Abdullah Ibn Hussein°

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ABDULLAH IBN HUSSEIN ° (1882–1951), first king of the Hashemite Kingdom of *Jordan. Abdullah was born in Mecca, the second son of the sharīf Hussein ibn Ali, into the Hashemite family that traced its descent from the prophet Muhammad and had been rulers of Mecca from the 11th century c.e. He grew up in Constantinople, where he received the traditional education of a Muslim gentleman and became, in effect, his father's political secretary. After Hussein had been installed as emir of Mecca in 1908, Abdullah was instrumental in the secret negotiations with the British that resulted in the "Arab Revolt" of 1916 and in the Allies' recognition of Hussein as king of the Hejaz. Toward the end of 1920 Abdullah moved north with a Bedouin army with the avowed intent of restoring his brother Faisal, who had just been evicted by the French, to the throne of Syria. At a meeting in Jerusalem in March 1921, Winston *Churchill, then British colonial secretary, offered Abdullah the administration of Transjordan. Out of this tentative arrangement grew the emirate of Transjordan, with Abdullah as hereditary ruler, under the general terms of the British mandate over Palestine, which comprised Transjordan, but with the clauses pertaining to the Jewish National Home expressly deleted. The police of the emirate, soon styled the "Arab Legion," developed into a field force during World War ii under John B. Glubb and took on a Bedouin character more and more. In 1946 a treaty with Britain awarded Abdullah formal independence, and he assumed the royal title forthwith. In 1948 the Arab Legion, with British connivance, occupied the greater part of Samaria and Judea (designated by the un resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, as part of an independent Arab State). This was secured by Abdullah in the 1949 armistice with Israel, and he incorporated these territories into his kingdom, henceforth called Jordan. On July 20, 1951, Abdullah was assassinated as he left al-Aqṣā Mosque in Jerusalem. His murder was generally ascribed to revenge for his readiness to negotiate with Israel for the partition of Palestine and the annexation of its Arab sections. It was also the culmination of his long-standing feud with the Husseini family and its head Hajj Amīn, the former Mufti of Jerusalem.

Ever since he had arrived in Transjordan Abdullah had been dissatisfied with the barren, desolate piece of land allotted to him by the British and, from the outset, sought to expand his realm. His prime vision was of a multinational Hashemite Greater Syria, but as a pragmatist, he was ready to settle for Palestine or even for its Arab sections alone. Hence, even though Abdullah's published views of the Palestine problem did not deviate from those of Arab nationalists in general, his moderate style when addressing Westerners made them, if anything, more effective. In the Israeli War of Independence, the Arab Legion proved the most dangerous enemy Israel faced in the field. However, for much of the 30-year period of his political activity, Abdullah maintained secret contacts with Jewish leaders, assuring them of his readiness to cooperate on his own terms. The highlights of these contacts were an agreement in 1933 with the *Jewish Agency (subsequently disavowed by Abdullah) to lease about 70,000 dunams of crown land in the Jordan Valley and intermittent talks between Abdullah and certain Jewish leaders (prominent among whom were Golda *Meir and Eliyahu *Sasson) during the War of Independence. All these contacts were without tangible result, with the exception of the modifications in the 1949 armistice line with Jordan. Yet he continued his negotiations with Israel for a peace treaty or for a non-aggression pact until 1950. Abdullah was a confirmed Arab nationalist, but, self-possessed and of an ancient ruling family, he lacked that admixture of frustration and hatred that became a characteristic of the next generation's nationalism. Moreover, even before World War i, Arab nationalism had been welded to his vision of Hashemite aggrandizement, and this twin concept never lost its hold on him. Abdullah is best understood as an opportunistic politician, short-range realist, and dynastic dreamer, also in his dealings with the Jews of Ereẓ Israel. The 1950 annexation of Arab Palestine (the "West Bank") not only led to his eventual murder but also completely changed the nature and the future of Jordan. He wrote Memoirs of King Abdullah of Transjordan (English tr., 1950) and My Memoirs Completed (English tr., 1954).


J.B. Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs (1957), index; idem, Story of the Arab Legion (1948), index; A. al-Tall, Kārithat Filastin (1949) (Hebrew tr. Zikhronot Abdallah al-Tall, 1960), passim. add. bibliography: K.T. Nimri, Abdullah Ibn Hussein, A Study in Arab Political Leadership (1977); M.C. Wilson, King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan (1987).

[Uriel Dann /

Joseph Nevo (2nd ed.)]

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Abdullah Ibn Hussein°

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