Many Arabs are greeting the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel without much joy. It may be a turning point in the 46-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict, but Arabs tend to regard the treaty as an admission of an Arab defeat in a long struggle rather than an honorable end that deserves rejoicing.
Unlike the anticipation that surrounded the Madrid peace conference of 1991, when hopes were high that a new era might be about to begin in the Middle East, the feeling this time is that an uneven peace treaty is taking shape in which Israel, and its strategic ally the United States, are reaping the fruits of a victory while Arabs are simply hitching themselves to an inevitable but not particularly rewarding venture.
Throughout the region, including Israel, the sentiment is that this is an agreement between heads of states, not peoples; that it is more of an American party than a Middle East feast; and that these dramatic advances are in need of much nursing before they can usher in a new era.
In Israel, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and senior figures in his Labor-led coalition government appear charmed by King Hussein and pleased with their success in prying open the doors of one Arab capital after another, the country seems to lag behind in this enthusiasm, still dwelling on the terrorist attacks that took nearly 30 lives in the last three weeks.
Among Palestinians here, the reaction to the peace accord, which provoked a widely observed general strike in Gaza and the West Bank, was uniformly hostile.
Frustrated by the virtual freezing of their talks with Israel and the Israeli closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many Palestinians feel that the peace treaty they signed last year in Washington was used to reach out to other Arabs at their expense.
The feeling of being discarded by both the United States and Israel is growing acute as Palestinians watch both nations court Arab governments from Morocco to Bahrain to Syria to join the "normalization process" being denied them.
"We want to know where we fit in future agreements," said Faisal Husseini, a senior PLO official in Jerusalem, echoing a feeling that was shared by many Palestinians interviewed in the West Bank and Gaza.
Particularly irritating is the increasing flirtation between Israel and Jordan over the status of East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem, which has a large Arab population, is in the minds of many Palestinians the future capital of what they hope will be an independent Palestinian state.
But over the last few months, there have been repeated assertions by Israel, reflected in the peace accords signed with Jordan, that the Islamic religious sites in Jerusalem should remain under the jurisdiction of Hussein.
In Jordan itself, it appears now that the king is moving ahead of his people in embracing peace with Israel.
With nearly half Jordan's population of 4-million composed of Palestinians, there has been a lackluster reception to the rapid developments of the last four months. The king remains enormously popular, but last week in conversations in Amman many Jordanians were wondering what has gotten into him and why he rushed to establish normal relations with Israel.