February 5, 1999
PHIL PONCE: King Hussein ruled Jordan for 46 years, longer than any other modern leader in the Middle East. He gained wide acclaim for moving Jordan and its Arab neighbors toward peace with Israel.
Jordan, a nation of about four million people, borders Israel, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Hussein was born in 1935 in Amman to the royal Hashemite family. He became king in 1953 at age 18, after his grandfather was assassinated, and his father, who suffered from schizophrenia, abdicated. Hussein spent his early years as king solidifying his base of power.
He survived several coups and attempts on his life. In 1967, Jordan joined Egypt and Syria in an ill-fated attack against Israel in what became known as the Six Day War. Jordan suffered heavy casualties and lost control of the West Bank and the city of East Jerusalem.
|Worth the effort.|
KING HUSSEIN: The losses were tremendous, but the fact is that we are proud that we fought honorably and we are proud of our men, proud of the fact that despite all the odds, we were able to stand Israel.
PHIL PONCE: In the 1970's, Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat challenged the king's authority, but in later years, the two men forged an alliance and worked together for peace. In 1978, the king married for the fourth time. 26-year-old American Lisa Halaby came to be known as Queen Noor. The king had four children with her in addition to seven from previous marriages.
Because of Jordan's history of good relations with northern neighbor Iraq, and because of Saddam Hussein's popularity with Jordanians, the king refused to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After the Gulf War, Hussein was committed to a lasting peace in the Middle East. Now an elder statesman, he suffered a bout of cancer in 1992 and had a kidney removed. During a visit to the United States in 1993, he appeared on the NewsHour and explained what motivated him.
KING HUSSEIN: Well, peace, if it comes to that part of the world, will mean a great difference to a lot of people and the area's important to the rest of the world. It will mean peace between the followers of the three great religions. It will mean an entirely new future for that entire region, and it will mean the removal of the root cause of a lot of instability within the region and beyond. So isn't that worth the effort?
PHIL PONCE: In 1994, he and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace treaty which formally ended 46 years of war between the two nations. When Rabin was killed in 1995, Hussein gave an emotional tribute to his one-time foe.
KING HUSSEIN: 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. You lived as a soldier, you died as a soldier for peace.
I commit before you, before my people in Jordan, before the world, myself to continue to do our utmost to ensure that we leave a similar legacy. And when my time comes, I hope it will be like my grandfather's, and like Yitzhak Rabin's.
PHIL PONCE: Last year, at the urging of President Clinton, Hussein came to the Wye Plantation in Maryland for another round of peace talks. He interrupted his chemotherapy at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic for another cancer, non-Hodkgins Lymphoma. Together with Netanyahu and Arafat, he helped forge another peace accord.
KING HUSSEIN: We quarrel, we agree, we are friendly, we are not friendly, but we have no right to dictate, through irresponsible action or narrow-mindedness, the future of our children and their children's children.
There has been enough destruction -- enough death -- enough waste. And it's time that, together, we occupy a place beyond ourselves, our peoples, that is worthy of them under the sun, the descendants of the children of Abraham.
PHIL PONCE: Last month, he personally flew his jet for part of the journey home from the Mayo Clinic. He was met by jubilant crowds who thought he was cured. He surprised the country by naming his eldest son, Abdullah, crown prince. The king's brother, Hassan, had held that position since 1965.
Then, just hours after making that switch, a weak Hussein flew back to Minnesota for yet another bone marrow transplant. The 37-year-old Abdullah is a political novice with little experience in international affairs. But he spent his first weeks as crown prince meeting world leaders including U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In Amman today, the Jordanian people have already begun to mourn the expected loss of their 63-year-old king.
|The traditional white scarf.|
JIM LEHRER: And to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, four views on King Hussein and his impact and influence.
Edward Djerejian was assistant secretary of state for near-eastern affairs during the Bush administration. He was the number-two man at the U.S. embassy in Jordan from 1981 to 1984, and served as ambassador to Syria and Israel as well. He now runs the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
Nora Boustany is a reporter at the Washington Post. She was the Post's bureau chief in Jordan's capital, Amman, from 1993 to 1995. Naseer Aruri is professor emeritus of Middle East politics at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He's written a book about Jordan.
And Robert Satloff is the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He's written widely on Jordanian politics. Nora, before we get into tonight's discussion, there's a wire story just moved half an hour ago saying that the family of Jordan's King Hussein has decided against disconnecting the life-support system keeping him alive.
This is a Reuters report according to a source close to the palace. I know you've been talking to people there. What can you tell us about the situation?
