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Jordan

 
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Jordan

HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN

The population of Transjordan before the war was about 340,000. As a result of the war, about 500,000 Palestinian Arabs took refuge in Transjordan or in the West Bank. Most of these people had to be accommodated in refugee camps, which were administered under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, set up in 1949. In addition there were about 500,000 indigenous residents of the West Bank.

In December 1948, Abdullah took the title of King of Jordan and in April 1949 he directed that the official name of the country-- East Bank and West Bank--be changed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a name found in the 1946 constitution but not until then in common use. In April 1950, elections were held in both the East Bank and the West Bank. Abdullah considered the results favorable, and he formally annexed the West Bank to Jordan, an important step that was recognized by only two governments: Britain and Pakistan. Within the Arab League, the annexation was not generally approved, and traditionalists and modernists alike condemned the move as a furtherance of Hashimite dynastic ambitions.

Abdullah continued to search for a long-term, peaceful solution with Israel, although for religious and security reasons he did not favor the immediate internationalization of Jerusalem. He found support for this position only from Hashimite kinsmen in Iraq. Nationalist propaganda, especially in Egypt and Syria, denounced him as a reactionary monarch and a tool of British imperialism.

The Arab League debates following the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank were inconclusive, and Abdullah continued to set his own course. The residual special relationship with Britain continued, helping to keep the East Bank relatively free from disturbance. Although not yet a member of the UN, Jordan supported the UN action in Korea and entered into an economic developmental aid agreement with the United States in March 1951, under President Harry S Truman's Point Four program.

On July 20, 1951, Abdullah was assassinated as he entered the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers. His grandson, fifteen-year-old Prince Hussein, was at his side. Before the assassin was killed by the king's guard, he also fired at Hussein. The assassin was a Palestinian reportedly hired by relatives of Hajj Amin al Husayni, a former mufti of Jerusalem and a bitter enemy of Abdullah, who had spent World War II in Germany as a proNazi Arab spokesman. Although many radical Palestinians blamed Abdullah for the reverses of 1948, there was no organized political disruption after his murder. The main political question confronting the country's leaders was the succession to the throne.

Abdullah's second son, Prince Naif, acted temporarily as regent, and some support existed for his accession to the throne. Naif's older brother, Prince Talal, was in Switzerland receiving treatment for a mental illness diagnosed as schizophrenia. It was widely believed that Abdullah would have favored Talal so that the succession might then pass more easily to Talal's son, Hussein. Accordingly, the government invited Talal to return and assume the duties of king. During his short reign, Talal promulgated a new Constitution in January 1952. Talal showed an inclination to improve relations with other Arab states, and Jordan joined the Arab League's Collective Security Pact, which Abdullah had rejected. Talal was popular among the people of the East Bank, who were not aware of his periodic seizures of mental illness. But the king's condition steadily worsened, and in August the prime minister recommended to a secret session of the Jordanian legislature that Talal be asked to abdicate in favor of Hussein. Talal acceded to the abdication order with dignity and retired to a villa near Istanbul, where he lived quietly until his death in 1972.

Hussein, who was a student at Harrow in Britain, returned immediately to Jordan. Under the Constitution he could not be crowned because he was under eighteen years of age, and a regency council was formed to act on his behalf. Before he came to the throne, he attended the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. When he was eighteen years old by the Muslim calendar, he returned to Jordan and in May 1953 formally took the constitutional oath as king.

Data as of December 1989


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