Abdullah ibn-Hussein


Abdullah ibn-Hussein
(1882–1951)
   First king of Jordan. Abdullah was born in the holy city of Mecca, where his family had been the local rulers for ten centuries. His father, the Emir Hussein, was the nominal head of the Arab revolt against the Turks organized by Britain in World War I. The field commander of the guerrilla operations was Hussein’s third son, Emir FEISAL, with the assistance of Lawrence of Arabia. After the war, Feisal was installed by the British as king in Damascus, but expelled by the French. Abdullah, Hussein’s second son, marched up through the desert at the head of a Bedouin force to help his brother. Britain and France had reached agreement on the Near East and Feisal was given a throne in Iraq, which fell under British mandate. In 1921 Winston CHURCHILL, then colonial secretary, met Abdullah in Jerusalem and pacified him by making him emir of Transjordan, constituting five-sevenths of the area under the Palestine mandate. The Jewish National Home provisions of the mandate were then deleted regarding Transjordan. The Zionist Executive had little choice but to acquiesce in the arrangement.
   Small in stature and mild in manner, Abdullah was a less impressive figure than Feisal. However, he shared his brother’s political shrewdness, sense of realism, dignity and personal courage. His emirate was mostly desert, with 300, 000 inhabitants, the majority of them nomad or semi-nomad. He saw that its future lay in co-existence with the dynamic Zionist yishuv growing up in Western Palestine. He probably had in mind the abortive agreement of co- operation Feisal had made with Dr WEIZMANN at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In holding these views, Abdullah was out of step with the extremist Palestinian Arab nationalism led by Haj Amin el-HUSSEINI, the mufti of Jerusalem, with the shrill anti-Zionist rhetoric coming out of Cairo and other Arab capitals, and with his British masters, who wanted no Zionist intrusion across the Jordan River. There was something of a test case in 1933. Abdullah was willing to grant a long lease to the Jewish Agency over a tract in the Jordan valley, believing that this would stimulate development in Transjordan. But Arab and British pressure compelled him to abandon the idea.
   In 1946 Transjordan was given its independence, with the mandate replaced by a treaty with Britain, and Abdullah now a king. In May 1948 the mandate ended over Western Palestine,and the State of Israel came into being and was promptly invaded by the armed forces of five Arab states. Before then, there had been secret contacts between Abdullah and the Zionist leaders, aimed at an understanding whereby he would keep out of the fighting, accept Jewish statehood, and take over the parts of the country allocated to the Arabs under the United Nations partition plan of 1947. Four days before the end of the mandate, Golda MEIR, disguised as an Arab woman, slipped across the border and was driven to a meeting with the king in his capital, Amman. Abdullah told her that he was no longer interested in such an understanding. The Arab governments were confident that the pending Jewish state would be overrun by their armies. In any case, Abdullah was well placed to seize the Arab areas, using the Transjordan Arab Legion for the purpose.
   The legion had been formed by the British authorities before Jordan became independent. It consisted of some 12,000 men, mostly Bedouin loyal to the Hashemite monarchy. Its commander, Glubb Pasha, and its senior officers, were British. During World War II it was used for guard duties in Palestine. After the war, the legion was stationed in Western Palestine. When the mandate ended it occupied the hill country of Samaria and Judea. Jewish Jerusalem was cut off and shelled, and the legion took the eastern part by assault, including the Old City, where the Jewish quarter was demolished and its surviving inhabitants taken captive.
   The occupied areas were annexed, and Abdullah proclaimed a Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on both sides of the river. This expansion more than trebled the population of the kingdom.
   The unilateral annexation was condemned by the Arab League, and Jordan was expelled from that body. In fact, no state ever recognized Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, and only Britain and Pakistan recognized the incorporation of the West Bank into Jordan.
   Abdullah was enough of a realist to accept that the State of Israel had won its War of Independence, and had come to stay. After the armistice agreements of 1949 had ended the hostilities, discreet contacts were renewed between him and Israel leaders. A peace settlement would have consolidated both the new State of Israel and the enlarged kingdom of Jordan, and opened the way for future co- operation between them. An outline of an agreement was secretly worked out, then left suspended until Abdullah could prepare Arab opinion for it. One of the king’s measures was to grant full Jordanian citizenship to all the residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Arab refugees, in a bid for their allegiance. On 20 July 1951, Abdullah was shot dead as he was coming through the doorway of the El Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. The assassin was a henchman of the king’s fanatical enemy, the former mufti of Jerusalem. That bullet shattered the hopes of an Israel-Jordan peace for decades to come. Abdullah’s son and successor, Talal, suffered from mental illness, and abdicated in favour of his own young son, HUSSEIN. The youth had been at Abdullah’s side when he was assassinated. In June 1967, King Hussein joined in another Arab war against Israel. His forces were pushed back across the Jordan River, and all that Abdullah had gained in 1948 was left under Israel control.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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