NORA BOUSTANY, Washington Post: Well, the king has not been pronounced totally dead, but his liver is not functioning, his kidney is not functioning. I think his heart is still beating. He's in a coma. And members of the family left the hospital this afternoon Amman time, this morning our time, some were crying, dressed in black with the traditional white scarf, with the exception of Queen Noor.
MARGARET WARNER: The white scarf denoting -
NORA BOUSTANY: Denoting mourning. But there are religious complications. In Islam, you let a man die naturally, so they don't believe in pulling the plug. There is this, and once a man is pronounced dead, or a woman, there's a saying that you honor the dead by burying them. He has to be buried by sundown the next day after the announcement at the latest. So I don't think they can announce the death before all the preparations for the state funeral are in place.
MARGARET WARNER: Anything you want to add to that, Rob? I know you've been talking to people, also.
ROBERT SATLOFF, Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Just to add to what Nora said, it does seem as though there are different committees being formed, a committee of the family to deal with the issue in the hospital, a committee in parliament to deal with the eventual succession, and a committee of former prime ministers to deal with the funeral itself.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. How should we think of this man -- I mean in terms of his significance and his impact on his country, on his region?
ROBERT SATLOFF: I think it's fair to say that Hussein will go down, when he does pass, as one of the remarkable leaders of this half of the 20th century. And I think he'll be known for three things principally: First for being a survivor.
He has risen survival to the level of statesmanship, and he's a statesman for many reasons, but one first and foremost is because he has been there so long -- secondly, for the way he made peace, not the fact that he made it, because Sadat had done that beforehand, but he infused humanity and substance into the making of peace; and thirdly, for what he did to Jordan. He made Jordan a real country, a country which you can -- from which you can take away the question mark, will it survive after Hussein? I think the answer is yes.
MARGARET WARNER: What would you add to that, Nora?
NORA BOUSTANY: Yes, I would agree with Rob. All his actions, if you look at his actions, there was always a motive of survival. He ruled by instinct, he ruled from the heart. But many Jordanians equate their survival with his, which is why that country now is going through this very painful existential question, will we survive without King Hussein.
|Magnified the role of Jordan.|
MARGARET WARNER: Ed Djerejian, would you put him in the ranks of significant influential, historic, you apply the adjective, but rulers of that region?
EDWARD DJEREJIAN, Former State Department Official: Margaret, would I definitely put him into the ranks of a most significant leader in the Middle East. His -- he has marked a great deal of the history of the Middle East.
He has magnified the role of Jordan in a way that it played a critical role in the whole context of Arab-Israeli peacemaking and in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict itself in both terms of war and peace. He also was a key leader in regional politics in terms of regional security and stability and had to fend off many forces that were targeted against his regime, his policies, basically of moderation. And therefore, he has marked history. I think he will go down as a significant leader.
MARGARET WARNER: Professor Aruri, he was a controversial figure in the Arab world, was he not?
NASEER ARURI, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: Yes, indeed, he was a controversial figure in the Arab world, and I think that has to do really with the circumstances under which he ruled. I mean he came to power in 1953 at a very young age, and only three years after that, he had his first real test when he rode a wave of nationalist feeling and fired his British commander-in-chief, who was actually a symbol of Jordanian dependency on the West, on Britain.
MARGARET WARNER: And this was the British general who was actually in charge of his military?
NASEER ARURI: The British general who was the commander-in-chief of his armed forces, but only to reverse himself after that and to establish really what came very close to a police state in Jordan. In 1967 of course there was the war-- and by the way, I think that your narrator in the beginning of the program said that he and Egypt attacked Israel.
I just think that that ought to be corrected. But there were many people I think in the region who were not really exactly happy with the way he conducted diplomacy after 1976. There was also his attack against the Palestinians in 1970, what they called the Black September events when he clashed with the Palestinian guerrillas. I think that the Arab world was largely sympathetic to -
MARGARET WARNER: And you're speaking - let me just remind -- you're speaking there of when he kicked essentially kicked the PLO out of Jordan?
NASEER ARURI: Exactly. I mean, there was actually a dualism in Jordan in 1970. I mean, there was the authority of Arafat and that of Jordan - of King Hussein at the same time. But I think the outcome of that war was seen in the Arab world in a way that I think that the sympathies were largely really with the Palestinians and against King Hussein. I think this largely really has to do with the fact that Hussein tried to balance the -- his reliance on the West against trying to accommodate Arab public opinion and Jordanian public opinion. I think he succeeded in that fairly well.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you agree, Rob Satloff, that it was really a balancing act for him between those two imperatives?
ROBERT SATLOFF: Well, I think Hussein very much was an Arab patriot, but he also understood that Hashemite Jordan was different from the radical Arab regimes around it - Nassar's Egypt, radical Iraq, radical Syria, that Hashemite Jordan to survive this conservative ruling elite had to have alliances with the West and a strategic understanding at least with Israel, not that Hussein and Israel were ever allies.
