosh. Does he think we, here, are the Palestinian homeland?”

ZR: No, we never interpreted it that way. 

KWS: The King never interpreted it that way.

ZR: No. 

KWS: Right, ’cause now when you speak about Palestinian rights, it’s always “Palestinian rights of determination on its soil,” on their land. I mean, it’s quite evident what you’re saying.

ZR: Yeah, we added that, as a matter of fact, as again — very curious. Once, I remember — I don’t remember the dates unless I look up my notes and saw them — we were on a, on a visit to Moscow and, uh, the Soviets, when we worked on the joint committee, insisted on including in the committee, uh, that was “the creation of an independent Palestinian state.” And we at the time objected to that. Just before, we had abandoned, uh, our claim —

KWS: Just before the July ’88 disengagement.

ZR: Eh, yeah, before that, and, uh, [Soviet Foreign Minister Andre] Gromyko insisted. And I refused. And then, I told him, “All right,” and said, “the creation of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil.” Gromyko discussed it and came back and said, “Never mind. Let’s not get into too many technicalities. We’ll drop this independent business.” 

KWS: Really?

ZR: Yeah. 

KWS: Carter said, “In Keeping Faith, we have no intention of negotiation, negotiating on behalf of Syria and Jordan. They can come in later when they see the benefits of our own agreement,” meaning Camp David. And then he said, quote “If King Hussein does not come in, I hope President Sadat will substitute for him for a while. The Israeli proposal does not deserve to be rejected out of hand.” I guess he didn’t feel terribly pleased that Washington at this juncture, in the middle of ’78, was appointing Sadat as your negotiating representative. 

ZR: No, I think, at the time, we were very surprised that, uh, you would draw up Camp David accords and assign a role for Jordan, uh, in the accords without discussing it with Jordan. And I, I think, again — and I don’t know whether it was Sadat or circumstances or Carter or whatever — but the fact that Jordan was excluded from the whole process — we didn’t know it was happening, it was going on — and then to suddenly have a peace treaty signed between an Arab country — the biggest Arab country — and Israel with the United States’ blessing —

KWS: Sadat told Carter he, he would take care of King Hussein. That’s what Carter told me.

ZR: Yeah, Carter could have found out. So — 

KWS: Wasn’t Sadat supposed to meet King Hussein in Morocco on the way home and that sort of fizzled out?

ZR: Yeah, that was when, uh, Sadat, uh, called His Majesty — he was in London at the time — from Camp David and told him that he’s not getting anywhere and that he’s packing his suitcases and leaving. And they agreed to meet in Morocco. 

KWS: On the way home.

ZR: On the way home. That his mission had failed. 

KWS: But, in the meantime, he ended up signing the Camp David Accords.

ZR: Yeah.

KWS: So therefore, the King didn’t need to see him.

ZR: And the last conversation the King had with Sadat was when he told him that he’s not getting anywhere, and he refuses to accept what was the result of the negotiations and that’s why he’s leaving. 

KWS: When did you return as, uh, prime minister?

ZR: In Janu—Febru— April of ’85. 

KWS: And you served until May of ’89?

ZR: Mmm..

KWS: May, right?

ZR: I think, April.

KWS: April.

ZR: Yes. April [unintelligible]. 

KWS: Umm, can you, can you shed some light for me, umm, umm, the background to the (1987) London document and how that evolved and, umm, what the origins of it were?

ZR: No, I can’t. I don’t know anything about it.

KWS: Okay. If I show you a copy of it, would you recognize it?

ZR: [Pause.] I think so. 

