Within Jordan, attempts at overdue economic and social reform have come to little, while unemployment, already high, is rising. Beyond its borders, the treacherous politics of the Middle East which King Hussein has skilfully navigated for so long - for which service we should all be grateful - look dangerous. His 1994 peace treaty with Israel has never been less popular among Jordanians. The isolation of neighbouring Iraq costs the country dear in economic terms. The forthcoming elections in Israel should revive the moribund peace process. But if not, and if Palestinian frustration boils over, the consequences will be dire. Small wonder so many worry about the stability - even the survival - of the Hashemite kingdom.
Now responsibility may fall on Crown Prince Abdullah, and soon. What we know of him is encouraging. As an army major-general, the son must be assumed to have the loyalty of the military. Born of a British mother, educated at Sandhurst, he is presumably as sympathetic to the West as is the King. But his politics are mysterious. Such are the hazards when power is conferred by blood, rather than by open elections. It is to be hoped that Crown Prince Abdullah's genes contain the judgement that has made his father the longest-serving executive ruler on earth.Reuse content