Jordan's King Abdullah discusses Gaza with pro-Israel leaders in US Congress

Meetings with Speaker Mike Johnson and others follow talks with US President Joe Biden

King Abdullah II of Jordan departs the White House after meeting US President Joe Biden on Monday. AFP
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Jordan's King Abdullah II discussed the state of play in Gaza with US politicians on Tuesday, amid rifts between Amman and a deeply pro-Israel Congress.

King Abdullah met Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, with the visit also including discussions with Republican and Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate chambers.

Ahead of the meetings, a Jordanian official told The National that the king "will definitely address the situation in Gaza and developments in the region."

During his meetings, King Abdullah "renewed the call on the international community to step up efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, as well as ensure the protection of civilians", the Jordanian embassy said in a statement.

"The King highlighted the importance of maintaining support for [the UN agency for Palestinian refugees] UNRWA, which is a vital lifeline for nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza, and also provides much needed services for millions of Palestinian refugees elsewhere in the region," the statement added.

"In addition, His Majesty reaffirmed Jordan’s rejection of any attempts to displace Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, which must both form the Palestinian state."

The meetings between deeply pro-Israel congressional leaders and King Abdullah, who has strongly advocated a ceasefire in Gaza and criticised Israel's conduct in the war, came at a critical moment in negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas accepted a ceasefire deal on Monday as Israel carried out a limited military operation in Rafah, the last place of relative safety for Palestinians fleeing violence in Gaza.

Under Mr Johnson's leadership, Congress last month broke a political stalemate and passed billions of dollars in extra funding for Israel.

The Republican Speaker has also been at the forefront of US threats against the International Criminal Court over reports it may issue warrants against Israeli officials.

“They had better not do that. I think that it would make us as a nation respond in kind to the ICC,” Mr Johnson said last week.

There should be no impediment to relief going to Gaza, says ICC prosecutor – video

There should be no impediment to relief going to Gaza, says ICC prosecutor

There should be no impediment to relief going to Gaza, says ICC prosecutor

“I think a group of senators and House members who would move expeditiously and we might just turn the table on the ICC. They better be careful.”

King Abdullah, accompanied on the trip by Queen Rania, and many members of Congress are approaching the urgency of the Palestinian plight from starkly different angles.

This week, the queen told US media that Washington was considered by many as “an enabler” of Israel's war in Gaza.

“People view the US as being a party to this war,” Queen Rania told CBS.

“Israeli officials say that without US support, they could not launch this war.”

During an appearance at the Milken Institute in Los Angeles on Monday, the queen also said that the war in Gaza has “exposed old fractures” and “divided people along new battle lines”, contributing to global polarisation.

“The only way that we can achieve security in our part of the world is through a negotiated peace, where Palestinians have not a promise of statehood, but actual statehood,” her office quoted the queen as saying.

During the private lunch at the White House on Monday, Mr Biden and King Abdullah discussed the latest developments in Gaza, the need for a ceasefire and the need for increasing the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“They further underscored the need for an immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas and a sustainable ceasefire that allows for a surge of the urgently needed humanitarian assistance to be delivered safely through Gaza,” the White House said.

Civilians ordered to flee eastern Rafah – in pictures

Amman said after the meeting that King Abdullah had “noted the importance of maintaining support for UNRWA to enable it to provide humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate”.

That is a viewpoint with decreasing popularity on Capitol Hill, including with Mr Johnson with whom the king is due to meet.

The Republican Party has been at the forefront of US efforts to shut down funding of the UN agency for Palestinians, a movement that has gained steam on both sides of the aisle.

Jim Risch, the top Republican foreign affairs senator, recently said that the “majority view” in the Congress is that “we need to put UNRWA out of business”.

Jihan Abdalla contributed to this report from Washington

Updated: May 08, 2024, 2:30 AM