KWS: Can we talk a little bit about the Jordanian disengagement from the territories? The July [1988] [unintelligible]. What, what are the origins of that? Where did that — did it come from the [first] intifada [which began December 1987]? Did it come from —

ZR: No. It was something we had been debating for a long time and, uh, the PLO and the Arab states could never understand it. We never, in Jordan, considered ourselves in competition with the PLO. We always felt that our roles complemented each other. We had always felt that if the West Bank was going to ever be liberated politically, Jordan had a better chance of doing that than the PLO, or any other Arab country. 242, when it was issued had in mind Jordanian-occupied territories. The West Bank was an integral part of Jordan. The Palestinians there were Jordanians. And nobody realized it — after Israel withdrew, the West Bank and the East Bank must have a, a new kind of relationship, that it would not be possible to go back, eh, to the kind of relationship that they used to before when they were talking about total unity — that there was a need for a Palestinian homeland, for a Palestinian identity. But our main obsession was on how to get Israelis out of the territories. And we are not competing with anyone else. We tell others that when you’ve introduced other elements into the equation of withdrawal and the time for peace, such as Palestinian independent state, Palestinian national rights, Palestinian self-determination — those were issues that could be solved within an Arab conference. A Jordanian-Palestinian conference. It’s nothing we would demand of the Israelis. Israel has certainly no business in giving any kind of approval for Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination. This is an inalienable right; we don’t need Israel’s permission for it. If, if we wanted to create an independent Palestinian state after Israel withdrew from the West Bank, this becomes a Jordanian, Palestinian, and Arab issue, not something that Israel has to accept. But with the PLO insisting that it must be the party to represent the Palestinians, that it must be the party to withdraw for the West Bank, that — what you’re talking about is not withdrawal only, but Palestinian state, national rights, so on. This put us in, in constant friction with the PLO and with the Arab countries. And, and Jordan paid a heavy price for, uh, this. We kept insisting that we really just want to regain the occupied territories. Not for Jordan — For the Palestinians. For the Arabs. For the Muslims. For anybody. Just get the Israelis out of the occupied territories. Our Arab brothers in the PLO saw it differently, and they were afraid that once Jordan succeeded in getting back the West Bank, it would, uh, have a claim to it and they would be out of the picture. And they end up with nothing as PLO. And, as I said, Jordan paid the price in its relations with the PLO, internal situation here and our relations with Arab countries. There’s always a point of friction and, uh, really, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the summit in Algiers, I believe it was. Last summit in, uh, ’88. 

KWS: June of ’88.

ZR: Yeah, in Algeria, it was. 

KWS: That’s correct.

ZR: Yeah, yeah. Well, when we were asking for assistance and aid for the intifada to be channeled through Jordan — not because Jordan wanted to, uh, have any ulterior motives in doing that, it was the only practical way, the only feasible way of getting assistance to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and they were going through a very difficult period, they were living through help — even that was denied. And they said there was no role for Jordan, even in the support of the Palestinians in the West Bank, in the support of the intifada. And, and therefore, we decided that, fine, this is what the PLO wants, this is what all the Arabs want. We are unable to deliver anything to the Palestinians on our own: we are unable to show the Arab world, or the PLO, that we are actually, in effect, more able to, uh, regain the West Bank because, uh, there was no peace process, every initiative was, uh, blocked, we’re having difficulty with, uh, [U.S. Secretary of State George] Schultz and, and his ideas. And we felt that it was really futile to just continue adopting a position that would cause so much problem. I said fine. If this is what is causing the sensitivity, why not break the administrative and legal ties in any way that will tell the PLO and the Arabs and the United States and the Israelis and everybody else, that we are not competing with anyone for our own gain, and at the same time continue a relationship that would serve the people in the West Bank who are still technically Jordanian, who don’t have any other country to look forward to. And it was very delicate balance between how to continue supporting them, but at the same time —

KWS: — send a message.

ZR: — send a clear message that we are not, eh, really, eh, in a race with the PLO as to who is going to grab the West Bank first. This wasn’t our intention. And, uh, we said it was important, if the PLO is to get into the negotiations that they have to accept 242, 338. They have to become a part of the international efforts to settle the problem. And, uh, we were convinced that the only way they could do that is to feel secure in themselves, in terms of their own claim, their own right to represent the Palestinians in the West Bank. And without this, this engagement decision, the PLO wouldn’t have been able to, uh, accept 242, 338. Eh, once —

KWS: Why did they accept 242 and 338 in December of 1988, but not accept it prior to the breakup of the Jordanian-PLO arrangement which was in February of ’85, which was broken in ’86? What, what changed? Are you trying — what you’re saying to me, the changes that occurred in those, in that two years was the fact that Jordan disengaged?

