Sameer Rahim in The Telegraph:
When I lived in Damascus, my fellow Arabic students were always spotting Khalid Mishal around town. I suspected they were mistaken. Mishal was one of the exiled leaders of Hamas. It was the summer of 2006 and the Palestinian militant group had just captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border tunnelling raid. Israel had carried out assassinations in Damascus before and Mishal would now be top of their list. Added to this, as Paul McGeough relates in his biography of Mishal and history of Hamas, Israel was still smarting from the humiliation of Mossad’s failed attempt to kill Mishal nine years earlier. That September, two agents disguised as Canadian tourists entered the Jordanian capital armed with a specially designed camera, loaded with poison. When Mishal’s bodyguards dropped him outside his offices, one agent approached and knelt down in front of him – then rose suddenly and sprayed the liquid in Mishal’s ear. He and his accomplice tried to escape but the bodyguards gave chase and eventually surrendered them to Jordanian custody. Mishal, meanwhile, was starting to feel unwell. The poison was designed to slowly paralyse his nervous system, leading to death.
When King Hussein was told of the plot he was furious. Jordan had signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and was its closest Arab ally. Hussein knew that if Mishal died his people would suspect him of having co-operated with the Israelis. His careful balancing of interests meant that Amman hosted both an Israeli embassy and Hamas headquarters. Though no friend to Hamas, this meant he could appease his country’s large Palestinian population and maintain some control over the group. The stability of his kingdom was under threat, so he bypassed diplomatic protocol and made a direct call to the US president Bill Clinton.