It was published less than a month after the end of the six day war.
I will type it down without any editing, except very occasionally where I added items in italic. This article focuses on the position and character of late King Hussein and his view of the six-day war and its aftermath. I do not necessarily agree with everything written but I think it's a good opportunity for other readers to read what was written that time.
It was not easy to write it down, not talking physically, but mentally: having to read anything about that war and its costs until today is very disturbing. It's so unfortunate that this dark piece of history id dictating our future.
The Least Unreasonable Arab . Cairo's semiofficial newspaper Al Ahram had some extraordinary news for its readers last week. "the battle is still going on," it proclaimed. "Victory is ours."
In Damascus, yellow sandbags were piled high around government buildings to protect them from attack, and signs of many walls promised: WE SHALL DESTROY THE ENEMY. The Arabs clamored for a change in the name of the American University of both Beirut and Cairo to Palestine University, and Algeria compiled a list of "pro-Zionist" movie stars -including Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Harry Belafonte- and banned their films.
On the banks of the Suez Canal, Egyptian commandos slipped across the canal nightly to harass the Israelis until finally, at week's end, they precipitated a pitched battle with Israeli forces.
Though it recently suffered one of its worst military defeats in modern history, the Arab world does not seem to have awakened to the reality. Instead of trying to salvage what they can, the Arabs are busy blaming just about everybody but themselves for the fact that the great gobs of their territory lies in Israeli hands. They are irritated with Russia for suggesting that they will have to be more reasonable as a condition of more economic aid. They are dismayed as they listen day after day to Israeli politicians talk of imposing ever tougher terms for a settlement. they curse the U.S. and Britain.
Last week they reacted with deep bitterness to the United Nations' failure to pass any resolution asking for Israeli pullout from the conquered territory. The Palestine Liberation Organization even suggested that the Arabs set up their own rival U.N. with Red China, and Damascus radio said, To hell with the U.N." Moe than a month after the war ended, none of this brought the Arabs any closer to solving their basic problem in the war's aftermath: how to come back from defeat and live with a stronger Israel that is clearly here to stay, whether they like it or not.
Privately Disgusted. Amid all the fantasies, delusions, threats and confusions, the most realistic- or least unreasonable- voice that emanated from the Arab world was that of Jordan's King Hussein, whose country fought the hardest and lost the most in the war against Israel. Hussein offered no alibis, made no excuses, used no intemperate language. He is disgusted at the postwar performance of his fellow Arabs: their invective, their whining- they considered it unfair of Israel to have used pilots who spoke Arabic to confuse their foes- and their wild threats to fight again tomorrow. "It is apparent, said Hussein, "that we have not yet learned well enough how to use the weapons of modern warfare."
While his brother Arab losers looked to Moscow for aid and affection, Hussein last month set purposefully for Washington and Western Europe, stressing his continued friendship with the West and asking for political, economic and military support to rebuild his land.
"We have made many mistakes in the past," he said, "partly because we have failed to present our case properly." After speaking at the United Nations, Hussein visited Lyndon Johnson, Harold Wilson, Charles De Gaulle and Pope VI, trying to convince the world that the Arabs' case is more reasonable than most Arabs make it sound and-not incidentally- that he is the best hope for moderation and realism in the Arab world.
Hussein also had another, more dangerous mission. During his trip, he talked often and long with the leaders or top diplomats of most Arab states, seeking to persuade them to accept a message that has up to now been pure heresy in Arabia: that the time has come for the Arabs to make their peace with Israel.
Hussein's reputation in Jordan and the Arab world is higher than ever before because he was the only Arab ruler to go to the front with his troops. Taking advantage of this, he is trying to get the Arab nations to hold a summit meeting later this month, hoping that he can convince them that they must accept Israel's right to existence as a starting point of negotiations. "We either come out better off now as the result of genuine efforts of all of us to face up to things, or we face some extremely serious possibilites of detorioration in the Arab world," he says. "Even our identity, our ability to maintainoutselves as nations is involved."
It is by no means clear that Hussein can bring the Arab leaders together even to talk about peace. Most moderate Arab nations favor the idea, Nasser has hemmed and hawed. Algeria's Boumediene, whos militant cries over the war has made him rival of Nasser for the leadership of the Arab left, turned down a suggestion that the meeting take place in Algiers because "there are some Arabs I wouldn't want to set foot in my country." Syrian information minister Mohamed Zubi sneered that "the only way to forge Arab unity is throught struggle and not summitry."
Still, Hussein believes that if he can only bring the summit off, he has at least a fighting chance to convince the leftist leaders-who are, after all, under pressure from Russia- to listen to reason. "We Jordanians might be in a position to influence their thinking," he says. If not, Hussein intends to ask for their tacit consent for Jordan's coming to terms with Israel alone. If even their neutrality is denied him, Hussein may just go ahead without the consent of his fellow Arab leaders. "If it is absolutely impossible to reach agrement," says a close aide of Husseins's, "then each country has to deal with the situation as it sees best. We are certainly going to refuse to have our hands tied when any country-Arab or otherwise- behaves negatively. We have the courage to do what is necessary."
