Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril
the Israeli forces in fierce fighting and inflicted heavy enough losses on them that in a few hours they started screaming for a cease-fire. My father insisted that there would be no cease-fire until the last Israeli soldier withdrew from Karameh. Fifteen hours after the attack, the Israeli invading troops completed their withdrawal in tattered regiments. In the battle of Karameh, the Israelis suffered their first defeat by an Arab army. Although the fedayeen took part in the fighting, the victory was achieved by the army. But Arafat and his guerrillas were quick to claim the credit. They soon came to believe in their own rhetoric and to flex their muscles, so much so that the fedayeen, as an armed movement, began to represent a challenge to the country. They threatened security, broke laws, and sought to establish a state within the state.
    During the 1950s and early 1960s Jordan was tremendously vulnerable to regional political upheavals. This was the age of Arab nationalism. Revolutionary Nasserites in Egypt and the secular Baathists who took over Syria and Iraq were then very popular. They had grand visions of Arab unity, and their aspirations for geopolitical dominance extended to Jordan. Between the time my father was eighteen, when he became king, and thirty, when I was three years old, there were eighteen documented assassination attempts against him, including two by traitors inside the Royal Court. The assassins were working for Gamal Abdel Nasser and his United Arab Republic, a three-year union between Egypt and Syria (1958-61). The UAR was allied with the Soviet Union. My father was an ally of the West, and by killing him Nasser and the Soviet Union hoped to create instability in Jordan and to push the country into their orbit.
    The first inside job involved acid. My father, who was in his midtwenties at the time, suffered from sinus problems, so he would regularly use saline solution in nose drops. Somebody with access to his personal bathroom switched the saline solution for hydrochloric acid. By accident, one of the containers fell into the sink. When the enamel began to steam and crack under the powerful acid, my father realized that he had narrowly escaped a very painful death.
    The second assassination attempt involved poison. My father noticed that dead cats began to litter the palace grounds. When his staff investigated this curious development, they found that an assistant chef in the palace kitchen had been hired to kill him. The chef, a good cook but a poor poisoner, had been practicing his art on the unfortunate cats, trying to judge the correct dose.
    Partly because of the high probability that one of these assassins might eventually succeed, and in order to protect the monarchy, my father decided in 1965 to remove the title of crown prince from me when I was just three years old. He designated his brother Prince Hassan, who was then eighteen, as his successor instead. Although I was oblivious to the change at the time, it was one of the best things he ever did for me, as it allowed me to lead a relatively normal life. One of the few traces of my brief time as heir apparent is a set of stamps with my image as a three-year-old. But I did not need formal titles to enjoy my childhood.
    My father had a silver Mercedes-Benz 300SL gull-wing roadster, which he had raced in hill climbs in Lebanon in the 1950s. I loved the way the doors lifted upward like something out of a movie. He was really into fast cars and was always racing around on a motorcycle, in a car—or by helicopter. In those days we did not have the wide array of TV channels that we have today—in fact, there were only two hours of TV a day in Jordan, so we had to make much of our own entertainment. In calmer moments my father, mother, and I would sometimes drive out north. Since my father’s 300SL was only a two-seater, I would sit on his lap. Speeding along on desert roads, he would beep the horn to keep the beat as we sang “Popeye the

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