HUSSEIN ° (Ḥussayn bin Ṭalāl ; 1935–1999), king of the Hashemite Kingdom of *Jordan 1953–99; grandson of *Abdullah, founder of the kingdom. He was born in Amman and educated in Amman, Egypt, and England (Harrow and Sandhurst). Hussein succeeded on the deposition of his father, Ṭalāl, who was mentally deranged, and, after a period of regency, ascended the throne on May 2, 1953. He soon won the allegiance of the Bedouin tribes which dominated the army. However, tension with Israel, unrest among his Palestinian subjects, pro-Nasserite agitation, and Egyptian subversion threatened the stability of his rule. Popular opposition to the king's pro-Western sympathies and rumors of his intention to join the Baghdad Pact culminated, in December 1955, in serious rioting, and in March 1956 Hussein dismissed Lt.-Gen. J.B. Glubb, the British chief of general staff of the Arab Legion.
Despite a pro-Nasserite victory in the elections of October 1956 and Jordan's adhesion to the Egyptian-Syrian Saudi Arabian pact against Israel, the Arab Legion made no move during the *Sinai Campaign. During the next few years, Hussein tightened his control, maintained his pro-Western orientation, and frustrated a number of military plots against his regime and attempts on his life.
During the 1960s Hussein pursued a precarious course, trying to avoid clashes with Israel provoked by Aḥmad Shuqairy's Palestine Liberation Organization and, later, by the Syrian-supported al-Fataḥ terrorists. On May 30, 1967, however, he signed a military alliance with *Abdel Nasser, and on June 5 he opened hostilities against Israel, ignoring several Israeli messages that if he did not open fire Israel would not attack Jordan. As a result of his intervention in the *Six-Day War (1967), he lost relatively more territory and population than any other Arab ruler; his forfeiture of the guardianship of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqṣā Mosque in Jerusalem was a particular blow to him.
After that he repeatedly toured the world, especially the West, as unofficial spokesman for those Arab states which declared their acceptance of the un Security Council decision of Nov. 22, 1967 – often as the emissary of Abdel Nasser, who now seemed to acquiesce in Hussein's political existence. Hussein's missions were not unsuccessful, thanks to his natural flair for public relations, his image as a "moderate" prepared to coexist with Israel, and his pro-Western record. In his own country, in the meantime, his effective rule continuously contracted, as various organizations for the "liberation of Palestine" grew in strength, status, and self-assurance. By the end of 1968 they had become a state within the state. In 1970, however, in the bloody civil war between the Jordanian army and the guerilla organizations, the trend was reversed and Hussein's position as ruler of his country was strengthened.
From 1965 Hussein participated in secret talks with Israel leaders. Such meetings were intensified after 1967, when Hussein was determined to do whatever he could to regain the lost West Bank. In 1973 he kept his country out of the *Yom Kippur War, save for token participation in the battles in the southern Golan. During the 1980s, rapprochement with the PLO led to the 1985 agreement for joint political action. The following year, however, Hussein canceled the agreement. Realizing that the prospects for regaining the West Bank were practically nil, and fearing the impact of the Intifada (which broke out in December 1987) on the Palestinians of the East Bank he severed the legal and administration ties with the West Bank in July 1988 and renounced Jordan's 40-year claim to this territory. This historical shift paved the way for the future formal peace with Israel. During the 1990–91 Kuwait crisis and the Gulf War he supported Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
His participation in the Arab-Israel peace process culminated in a peace treaty with Israel signed in 1994. Hussein took pains to make the peace workable, despite internal opposition. He particularly endeavored to normalize bilateral relations and thus to make it a peace between peoples and not merely between governments. In 1989 he began a democratization process highlighted by free democratic elections and increasing civil rights. Suffering from cancer for several years he died in February 1999 and was succeeded by his eldest son abdallah (1962– ), a career military officer who became king abdallah ii. To a certain extent Abdallah follows his father's footsteps. He has been a popular monarch focusing primarily on Jordan's urgent economic problems.
Hussein was married four times and had 12 children. He wrote an autobiography, Uneasy Lies the Head (1962).
J.B. Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs (1957), index; P.J. Vahkiotis, Politics and the Military in Jordan (1967), index; Hussein ibn Talal of Jordan, My War with Israel, as told to Vick Vance and Pierre Laar (1969). add. bibliography: J. Lunt Hussein of Jordan (1989), index.
[Uriel Dann /
Joseph Nevo (2nd ed.)]