Different Ruler. Jordan also has a pressing necessity to act courageously. Hero or not, Hussein cannot long hope to survive, at least as a moderate, without getting the west bank of hos country back. Palestinian Jordan, which the Israelis now hold, is the most prosperous part of his land. It contains nearly a third of the arable farm land, nearly half the population - and Jerusalem. With U.S. and British aid, long-range development programs and expanded toursim, Hussein had expected to make his country self-supporting by 1971.
Without the west bank, however, and the strong tourist revenue from the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, there is little possibility that Jordan can develop a really viable economy.
But Hussein's dilemma extends far beyond the economy. He is a Bedouin King ruling a land populated largely by Palestinians- a sophisticated people who look down on Bedouins as unreliable nomads. His country is hemmed in on three sides by states that have often attacked him. To the east is Iraq, where his Hashemite cousin, King Feisal, was killed and the monarchy abolished in 1958. To the north is rabid, leftist Syria, which last sent an assasination team to kill him in May and blew up a Jordanian border post only a week before the war began. To the west is Israel, with which Jordan has a longer border than any Arab country.
The divisions between the conservative, pro-Western Hussein and the Arab left led by Egypt's President Nasser are so funamental that the war has just papered them over, not erased them. Hussein has to move with extreme care lest the left seize on his willingness to negotiate with Israel and invite the volatile Palestinians to move against him.
Hussein is an Arab to the core, but he is not at all like most Arab rulers. A stubby (5 ft. 4 in. (1.62 m) ) powerfully built man of 31, he is perhaps the world's most active and athletic ruler, relishing racing, flying and any other sport that involves danger and suspence. He can trace his Hashemite dynasty back to the propher Mohammed, and his ancestors ruled the holy city of MEcca for 37 generations; yet his country is so new (1921) that he is only is third king. Despite his youth and many interests, he rules Jordan with a firm hand, shuffling his cabinet regularly and occasion even dissolving Parliament when it refuses to do his bidding. Yet in the 14 years years he has been king, Jordan had been transformed from a land of backward nomads to a propsering, growing state- at least until last month's war broke out.
Scorn & Vilification. Hussein did not really want to get into the war, but he must take some of the responsibililty for starting it. He carefully abstained from joining the chorus of Arab leftist leaders who demanded that the Jews be driven into the sea, did everything in his power to prevent Arab terrorists from using Jordan as a base. His refusal to cooperate won him scorn and vilification from Nasser and the left. But when the Arab armies began mobilizing on Israel's borders and the cry of jihad filled the air, Hussein figured that if war came he would have to join it or be toppled from his throne by Arab mobs.
Swallowing his pride, he flew off to Cairo, listened to Nasser explain how any war would mean Israel's destruction and signed a mutual-defense pact that put and Egyptian commander in charge of his army in the event of war. The pact improved his standing with the Arab left, but it alarmed the Israelis, who had always considered Hussein a moderate neighbor, as Arabs go, and even had some affection for him. Within three days, Israel decided to go to war, and attacked Egypt and Syria. Israel Premier Levi Eshkol sent Hussein frantic messages promising that Israel would never hit Jordan if it would keep out of the battle. But Hussein was trapped by his commitments, and his answer was an artillery barrage and an attack on Israel.
Unlike other Arab politicians-and most Egyptian generals- Hussein spent much of the war on the front. Bumping over fields and back roads in an open army Jeep, he raced from point to another urging his troops to hold their ground, several times came under fire from Israeli planes and ground forces. For these sleepless nights and days, he led the Arab Legion in the field, then returned sadly to Amman to announce that the Israelis has wiped out his air force and marched to the River Jordan, and that his men could fight no longer. Unshaven and hollow-eyed, he seemed a symbol of courage in the face of odds, and his stature among his fellow Arabs grew overnight. Even Nasser, who had recently called him "a traitor to the Arabs," went out of his way to praise him, and the Syrian regime abruptly stopped referring to him as the "Tom Thumb Tyrant."
Talent for Survival. Hussein from his youth has shown an extraordinary talent for survival. His grandfather, Emir Abdullah, was brought in from Mecca to be the first King of Trans-Jordan, one of the nations created when British Prime Minister Lloyd George carved up the ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Abdullah ruled for 30 years-long enough to annex the Arab half of Palestine whne Israel was created. In 1951, on a visit to Jerusalem, he was shot down by a Palestinian assasin. hussein, who was standing beside him barely escaped: a bullet intended for the young prince riocheted off a medal on his uniform.
At Abdullah's death, the throne was reluctantly passed to Hussine's father Talal, a hopeless schizophrenic. Talal lasted only eleven months before being packed off to exile in Turkey (where he often forgets that he was ever a King) (he was alive when this article was written). On Aug 11, 1952, while Hussein was vacationing with his mother in Switzerland, he received a cable from home. It was addressed to "His Majesty, King Hussein." He did not need to open it. "the title on the envelope told the story," he says. "the message inside was superfluous." At the age of 17, he became Jordan's third King.
