The end of an epoch.

Position:The death of King Hussein of Jordan

The death of King Hussein of Jordan brought to an end the 47 year reign of one of the region's best loved and most highly respected leaders.

Just as in his eventful life, the crowded days which surrounded the death of King Hussein of Jordan were packed with surprises, not least the King's announcement that his eldest son, Abdullah, was to succeed him.

The initial plan was for Hassan to succeed the King, naming prince Hamze (see Middle East Dec. 98), the son of his American wife Queen Noor, as crown prince, while Abdullah remained head of the armed forces, a role he loved and was prepared for since following his father's footsteps in attending the British military training college, Sandhurst.

Son of Hussein's second wife, the English-born Toni Gardiner, later to become Princess Muna el-Hussein, Abdullah II's Britishness was visible in the hard days that followed his father's death. In Jordan's macho-culture where men do not easily cry, Jordanian men, from the speaker of the upper house, Zaid el-Rifaai, to the local shop keeper, wept alongside Palestinians, Bedouin, Muslims and Christians, at the loss of a much revered leader, but Abdullah II displayed remarkable reserve, adopting the British stiff upper lip, he kept cool, showed little emotion and, in short, behaved like a king.

Tears were also flowing across the Jordan - Israelis were deeply saddened at the news of King Hussein's death and worried about the challenges that could face the new King Abdullah from within and from without, in one of the world's roughest neighbourhoods.

Three days earlier the Israeli government offered prayers as the Jewish state awaited official word of the death of its closest Arab friend and the most popular Arab leader among Israelis.

In recent years King Hussein has become more popular in Israel than most Israeli politicians. A spokesman for Binyamin Netanyahu said the prime minister, the Israeli government and all of the Israeli people were praying for King Hussein.

Israeli leaders - past and present and of all parties - formed the largest foreign delegation to the funeral, repaying the compliments King Hussein had bestowed on them at the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin.

The Israelis, Western diplomats in Jerusalem say, were disappointed by King Hussein's decision to remove his brother Prince Hassan as crown prince, who was seen as their best ally once King Hussein died. A strong Jordanian monarch is always seen by Israel as an important ally in the diplomatic and...

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