King Abdullah to meet President Biden in Washington as Gaza war expands

Diplomats say King of Jordan will lobby to contain violence in the West Bank

US Senator Joseph Biden Jr. (R-DE) (L) hosts King Abdullah II of Jordan (R) and Queen Rania at a Senate Foreign Relations luncheon 08 May 2002, during their visit to the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The King is meeting with Congressional leaders and US President George W. Bush later 08 May.  AFP PHOTO/HO-PETRA (Photo by PETRA / AFP)
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday amid regional escalation linked to the Gaza war and worries in the kingdom about the fate of the West Bank.

It will be the first meeting between the two leaders since a drone attack Washington blamed pro-Iranian militia for killed three US soldiers in Jordan on January 28. The soldiers were stationed a few hundred metres from the border with Syria.

The attack has raised the temperature of the US's confrontation with Iran, which has intensified since the war in Gaza began on October 7, triggered by an attack on southern Israel by the Tehran-backed Hamas.

The killing of the three US soldiers in Jordan has prompted US air strikes on targets linked to the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria. The US followed with an attack in Baghdad that killed two senior figures in an Iraqi militia supported by Iran.

In a statement the White House said Mr Biden will discuss a post-war vision with the king "for a durable peace to include a two-state solution with Israel's security guaranteed."

It will be the fourth meeting between the two at the White House since Mr Biden came to office in January 2021 and rebuilt ties with Jordan.

Two Western diplomats in Amman briefed on the king's visit to Washington said he will be asking Mr Biden to continue applying pressure on Israel to contain its incursions in the occupied West Bank, as well as attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

The West Bank is situated west of the Jordan River.

“Any deterioration in the West Bank will hit home in Jordan,” said one of the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The reason the situation is remaining somewhat contained there and the settlers are not running completely amok is the US pressure on Israel.”

Several hundred Palestinians have been killed by Israelis in the West Bank since October 7, some of them shot dead by settlers. T|here are almost half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and 3 million Palestinians.

In a rare move, Mr Biden this month issued an executive order sanctioning four Israeli settlers. The order said the violence they are instigating is producing increased instability.

Mr Biden said that “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction, has reached intolerable levels.”

King Abdullah warned early in the war of possible spillover effects. He blamed what he described as Israeli intransigence for any regional war that could ensue. Jordan has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

In 1999, the authorities in Amman expelled Hamas's leadership form Jordan to Israel, deeming them a national security threat. The group, which is supported by Iran, is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which unlike in most other Arab countries, is allowed in Jordan, albeit with limits.

The king has repeatedly opposed any Israeli action that could lead to another wave of Palestinian refugees arriving in Jordan. Although the king has kept diplomatic ties with Israel, he signalled the kingdom's unease about expanding its integration in the region, such as including the latter in commercial and infrastructure projects.

A regional normalisation process started with the US-supervised Abraham Accords in 2020, although a US drive for Israel-Saudi normalisation has hit major obstacles ahead of the US elections in November.

The Jordanian position received a boost last week when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, during a visit to the kingdom.

[the king] will make it clear to Biden that however electorally tempting, there is too much anger in the Arab street, and this is no time to pursue more normalisation.
Diplomatic source

Mr Blinken said the crown prince told him that Saudi Arabia still has "strong interest in normalisation" but not before "an end to the conflict in Gaza and a clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state."

The Gaza war has revived US interest in a two-state solution, a goal that became more distant with the halting of peace talks almost a decade ago.

Another diplomat said the king "will make it clear to Biden that however electorally tempting it is, there is too much anger in the Arab street, and this is no time to pursue more normalisation."

But Mr Blinken has been discussing post-war scenarios for Gaza with Jordanian and other Arab officials. The proposals are based on a strong role for the Palestinian Authority and on the expectation of a diminished Hamas, although it is not clear what kind of response they have garnered.

A large proportion of Jordan’s 10 million population are of Palestinian origin. They are mostly descendants of waves of refugees caused by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in 1948 and 1967.

Since the latest war, many in Jordan have been boycotting US and European goods in response to perceived Western support for the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The invasion has killed more than 28,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.

Authorities in Jordan have also allowed some anti-Israeli demonstrations, but not too close to the kingdom's 480km border with Israel.

On Friday, security forces blocked roads leading to the northern crossing with Israel to prevent people assembling near the bridge for a planned demonstration organised mainly by the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas has links to.

Updated: February 11, 2024, 6:41 PM