Book: Jordan King Warned Golda Meir
By Barry Schweid
AP Diplomatic Writer
Wednesday, April 15, 1998; 12:44 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- King Hussein of Jordan urged the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir shortly before the 1973 Yom Kippur war to make a peace move toward Egypt because his intelligence had found ominous buildups along the Egyptian and Syrian borders, says a new book.
While the king did not know the two Arab nations planned to move against Israel 12 days later, his report alarmed Mrs. Meir as they met secretly north of Tel Aviv, says the book by Israel journalist Samuel Segev. She immediately notified Moshe Dayan, her defense minister, who ordered an emergency meeting of the Israeli general staff.
A senior Army officer who was at the Sept. 25, 1973, meeting with Mrs. Meir and the king suspected a coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack was possible, Segev writes in ``Crossing the Jordan,'' to be published in late April by St. Martin's Press.
But Gen. David Elazar, the chief of staff, and Gen. Eli Zeira, the chief of military intelligence, saw nothing new in the warning.
Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Oct. 6. Israel defeated Syria while Egypt and Israel fought to a draw, setting the stage for former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy and eventual peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Hussein had lost the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. In the 1973 conflict, he sent an armored brigade to assist Syria on the Golan Heights. The Jordanian brigade lost 22 tanks, but Hussein continued to send reinforcements.
Despite past wars with Israel and its support for Syria, Segev writes that the king had a ``warm and trustful'' relationship with Mrs. Meir and met with her secretly several times. Once, in May 1973, the king's helicopter landed at an airstrip north of Jerusalem, and he then flew in an Israeli helicopter to Tel Aviv.
Mrs. Meir served him tea. ``I have never been served by a prime minister,'' the king told her, Segev writes, and Mrs. Meir replied instantly: ``And I have never had the honor of serving a king.''
According to the book, Israel had saved the king's life several times, warning him of assassination plots and of military coups backed by Egypt and Syria. In gratitude, Hussein assembled all living leaders of Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence operation, and their wives in a palace in Amman as his official guests for two days in February 1995.
The gathering was organized by then-deputy Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who last week was named the new chief of the Israeli intelligence agency.
On another front, with Iraq, the book discloses that retired Gen. Abraham Tamir, then director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, met several times in 1985 and 1986 with Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz and Nizar Hamdoon, then Iraq's ambassador to Washington. The meetings occurred in Paris and Geneva.
The talks progressed to the point that in 1989, Iraq suggested a meeting in Baghdad between Saddam Hussein and Israel's then-defense minister Yitzhak Rabin. The offer was made through an American banker, Robert Abboud, and an Israeli businessman and former intelligence official, Azriel Enav.
Rabin refused to travel to the Iraqi capital and suggested instead a meeting in the United States, Europe or Cairo, Egypt. While preparations were under way, Rabin changed his mind because of a detailed Mossad report about Iraqi plans to produce weapons of mass destruction. Rabin suspected the meeting idea was meant only to shield the Iraqi program.
Segev surmises that one of Saddam's motives for wanting to meet with Rabin was to get U.S. economic assistance after the devastation of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran.
(c) Copyright 1998 The Associated Press