WADI ARABA CROSSING, Jordanian-Israeli Border, Oct. 26 -- With a joint 21-gun salute from their armies, Jordan and Israel put aside nearly half a century of armed conflict Wednesday and signed the first peace treaty between the Jewish state and one of its Arab neighbors in 15 years. 'This is peace with dignity,' Jordan's King Hussein told an audience of some 5,000 invited guests at a newly opened border station decorated with hundreds of Israeli and Jordanian flags. 'This is peace with commitment. This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come.' Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Salam Majali signed the massive document, with Hussein and U.S. President Bill Clinton looking on during the colorful 90-minute ceremony under a sweltering desert sun. Clinton also signed the treaty as an official witness. Both the king and Rabin, a career general, recalled the 46 years of war between them and said they had arrived at the greatest moment of their lives. 'May this day bring the end of wars, violence, hostile actions, and may we know war no more,' Rabin said. 'For nearly two generations, desolation pervaded the hearts of our two peoples. The time has now come not merely to dream of a better future, but to realize it.' Both Hussein and Rabin praised the role of the United States in helping to broker the treaty. Clinton in turn lauded the courage of Hussein and Rabin to make peace with each other.
'I say to the people of Israel and Jordan, now you must make this peace real: to turn no man's land into every man's home. To take down the barbed wire, to remove the deadly mines, to help the wounds of war to heal,' said Clinton, who donned sunglasses to guard against the intense sun and blowing dust. 'Open your borders, open your hearts. Peace is more than an agreement on paper. It is feeling, it is activity, it is devotion.' Clinton ended by quoting the biblical injunction: 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they will inherit the earth.' Missing from the ceremony was Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, who signed his own peace agreement with Israel last May, but was miffed at Israel's promise of a 'special role' for Jordan in Jerusalem, which Arafat wants to make the capital of a future Palestinian state. Another no-show was the singer Barbra Streisand, who Israeli organizers had said would sing at the event. In attendance, however, were representatives from several Arab states, including Egypt and Oman, as well diplomats from Europe and Asia. The ceremony,at the crossing station hurriedly assembled in a barren minefield last August about 1 mile (2 km) from the Red Sea beach resorts of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel, was filled with military pomp. Army bands played the national anthems of Jordan, Israel and the United States as honor guards from both countries together fired a 21- gun salute. Although organized formally, the event had a casual air as guests and journalists from both countries mixed easily, sharing bottled water and souvenirs. Extraordinary security surrounded the event, with more than 1,000 soldiers, police and secret service agents from the three countries guarding the VIPs. Israeli and Jordanian air force jets buzzed the area all morning to guard against threats by militant groups opposed to the peace accord. The ceremony ended with a massive release of balloons, which wafted over the desert in the colors of the flags of Israel and Jordan. After the event, Hussein hosted Rabin, Clinton and their wives for lunch at his palace in Aqaba. When Israeli reporters asked Hussein when he planned to visit Jerusalem, the king smiled and said, 'Very, very soon, indeed.' Clinton later was to travel to Amman to deliver a speech before the Parliament of Jordan, where the day was declared a national holiday. All banks and schools were closed to mark the signing of the historic pact. In the treaty, worked out in four months of intensive direct negotiations between the two neighbors, Israel and Jordan agreed not only to end hostilities, but to cement a 'warm peace' with commercial and tourism ties. That would contrast with the 'cold peace' existing since 1979 between Israel and Egypt, the first Arab country to accept Israel as a legitimate state in the Middle East. 'Peace is hereby established between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,' the document begins. 'The parties recognize and respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence.' The treaty also defines a permanent border between the two states, returning some 380 square kilometers (147 square miles) of land Israel has held since 1948, but leaving the status of the occupied West Bank as an issue to be decided between Israel and the Palestinians. Jordan also agreed to lease back to Israel several parcels of land that have been settled as kibbutzim, or communal farms, in the Arava desert. Another major sticking point in negotiations was settled in an agreement to share water resources and increase the amount of water Jordan can take from the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers that divide the two neighbors. 'The parties recognize that their water resources are not sufficient to meet their needs,' the treaty says. 'More water should be supplied for their use through various methods, including projects of regional and international cooperation.' And in an interesting addition, Jordan pledged to oppose the 46-year- old Arab economic boycott of Israel and encourage the rest of the Arab world to do the same. Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf neighbors have recently relaxed the boycott, but still refrain from doing business directly with Israel.