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Peace: the road that leads to war — Part 7

JORDAN: Of all the Arabs surrounding Israel, Jordan’s late King Hussein was the exception—he had genuinely wanted to cooperate with Israel for years. But the king remembered that his grandfather, King Abdullah, moved to make peace with Israel and was assassinated on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, in July 1951. From the 1967 Six-Day War onwards, Hussein had met secretly with every Israeli leader since Golda Meir, and twice provided former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir with kosher Shabbat meals in one of his English homes where Shamir actually slept over. The King needed peace with Israel in order to axe the cost of maintaining a large and, unquestionably, the best Arab fighting force in existence. Jordan’s army and air force was leeching a large portion of his kingdom’s somewhat meager annual budget, and the military existed largely to confront Israel.

The late King Hussein recognized Israel’s substantial military and economic powers and desired cooperation in both fields. After the devastating Six-Day War in which Jordan fared worse than all other Arab invaders, Jordan has not taken any meaningful part in subsequent Arab-Israeli conflicts. Of the Six-Day War Hussein claimed he was forced to go in and was recorded as having said: “I believe I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t—but more damned if I don’t.” This was a hint that he was more frightened of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, his then immense neighbor who he said, “could swallow him for breakfast,” and he was, in effect, saying that he “lost half of his kingdom, but otherwise he would have lost his throne” For the same reasons he spoke for Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

Israel and Jordan, however, not only cooperated together against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1968’s Operation Inferno, but they have also been cooperating together for years in the fields of irrigation technology, agriculture, mining Dead Sea minerals, etc., and their “de facto peace” had been far more effective and beneficial than has Israel’s formal peace with Egypt that was signed in 1979.

After the signing of the Israeli-PLO accord, Hussein seized his opportunity and signed a formal peace treaty with Israel. The PLO, however, protested, and enforced a complete strike throughout all Israeli administered territories! Yasser Arafat and the PLO planned on destroying Israel, and signed a pseudo peace agreement to effect that plan. Jordan’s late king Hussein walked in and not only signed a bona fide agreement, but immediately opened his borders to Israelis and established a Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The late King Hussein killed more than the two proverbial birds with one stone. He formally made peace with Israel, ending the official state of war between them—accomplishing what he had feared to do for more than forty years. And, as compensation for doing what he was more than happy to do, the American House of Representatives immediately wrote off $220 million from Jordan’s United States debt, and the whole of the remaining $474 million was expected to be written off during the next three years. In addition, by opening its borders to Israel, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Jordan within a few short weeks—seeing the sights, tasting the foods, and buying the souvenirs forbidden to them for nearly 50 years. The future, however, will not be without pain—the days of the late Hussein’s Hashemite kingdom are numbered.

Jordan’s late King Hussein had been battling cancer for some time, and Arab sources close to the king said in early 1994 that he was still quite ill and only expected to live for another year or so; however he lived until February 1999, but not before leaving his mark on history.

The former king was a Hashemite, the descendant of Arabian rulers driven out by the Saud clan in the early 1920s. The king’s forefathers, right down to his grandfather Abdullah Ibn Hussein, were born in Mecca, and from there the Hashemites also administered the Islamic shrines in Jerusalem. (The late king claimed—as does the present king, Abdullah II—direct descent from Mohammed, but the former king generated ire in the hearts of many Muslims by marrying Elizabeth Halaby, an American who assumed the name Nur el-Hussein in 1978, and also by being a 33rd degree Freemason—the highest degree in Freemasonry).

Hussein’s great-grandfather, Sharif Hussein Ibn Ali, was Emir of Mecca under the Ottoman Turks and launched the British-aided Arab revolt in June 1916. The rebellion was successful and Sharif Hussein assumed the title King of Hijaz. Abdullah his son was his political advisor and Foreign Minister.

In 1921, Abdullah gathered troops together and marched on Syria to restore Arab-Hashemite rule from under the French. He entered Amman in June, but the British, who had been given the mandate to establish the Jewish national home in Palestine, wanted to avoid a clash between their Hashemite allies and the French. The British proposed to slice off a whopping 77 percent of the designated Jewish homeland and give it to Abdullah for appeasement. Abdullah duly accepted the British offer and became the Emir of Transjordan. He later assumed the title of King and renamed his realm the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Today, Jordan without the West Bank is three and a half times the size of Israel with the West Bank. Jordan, including 1993’s estimated 960,200 “Palestinian refugees,” only supports a little more than 60 percent of Israel’s current population of 8.1 million, which does not include the Arab population figures for the West Bank.

Unfortunately for today’s King Abdullah II, only a tiny minority of Jordanians are Hashemites. His “subjects” are nearly 70 percent Palestinian (remember, “Palestine is Jordan, and Jordan is Palestine”—written about in The Conflict — Part 6), and the remainder is mostly nomadic Bedouins. Many Jordanians, therefore, regarded king Hussein as a foreigner, owed him no loyalty, and saw him merely as an undemocratically elected leader. Again unfortunately, Hussein’s son Abdullah II is viewed with much the same suspicion and has few loyal followers among his “subjects,” which bodes ill for the future of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In October 1994 King Abdullah II’s father Hussein hastily signed a formal peace agreement with Israel (Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan), this sent Jordan reeling in shock.

To be continued

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