(MENAFN- Jordan Times) His Majesty King Abdullah II is in his 19th year of glorious reign; distinguished years that have witnessed exemplary leadership abilities, skillful political expertise, widely recognised wisdom and seasoned diplomatic prowess resulting in momentous accomplishments in the midst of the most troubling times and escalating crises.
Nineteen years ago this month, Jordan commemorated a most significant milestone in its history. On February 7, 1999, His Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal departed this world, leaving behind an eminent legacy and monumental achievements.
The late monarch ascended the throne at the young age of 17 following the abdication of his father King Talal in 1952. At that time, Jordan was a nascent country having only won its independence six years earlier. It was still recovering from the first Arab — Israeli war, in which the Jordanian army played a significant role in saving the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the same fate that befell 78 per cent of the historical land of Palestine that was seized by the Zionist occupiers in that disastrous war.
During his 47-year reign in a highly turbulent region that scarcely witnessed peace or stability, the protection of the country was safeguarded through King Hussein's unique leadership; steering the ship in a perpetual storm to the shores of safety. It was nothing short of miraculous that Jordan managed to endure the heavy impact of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees into Jordan; the Suez war; the toppling of the Hashemite regime in Iraq when Jordan and Iraq had just formed a unity between them; the rabid air war directed against Jordan from Arab countries which were inciting against stable traditional monarchies in favour of military coups; the 1967 war and the loss of the West Bank and Jerusalem with huge swathes of Egyptian and Syrian territories; the 1970 internal war in Jordan whereby a vicious conspiracy was targeting the regime; the Gulf war of 1980 between Iraq and Iran; and the second Gulf war following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
King Hussein's diplomacy was not only focused on Jordanian issues which would have been manageable. Jordan was immensely affected by all regional troubles being situated at the epicentre of each and every Middle Eastern crisis, and as such all issues landed on the King's doorstep.
When King Abdullah ascended the throne on that historic day for Jordan, he immediately took up where his departing father left off, thus continuing the honourable legacy.
The transfer of authority, smooth and orderly as it was, even during a time of national mourning for the loss of a beloved grand national symbol and a caring father figure, was perfectly compatible with the line of succession.
At the age of 38 King Abdullah stepped in with unshakeable confidence, clear vision, unwavering resolve and boundless energy for tackling the tasks ahead in an era equally unstable and volatile as during the reign of his late father.
The region was still suffering from the aftermath of the 1991 war on Iraq. Iraq was put under a severe regime of international sanctions with Jordan acting as the only gateway for UN sanctioned supplies to reach Iraq. The Gulf region was in turmoil and the Arab states were bitterly divided.
The peace process that was initiated in Madrid in 1992 faced tough obstacles with Israel reneging on all of its commitments towards the Palestinians, whatever the consequences would mean for Jordan.
The September 11th attacks on the New York Twin Towers and other US locations created a totally new situation in the region with America declaring an indiscriminate and misguided 'war on terror', with biased western media targeting Islam and Muslims as the main source. The 'war on terror' frenzy precipitated the two devastating wars on Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. While the Afghanistan was understandable because Al Qaeda was based there, the Iraq war was a purely based on fabricated evidence, now a well-known fact.
Such was the climate in the region and worldwide when King Abdullah assumed his constitutional duties.
In the face of every crisis, King Abdullah has acted with courage, good judgment, responsibility and selflessness. He opposed and advised against the 2003 Iraq war, although not without a cost for Jordan. He stood in opposition against many other wars and resisted pressure to join or even endorse them, again at a very high cost for Jordan. Without exception, the Jordanian King was a proponent for political solutions to conflicts. He declined any intervention in the affairs of other countries and he pursued a policy of peace and good relations with all others, based on mutual respect and the principled exchange of lawful interests.
It was not long before the world's most prominent nations were seeking King Abdullah's advice, which had gained worldwide recognition, credibility and respect for its wise, responsible and correct nature.
Much like his late father, King Abdullah's mission was by no means restricted to Jordanian issues. He dealt with regional and international issues pertaining to peace, conflict resolution and political stability with the same passion as with national issues.
On the domestic scene, right from the beginning the King reared a plan of economic reconstruction, which in the first decade of his rule resulted in an economic boom and a very attractive climate for foreign investors. It is only down to this that the country managed to escape the heavy impact of the world economic crisis of 2008.
The current Jordanian economic situation is indeed critical, but a much worse situation was averted thanks to the King's measures and solid foundations established earlier.
Most prominent, however, are King Abdullah's pioneering programmes for sweeping constitutional and political reforms that have been ongoing since his earliest days in office. Reform for him is not a one-time transaction but rather a continuing process that keeps adapting to growing human needs, advancement of knowledge, democratic progress and enlightened thought. As these are continuous processes, so is reform.
King Abdullah's style is in fact unprecedented and unique. Not only did he railroad the introduction of legislation necessary to guarantee the dignity and full freedom of every Jordanian, but he also set himself apart as an extraordinary example by publishing seven discussion papers at the disposal of Jordanians to freely and openly discuss. The papers included prescriptions for democracies that guarantee the rights of their citizens, establishing a parliamentary system of government, advancing modern education, ensuring the supremacy of the law, justice, separation of powers, free press, power sharing, balance between civility and religious values, ethnic and religious diversity, and clean governance.
King Abdullah's papers have notably helped the democratissation process to mature steadily by engaging all citizens in the national debate.
It is hard in the limited scope of this article to take stock of the extent of the crises the Jordanian King has had to deal with, however, I will not exclude the last one relating to Jerusalem.
The Palestine question has been a vital Jordanian concern since the very beginning. Jordanian support for Palestinian rights is a constant feature of the country's policy. Jerusalem, however, is a different case, with the Hashemite custodianship over the Muslim and Christian holy places in the city.
Contrary to some suspicious expectations, King Abdullah's position with respect to Jerusalem and the US declaration of the Arab holy city as the capital of Israel has been radically assiduous. The King's position was not swayed by any pressures or concern for Jordanian national interests when he led every effort and announced in the face of all adversity that Jerusalem is the Arab capital of the future state of Palestine, no matter what. This is just one example, out of many, of his noble and selfless causes.
King Abdullah has in the last 19 years been running a steady, though a taxing marathon travelling to every corner of the earth to serve the needs as well as the noble goals of his country, his loyal people and even the stability and peace of the entire region. While the road ahead is still long and full of uncertainties, His Majesty the King is up for any task in order to pursue his mission. With the same inherited dexterity and skill, he has managed to steer the ship and will continue to sail safely albeit in much more troubled waters. May God Almighty bless you Your Majesty.
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