Poison Drops. He is lucky to have reached the age of 31. In his 15 years as King, he has lost count of the bullets fired at him, the knives thrust at him and the would-be assasins who were caught before they could act. On one occasion, as assistant palace cook plotted to poison him, but gave himself away away by testing the poison on 16 palace cats, all of which died (Ironically the cook's name was Ahmed Na3Na3 , King Hussein released him later after a plea from his daughter). In 1958, at the controls of his de Havilland Dove on a flight to Europe, he was attacked by Syrian MIGS, escaped only by power-driving toward the desert floor and zigzagging across the border. In 1960, an attack of sinus trouble almost did him: someone pured acid in his bottle of nose drops. The deed was discovered when a drop spilled on the sink and the King watched in fascination as it burned through the chrome fittings.
Hussein takes it all philosophically. "When your time comes to die, you die," h says. "It is God's will." To even up the odds a bit, he wears a .38 pistol tucked in his belt or an armpit holster under his coat. But he obviously enjoys danger. His once cherubic face is now deeply lined, and his hair is flecked with grey, but his sturdy arms and legs are hard with the muscles of a sportsman. He is an active hunter, horseman, scuba diver and deep-sea fisherman. He introduced water-skiing to Jordan then took up kiting. Above all, he loves speed, and at the wheel of his silver Porsche 911 is usually a winner in Jordanian sports-car events. To the horror of his security men, he is also addicted to motorcycle racing and free-fall parachute jumping. Before the Israelis knocked out his air force, his favorite pastime of all was careening around the sky in a Hawker Hunter jet, practicing aerobatics at nearly 600 mph
As a boy, even though his grandfather was King, Hussein was far from rich. His family lived in a small, ungeated villa in Amman, had to make do on a government stipend of $3000 a year. Those house got so cold one winter, he recalls, that his little sister died of pneumonia. the money once ran so low that his mother had to sell his bicycle in order to pay his bills. His fortunes have since improved. In addition to the three royal residences assigned him, he now has a villa in Aqaba. His real home, however, is a modest converted farm-house in a suburb of Amman, where he lives with his second wife, Princess Muna (nee Toni Gardiner), a British army officer's daughter whome he married in 1961 after divorcing his first wife. (toni became a Moslem.) He rises at 7, takes turns with his wife fixing breakfast, plays with their two small sons (Prince Abdullah, 5 (currently King Abdullah II), and Prince Feisal, 3) until 9, and then helicopters to his office in the Basman Palace atop one of Amman's seven hills.
Royal routine bores him. He receives visitors informally, talks easily and frankly. But he would rather be out of palace, is constantly showing up to inaugurate schools and factories in towns all over Jordan. He often cruises around Amman alone in his Merecedes, waving at people, feeling the air, occasionally stopping to chat. In his early days, he delighted in distinguishing himself as a taxi driver, hacking around Amman at night to find out what people reallly thought of the King. He doesn't have to ask today.
Hollow-Eyed Misery. And yet Jordan has been crippled by the war. The swarm of refugees crossing the Allenby Bridge from the Israel-occupied west bank has been reduced to a trickle, and the Israelis last week reversed their position and announced that refugees would be allowed to return to their homes. But in Amman, all schoolrooms and mosques have been converted into refugee centers, their furnitue dtacked in corners, their floors covered with straw mats and the mats in turn covered by the ragged, hollow-eyed, miserable people. Ten new tent camps have been opened near Amman, but they hardly more liveable. Hot desert winds wipe up sandstorms in the summer afternoons, choking the air and knocking down tents. Camp authorities fear that when winter arrives, at least half of their charges will freeze to death in the cold desert nights.
In the past, Hussein has been the only Arab leader to encourage Palestinian refugees to come out of their camps, get themselves jobs, and take part in the life of the land. But there are no longer any jobs left. Unemployment already stood at 14% before the war, has now hit 25%. Last year, the west bank bank of the Jordan brought in well over half of the nation's foreign-currency earnings. Without it, Jordan stands to lose most of its tourist earnings of $35 million a year.
The war wreckled Jordan's tough little Arab Legion, left its air force literally without planes. Three-quarters of Jordan's tanks were lost in the fighting., most of them knocked out by Israelis jets. Offical casuality figures list more than 6,000 soldiers killed or missing- but there is evdience that perhaps 5,000 of them are hiding out on the west bank, waiting for a chance to steal across the river and return to Amman. Despite his pleas for military aid from the west, Hussein says he has got no specific commitments from either the U.S. or Britain. Hussein is far from happy from the way the war was fought. "there was not enough coordination, not enough planning, not enough anything," he says. But he is determined to rebuild his forces, with aid or without, as fast as possible.