King reveals letter on possible dialogue with Hamas sent to Netanyahu 48hrs before assault

BY Tareq Ayyoub

AMMAN - His Majesty King Hussein on Wednesday disclosed that he had sent a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu offering mediation between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, two days before the Mossad attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Misha'al. "It's no secret that 48 hours prior to the painful incident, I sent a message to the Israeli prime minister telling him that there was a possibility to discuss holding a dialogue between them and Hamas to stop the episode of horror and violence," the King said during a rally at Al Hussein Youth City yesterday. The proposed talks were to include "discussing all issues that should be dealt with. I told them that I was ready to engage in such an endeavour because of our pain, my pain and the pain of every Jordanian man and woman towards the loss of any child's life, any woman's life, any innocent person's life. "But it was said, however, that this letter did not reach on time." Hamas, which opposes the 1993 Oslo accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel, has repeatedly said that it will not negotiate with Israel. However, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas, who was released by Israel after 8 years in prison this week, has taken a much softer stand towards Israel suggesting that a ceasefire against civilians is possible if Israel was to stop measures against Palestinian civilians. The King said that as far as Jordan is concerned, if Mr. Misha'al was killed in the assassination attempt, his death would have brought an end to the peace process in the Middle East. Referring to President Bill Clinton but without naming him, the King said that he made a telephone call to "a very important international personality, which played a role from the very beginning in the efforts [to overcome the problem]. "I told him that the fate of the peace process is dependent on the life of this Jordanian (Khaled Misha'al)," the King said. The King said that during his talks and contacts to solve the issue, "our utmost priority was to save the life of this Jordanian (Mr. Misha'al) and that was achieved. The responsible party (Israel) submitted all the information it could, without which it would have been difficult to accomplish our target, to save the life of that person." During the assassination attempt, one of the two Israeli agents, attacked Mr. Misha'al and reportedly sprayed a "chemical substance" into his ear using a "strange instrument." The King said that, following the assassination attempt, Mr. Netanyahu visited Amman with two of his senior ministers to express his regrets. The King said that His Royal Highness met with the three, Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and Minister of Infrastructure Ariel Sharon. The King said the three arrived in Jordan on the night of Sept. 29. "I delegated my brother to meet them. They expressed their pain and regret because Jordan was treated (by Israel) in such a way and (pledged) that this will not be repeated again under any circumstances," the King said. The King said Jordan would not accept "such methods in any circumstances. "These acts slaps in the face, and we will slap back." The King confirmed news reports that Mr. Sharon arrived in Amman on Oct. 4 to conclude a deal and to arrange for the release of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Jordanian and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and the two Mossad agents who were detained by the authorities for their role in the assassination attempt. He explained that Israel agreed to release "23 Jordanian prisoners. of which nine are back [in Jordan] and the rest who live in the West Bank and carry Jordanian passports went back to their families. 50 Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza will be released within days." The King added that the reminder of Jordanian prisoners will also be freed within two weeks. The King said that Israel pledged to respect its peace treaty with Jordan in "letter and spirit." The King said that he repeatedly called for the release of Sheikh Yassin from his detention, and "he was released to Jordan and received all necessary treatment before he left for Gaza." The King said that part of the reason behind the decision to release the two Mossad agents was taking into accounts that there was no "weapon" found and no evidence found to allow for trial. The factor that played the greatest role in the release of the two Israeli was that if they were sent to trial "it would not have been possible to save our son (Khaled Misha'al) nor could we have achieved other things," said the King, referring to the release of Sheikh Yassin and the prisoners. Putting the blame on Mr. Netanyahu and other high level Israeli officials, the King said that the two Israeli agents should not be blamed for the attack but those who ordered them to carry it out. The conflict "is not with the two agents. Those are soldiers who carry out orders. The problem is with the party which gave orders for such an act. It bears the responsibility," for the King said. The King also explained that had Jordan adopted a tougher position following the incident, that would have backfired on the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which were about to restart after a long impasse. "We took also in consideration the current negotiations between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government. We did not want to put more weight pressure (on the Israelis), hoping that the talks would be fruitful," the King said. He said that he received messages from Jews inside and outside of Israel denouncing the attack against Mr. Misha'al, as well as from people all over the world. "The dignity of the Jordanian citizen, his right to a secured life on his land and the dignity of the country are above all considerations," he King said. Regarding the Palestinian people, the King said that he will do whatever he could to enable them to acquire "their rights on their soil" adding that he will work hard to help in releasing more Palestinians from Israeli jails. The King said that Jordan will never be a base for conspiracy against any country "nor will it be a base for harming anyone, whoever he may be." He stressed that Jordan will remain "secure" for its people and those who visit it. The King greeted the bodyguard of Mr. Misha'al "for the courage he showed" and the Jordanian security forces for their efforts.