Synopses & Reviews
During his long reign (1953-1999), King Hussein of Jordan was one of the most dominant figures in Middle Eastern politics and a consistent proponent of peace with Israel. This is the first major account of his life, written with access to his official documents and with the cooperation (but not approval) of his family and staff, and also extensive interviews with international policy makers.
For more than forty years, Hussein walked a tightrope between the Palestinians and Arab radicals on the one hand and Israel on the other. Avi Shlaim reveals that, for the sake of dynastic and national survival, Hussein initiated a secret dialogue with Israel in 1963 that encompassed more than one thousand hours with Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, and countless others. Shlaim reconstructs this dialogue across battle lines from previously untapped Israeli records and the firsthand accounts of key participants, and makes clear that it was Israeli intransigence that was largely responsible for the failure to achieve a peaceful settlement between 1967 and 1994.
At Husseins memorial service at St. Pauls Cathedral, the Prince of Wales hailed him as “a man amongst men, a king amongst kings.” Lion of Jordan illuminates the triumphs and disappointments, the qualities and character of this extraordinary soldier and statesman, and significantly rewrites the history of the Middle East over the past fifty years.
"Ruler of a weak country surrounded by stronger powers in the cutthroat environs of the Middle East, financially dependent on foreign sponsors, precariously riding herd on the nationalist ambitions of Jordan's Palestinian majority, Hussein eked out a long reign (1953 1999) through very unleonine policies of caution and restraint. Historian Shlaim (War and Peace in the Middle East) finds much to admire in his subject's character and statecraft. Hussein was an 'autocrat,' the author allows, but a 'benign' one, whose resolute crackdown on Palestinian extremists in the 1970 civil war was necessary to save Jordan from chaos. Much of the book is taken up with a detailed chronicle of the Middle East peace process, centering on Hussein's decadeslong negotiations, both secret and open, with Israel; in Shlaim's telling, Israel comes off badly, and Hussein emerges as the embodiment of Arab moderation, his sincere initiatives stymied by the alleged intransigence and perfidy of Israeli leaders who 'preferred land to peace.' Shlaim's stinging critique of Israel might stir controversy, but his comprehensive, nuanced account of Hussein's life illuminates the tragic complexities of Middle East politics. Photos. (Sept. 9)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Avi Shlaim was born in Baghdad in 1945, grew up in Israel, and studied at Cambridge University and the London School of Economics. He is a Fellow of St. Anthony's College and a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His books include Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (winner of the Political Studies Associations 1988 WJM Mackenzie Prize); The Politics of Partition; War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History; and The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. He lives in Oxford.