King Hussein and the Evolution of Jordan's Perception of a Political Settlement with Israel, 1967-1988
by Joseph Nevo
Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2006. 209 pp. $67.50.
Reviewed by David Schenker
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Middle East Quarterly
Laurie Brand argued in her 1994 book Jordan's Inter-Arab Relations that more studies are needed to examine "developing states' foreign policy … from the point of view of the smaller power." Nevo's book on Jordanian views of political settlement with Israel partially fills this gap. He sets out to examine this issue by focusing on "overt and public statements of the King and his very close circle," considering this to be "the most reliable material for comprehending Jordan's official views."
Some of the more interesting parts of the book include a discussion of how King Hussein met with Israeli prime minister Golda Meir on September 25, 1973, in a last ditch effort to avert the 1973 war and his analysis of Jordan's views on a possible annexation of Gaza after the June 1967 war ("it seems that King Hussein was ready to consider the idea").
Another point of interest concerns the evolution of Jordan's views of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) fedayeen operations. In 1968, Hussein likened the fedayeen to "resistance movements against the Nazis"; in February 1970, Hussein announced that "Jordan supports the Fida'i with all her might … we wanted this [terrorist] activity and made it possible." Just seven months later, though, during "Black September," the king waged war on, and eventually expelled, the PLO from his territory.
Nevo, a specialist on Jordanian history at University of Haifa, also offers an interesting treatment of the king's distress with the Egyptian-Israeli initiative at Camp David (he saw Egypt's separate deal with Israel as undermining Jordan's chances to regain the West Bank) and the Jordanian view of then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter. At first, Nevo writes, Carter's election "raised hopes and expectations in Jordan … In the course of 1977, however, it turned out that Carter attributed too much weight, in Jordan's view, to the Palestinians and to the PLO's role in the forthcoming peace process."
After a detailed historical and textual analysis of the development of King Hussein's positions, Nevo comes to the conclusion that in making peace with Israel, "King Hussein broke most of the rules and preconditions that he himself had set." He did so, Nevo argues, because Hussein realized that Jordan could neither regain nor control the West Bank in the event of an Israeli withdrawal. At the end of the day, the king—as many have pointed out—was pragmatic.
For those familiar with the Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian historical and political trajectory, there are not many surprises in Nevo's narrative. That said, the book is well researched and contains some useful information. While it should include a discussion of Jordanian views vis-à-vis the PLO and Israel at the time of the 1991 Kuwait war, the study does cover a lot of ground. Perhaps predictably, a book-length analysis of on-the-record statements and interviews does not exactly make for compelling reading, but Nevo does well to set Jordanian officials' remarks in context, and in so doing, he sheds light on how King Hussein and Jordan viewed a political settlement with Israel.
 New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, History, Jordan | David Schenker | Fall 2007 MEQ
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list
This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.