White House signals it wants to reset ties with Jordan after years of strain, King Abdullah II becomes first Arab leader to meet with President Biden
Biden calls the moderate monarch a ‘good friend’ in a ‘tough neighborhood.’ White House meeting follows secret visit by Israeli PM Bennett to Amman earlier this month to also reset Israeli-Jordan relations
WASHINGTON – King Abdullah II on Monday became the first Arab leader to visit the White House and meet with President Joe Biden.
Both U.S. and Jordanian sources close to the moderate monarch tell me the meeting was “warm” and “encouraging” and marked an important reset of U.S.-Jordanian relations.
Such relations were significantly strained in recent years due to policy and personality differences between the king and then-President Donald Trump and then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Biden-Abdullah meeting came on the heels of a secret visit by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Amman in early July.
Bennett met with King Abdullah in an apparently successful effort to reset Israeli-Jordanian relations and make sure there are clear lines of communication and trust on a wide range of matters, from security cooperation to regional peace-making.
New Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi in early July.
These meetings led to an agreement between the two countries for Israel to double the amount of water it supplies to Jordan.
They also explored ways to increase economic trade between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.
BIDEN: THE KING IS A “GOOD, DECENT, LOYAL FRIEND”
Having served on the throne for 22 years – ever since his father, the legendary King Hussein, died of cancer in 1999 – Abdullah is the longest-serving leader in the Middle East and North Africa and his friendship with Biden goes deep.
Biden yesterday called the king a “good, decent, loyal friend” who lives in a “tough neighborhood.”
An expert on counter-terrorism, overseeing one of the best intelligence services in the region, and a peace partner with Israel, His Majesty is widely regarded in Washington as America’s most faithful and consistent ally in the Arab world.
“You can always count on me, my country and many of our colleagues in the region,” the King told Biden.
Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, King Abdullah II and US President Joe Biden (Photo: The Royal Hashemite Court)
A former senior U.S. government official with direct knowledge of the discussions told ALL ARAB NEWS that “it was an extremely welcoming and warm meeting, quite a difference from meetings in the White House during the last administration.”
“The meeting was a return to a deep partnership with the U.S. absent the last four years,” the source told me. “While the Biden administration had domestic priorities at the top of its ‘get done list,’ the discussions demonstrated that the important and special relationship for Jordan with Washington is back on track.”
While many Arab leaders – including those in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia – deeply appreciated Trump’s approach towards the Middle East, Jordan’s king was not one of them.
King Abdullah II had been the first Arab leader to meet with Trump in February 2016 when the king also came to Washington to address 4,000 U.S. and international faith leaders, ambassadors and Members of Congress at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Yet Trump’s deeply pro-Israel policies were at odds with Jordan’s pro-Palestinian policies, especially Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, significantly cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians when an angered President Mahmoud Abbas cut off all contact with the White House, and Trump’s proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More than half of Jordanian citizens – perhaps as much as 70% – are Palestinians.
The king often felt marginalized by Trump and his Middle East peace team, believing the White House was listening far more to the Saudis and Emiratis than to him for advice on how to strengthen peace and security.
Meeting between Jordanian King Abdullah II and US President Joe Biden (Photo: The Royal Hashemite Court)
WHAT DID THE TWO LEADERS TALK ABOUT?
Here is the “readout” of the meeting released by the White House:
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. met today with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan to reaffirm the enduring strength of the partnership between the United States and Jordan. President Biden confirmed unwavering U.S. support for Jordan and His Majesty’s leadership. He was proud to announce the delivery of over 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Jordan, underscoring the U.S. commitment to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.
The leaders discussed pressing economic challenges exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, both at home and across the globe. They focused on the benefits of investing in infrastructure, and discussed the President’s infrastructure plan as well as Jordan’s plans for a desalination project and Jordan’s potential for greater regional economic integration through investments in energy infrastructure.
The leaders also consulted on opportunities to enhance peace and stability in the Middle East. In that regard, the President expressed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and respect for Jordan’s special role as custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The President expressed U.S. support for engagement between Jordan and the new Israeli Government, as demonstrated by their bilateral agreement earlier this month to improve Jordan’s access to fresh water and increase Jordan’s exports to the West Bank.
President Biden commended the important role Jordan plays in the wider stability of the region and welcomed the recent trilateral summit in Baghdad between Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. The two leaders discussed the enormous challenges in Syria and the importance of a broad humanitarian initiative to reach all Syrians in need.
The leaders reflected on the strategic U.S.-Jordan defense relationship. They discussed U.S. support for the modernization of Jordan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets, which will allow for greater interoperability and effectiveness of the Jordanian Armed Forces. President Biden thanked Jordan for its important early contributions to the successful campaign to defeat ISIS, and honored the memory of Captain Muath al-Kasasbeh as an example of Jordanian courage and heroism.
President Biden reaffirmed that his administration looks forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation in multiple areas over the coming months, including the promotion of economic opportunities that will be vital for a bright future in Jordan.