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Hussein I

Hussein I

Hussein I, 1935-99, king of Jordan; educated in England at Harrow and Sandhurst. He ascended the throne (1953) after his grandfather Abdullah I had been killed (1951) by a Palestinian extremist and after his father was declared (1952) mentally unfit to serve as king. The target of more than a dozen assassination attempts, Hussein generally espoused a moderate pro-Western policy that brought him into conflict with leftist leaders in other Arab countries as well as with Palestinians in Jordan. He maintained his throne largely through the support of the British-trained Arab Legion and the fierce loyalty of the Bedouins of E Jordan. Despite a generally moderate stance toward Israel, he led Jordan into the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as a result of which Israel occupied all Jordan W of the Jordan River (the West Bank). This loss intensified the conflict between Hussein and the Palestinian guerrilla movement, and civil war erupted in 1970. Hussein was victorious and strengthened his rule, but at a 1974 Arab summit meeting he agreed to relinquish any claim to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization. During the Persian Gulf War, Hussein was isolated internationally when he refused to join the coalition against Iraq. Subsequently, however, he played a role in encouraging peace negotiations between Arabs and Israelis, and in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. He was succeeded by his son Abdullah II, an army officer he had named crown prince only weeks before he died.

See biographies by N. Ashton (2008) and A. Shlaim (2008).

Hussein bin Talal, King of Jordan (حسين بن طلال, Ḥusayn bin Ṭalāl) (November 14, 1935February 7, 1999) was the ruler of Jordan from the abdication of his father, King Talal, in 1952, until his death. Hussein guided his country in the context of the Cold War, and through four decades of Arab-Israeli conflict, balancing the pressures of Arab nationalism, the burdens of sheltering a large Palestinian refugee population, and the allure of Western-style development against the stark reality of Jordan's geographic location.

Hussein's family claims a line of descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad. "We are the family of the prophet and we are the oldest tribe in the Arab world," the king once said of his Hashemite ancestry.

Early life and accession

Hussein was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria. He proceeded to Harrow School in England, where he befriended his cousin Faisal II of Iraq. He pursued further study at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

On July 20, 1951, Prince Hussein traveled to Jerusalem to perform Friday prayers with his grandfather, King Abdullah I. A Palestinian extremist, fearing the king might negotiate a peace with the newly-created state of Israel, opened fire on Abdullah and his grandson. Abdullah was killed, but the 15-year-old Hussein survived, and turned to pursue the gunman. The assailant turned his weapon on the young prince, who was saved when the bullet was deflected by a medal on his uniform given to him by his grandfather.

Abdullah's eldest son, King Talal, was crowned King of Jordan, but within a year was forced to abdicate owing to his mental state (European and Arab doctors diagnosed schizophrenia). King Talal's son, Crown Prince Hussein, was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on August 11, 1952, at the age of 16; because this was under the legal age, he was enthroned a year later, on May 2, 1953.

Six-Day War

In mid-1967, Jordan joined Egypt and Syria to fight Israel in the Six Day War. Jordan lost control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem and saw its military shattered, but Hussein shored up his support among the country's growing Palestinian population.

Black September

In September 1970, the king ordered the forcible expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he considered to be attempting to foment a civil war, from the country.

The Gulf War

The country also defied the West and the other allied leaders by refusing to side against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War — allegedly done for internal political reasons after the Ma'an uprising in 1988 that threatened the throne of the King — which alienated the kingdom from most of the Arab world.

Peace with Israel

In 1994 King Hussein concluded negotiations to end the official state of war with Israel resulting in the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace which he had begun negotiating in secret with the Israelis in the 1970s.

King Hussein developed strong ties of friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom he had negotiated the peace treaty. King Hussein gave a powerful speech at the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin:

Full text:

My sister, Mrs. Leah Rabin, my friends, I had never thought that the moment would come like this when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend - a man, a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide whom we respected as he respected us. A man I came to know because I realized, as he did, that we have to cross over the divide, establish a dialogue, get to know each other and strive to leave for those who follow us a legacy that is worthy of them. And so we did. And so we became brethren and friends.

Books

The king wrote three books: Uneasy Lies the Head (1962), about his childhood and early years as king; My War With Israel (1969); and Mon Métier de Roi.

Death

He died of complications related to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on February 7, 1999. The King had been suffering from the disease for many years and had been treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, United States on a fairly regular basis.

Just before his death, he made a constitutionally-allowable change to his will, disinheriting the heir-apparent of several decades, his brother Hassan, in favor of his eldest son Abdullah. Then, with a recurrent fever, he abruptly returned to the U.S. clinic January 25 for further treatment. He underwent a bone marrow transplant earlier that week, but the transplant failed, and the king returned home to die. The King was, at the time of his death, one of the longest-serving leaders in international politics.

Personal life

King Hussein was married four times, although he was never married to more than one woman at the same time: his four wives were

King Hussein was an avid amateur radio operator (callsign JY1). He also loved to fly airplanes (prop and jet) as well as helicopters.

According to actor and comedian Mike Myers in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, King Hussein was a great fan of the Austin Powers movie series, and would do impressions of Dr. Evil at meetings with defense contractors and high-ranking officers of the U.S military.

King Hussein was succeeded as king by his eldest son Abdullah II of Jordan.

References

See also

External links

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