That's incorrect. But they had common interests, a fear of radicalism and a fear of Palestinian irredentism, and that did motivate a lot of what King Hussein did with the Israelis and with Arabs for 30/40 years.
NASEER ARURI: I think that they might not have been allies -- I agree with that view, but it seems to me that I think that Hussein understood really the raison d'Ítre of Jordan -- why Jordan was created back in the 1920's, in the early 1920's. I mean, it was created by Britain as a state to be a buffer between Palestine, where authority was vested in the British government, and the Arab world, particularly revolutionaries who were disgruntled because they were unable to set up a nationalist regime in Syria.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay, Professor, let me -
NASEER ARURI: So I think he knew that quite well.
|The balancing act .|
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Let me get Nora Boustany in here. Do you agree with Professor Aruri that he did have this balancing act and that he did it successfully?
NORA BOUSTANY: I think he did it successfully. You know, I mean, you would see over the span of 46 years, King Hussein would commit one act and then would contradict himself by 180 degrees a few years later. I mean, he attacked the Fedayeen and he once announced, "we are all Fedayeen." He called for free elections.
He dissolved parliament. Everything he did he very was very sensitive to the forces that were threatening Jordan, this tiny, land-locked kingdom surrounded by greater Arab states and Israel, and he always did what he thought would further the viability of Jordan, and I think he succeeded.
MARGARET WARNER: Ed Djerejian, how would you explain -- or would this be the explanation for why, in 1967 he could be attacking Israel, and we saw him say he was proud then of what they had done, and 25 years later, he's really taking the lead in trying to build a peace with Israel?
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: Well, I think in 1967 he was urged by the Israelis not to attack. He attacked I think because he felt compelled to display solidarity with the Arab world. It was a very costly decision in terms of the loss of the West Bank and Jerusalem. But then King Hussein, I believe, and in my dealings with him, especially in Amman, was a man who realized that the only outcome could be an outcome through peaceful negotiations.
And therefore, these private channels to the Israelis that date back decades, his total determination to establish through dialogue the possibilities of peace, and I think this culminated of course in 1994 when he directly, with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, negotiated the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty and I think that certainly is a great accomplishment.
But I think it's very important to note now that this peace treaty, as important as it is between Israel and Jordan, needs to be consolidated. And it can only be consolidated, in my view, by the rest of the Arab-Israeli peace process moving forward, especially in terms of Jordan, the Israel-Palestinian negotiations, and also, very importantly, that the Israeli-Syrian-Israeli-Lebanese negotiations that have been moribund since '96 must move forward because Jordan's peace treaty cannot stand alone.
And I think the successor to the throne in Jordan, this is going to be one of the greatest challenges that Abdullah's going to face, is the consolidation in peace.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me just ask the professor one other question about King Hussein before we talk about Abdullah briefly. Professor, why do you think, then -- I mean the other great break he had with the United States was, of course, not supporting the coalition against Iraq. How do you explain that?
NASEER ARURI: I'm sorry. I did not get your question.
MARGARET WARNER: In the Persian Gulf War, he did not support the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, and -
NASEER ARURI: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: -- that caused him real problems, not only with the U.S., but with the Saudis and others. And I just wondered if you wanted to comment on that.
NASEER ARURI: Yes, I mean I think that this was really typical of King Hussein. If you look at his life, I mean throughout, he was really zig zagging between positions, and that's what I meant by the equilibrium -- the balancing act -- just as he said we are all if a day even, once upon a time just as he kicked out General Glub, he also yielded to public opinion in Jordan, which was largely in favor of having a negotiated settlement and did not really think that the United States was interested in negotiations and that, in fact, a decision was made by the Bush administration to invade Iraq no matter what.
I think that he yielded to that decision, and it is something that perhaps he regretted later on, and he made amends, and he was, you know, blessed again and brought back to the fold. But that's typical of the man.
MARGARET WARNER: Rob Satloff, finally, the point that Ed Djerejian just brought up, do you think that his designated heir, Prince Abdullah is going to continue in the same tradition, one, and is capable of doing it in the same way that the king was?
ROBERT SATLOFF: Well, we can only look to see whether he will he will pursue it. I think he will have a difficult time injecting the same creativity, enthusiasm, flexibility and iconoclasm that the king did. It's one thing to be committed to peace as a strategic option.
It's another thing to infuse that peace with the humanity, with the warmth, with the notion of cooperation and normally sayings that the king did. That was unique. No one else in the Arab world has done that. And that will be a major challenge for Abdullah.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, well, thank you all four very much.
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