ZR: Yeah. That was the main reason. And, uh, [PLO leader Yasser] Arafat would accept whenever he was in Jordan, but he’d have a very difficult time with his people when he went to meet with them in Kuwait or Tunisia. And he — there was no way he could do it. It was just undoable. And once they became a state — whatever that means — they began a government, we recognized them. I went with Arafat and we opened the Palestinian embassy in Amman. We have an embassy now, a real ambassador. And they felt on their own, that now they are —

KWS: Symbols were very important.

ZR: Yes. And the party that actually represents the Palestinians. They realized what has to be done, and, and they did it. And now, you know, as you know, they are doing their best to try to get Israel to recognize them and accept them. They want to negotiate.

KWS: It’s also made it somewhat easier for Jordan to exactly say to the PLO, “Look, if you think you can get something that we’ve been unable to get —”. It puts the burden and responsibility on their shoulders. 

ZR: Yep.

KWS: Is it fair to say that you didn’t want to enter, you didn’t want to go any further in negotiations and be blamed for not being able to deliver with the Palestinians? 

ZR: No, we’ve tried every possible way to get the, uh, negotiations going to that kind of agreement and it was, uh, simply not possible.

KWS: Why do you think the Americans were so reluctant to support the Jordanian-PLO accord? Why, why in ’85, when there seemed to have been, umm, at least a temporary truce in this, this political competition between Jordan and the PLO, why didn’t the Americans step up? If the Americans had stepped up —?

ZR: Well, they, uh, they did. That was the time when [unintelligible] came out. They were talking about the [unintelligible]-PLO meetings. I said, “Fine. Get the PLO to accept—” 

KWS: — The names, he was in Jerusalem, he’s got a list. All that.

ZR: All that and it was again a Kissinger stipulation that the U.S. would not, uh, change its position in dealing with the PLO because the PLO met those conditions. 

KWS: Did [U.S. diplomat Wat T.] Cluverius succeed at all in this bouncing back and forth? I mean, he seemed to have narrowed differences, but it never seemed to get beyond. There always seemed to be a blockage, a blockage either was with the Likud or a blockage because the Americans didn’t support it.

ZR: Yeah, it was one or the other. Sometimes the Americans would not support, for whatever reason. And sometimes, if they started to move, then you’d get the Likud in Israel. It was never properly coordinated. 

KWS: Why did the PLO accord fall apart here, rather than in ’86? Arafat couldn’t, couldn’t deliver his people on 242?

ZR: Yeah, yet again we had agreements with them. We had joint delegations that was supposed to go around to various parts of the world. 

KWS: Oh, the London thing. 

ZR: Mmm.

KWS: That whole, that’s right. [U.K. Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher, I remember that. When you look back on it, when you look back on the, when you were out of, when you were no longer prime minister when the Gulf War started, umm, in ’91, which was this, this incredible eight or nine visits of Baker to the region between February of ’91 and October. What was different about Baker that was diff— as compared to, let’s say, Schultz?

ZR: Well, the two people are, of course, very different, and I’m sure you know the differences better than I do. But it will be different circumstances. Different regions. Different Arab worlds. Different United States. Different international situation. 

KWS: Is that what backed us into Madrid?

ZR: Practically. Your initiative and the circumstances were just right to do it then. I believe the United States after the Gulf War with Iraq wanted also to balance that by attempting to solve the other regional problems which is the root of most of the other problems in the area: the Palestinian problem. This was a very opportune moment for them to do it and they, they used it very effectively. Uh, this was this optimum —

KWS: [Unintelligible.] I’ve always been fascinated by the democratization process here, and the efforts to reformulate the parliament, to, to — the elections that were held. And I’m interested, I’m really interested on how the process of democracy, democratization influences both the peace process and influences the strengths or failures of Islamic groupings and vice versa? In other words, how does the peace process influe—, influence democratization here and how does democratization influence the peace process? Do you have any thoughts?

ZR: I do. I’m not for that.

KWS: Okay. Fine.