Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet President Joe Biden on the White Home on July 19, the primary Arab chief to be welcomed by the U.S. president since he took workplace in January. The official go to marks an important reset to U.S.-Jordanian ties, which had suffered below President Donald Trump. The final time King Abdullah visited the White Home was in June 2018. Asserting the go to Jordan’s Royal Court docket stated it is going to “cowl strategic ties between Jordan and america and technique of bolstering them throughout a number of sectors, in addition to the most recent regional developments.”
On July 7 White Home Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated the go to will “spotlight the enduring and strategic partnership between america and Jordan, a key safety companion and ally of america. It will likely be a chance to debate the various challenges going through the Center East, and showcase Jordan’s management function in selling peace and stability within the area.” She added that President Biden seems ahead to working with the king “to strengthen bilateral cooperation on a number of political, safety, and financial points, together with the promotion of financial alternatives that might be very important for a brilliant future in Jordan.”
A troublesome interval for bilateral ties
It’s no secret that Jordan’s longstanding ties with the U.S. suffered because of Trump’s Center Japanese insurance policies, together with his choice to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and his subsequent proposal in January 2020 for a one-sided peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. King Abdullah rejected the primary and ignored the second. As a substitute, he continued to toe the road that the one simply and lasting peace will come by implementing the two-state answer, which requires Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 traces and the popularity of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Jordan additionally defied the U.S. transfer to defund UNRWA, the UN company accountable for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, and labored with the worldwide group to lift cash for the cash-strapped physique. King Abdullah’s defiance didn’t endear him to the White Home staff engaged on the “deal of the century,” specifically Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose final go to to Amman was in July 2019. Having didn’t persuade the king to purchase into Trump’s peace deal, Kushner sought to bypass Amman altogether and dealer normalization offers instantly with Bahrain, the UAE, and Sudan below the so-called Abraham Accords.
There isn’t any doubt that within the final two years of Trump’s presidency Jordan discovered itself marginalized as its ties to each the U.S. president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dipped to new lows. Netanyahu had shaped an alliance with Kushner with each of them embracing the “peace for peace” formulation as an alternative choice to the “land for peace” deal that was lengthy the premise of U.S. coverage towards ending the Israel-Palestine battle and by extension normalizing ties between Israel and the Arab nations. The king, who continued to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) and President Mahmoud Abbas throughout these testing occasions, rejected Netanyahu’s risk to annex the Jordan Valley unilaterally if the Palestinians rebuffed Trump’s peace plan.
A sigh of reduction
The idea right here in Jordan is that the king would have discovered himself going through robust occasions if Trump had been re-elected. As a substitute, there was a sigh of reduction when Biden gained the day. The king and Biden have identified one another for nearly 20 years, first when Biden was a senator and head of the Senate International Relations Committee and second when he turned vp to Barack Obama.
It was no shock that the king was the primary Arab chief to name the president-elect to congratulate him on his victory. Biden had uttered the magic phrases: that as president he would work with the king to implement the two-state answer. It was a sign that Amman was regaining its pivotal function as a gateway to a complete regional answer to the Center East battle.
However when the 2 leaders meet there might be a realization that the area’s geopolitical realities have shifted. Quite a few Arab nations have now established peace with Israel within the absence of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Whereas Netanyahu is gone — to the reduction of each Biden and the king — a brand new coalition authorities in Israel is led by one other right-wing hardliner, Naftali Bennett, who additionally opposes a Palestinian state. The U.S. is attempting to restrict its presence within the area and is probably not keen to launch a brand new peace course of right now.
What’s on the agenda?
For King Abdullah it’s critical that he renews U.S. help for his function as guardian and custodian of Muslim holy locations in East Jerusalem — a problem that had come below risk over the past months of Trump’s presidency. In a bid to woo Saudi Arabia into concluding a separate peace cope with Israel, Western media studies recommended that Netanyahu and Kushner may need been prepared to supply Riyadh custodianship of Al-Aqsa Mosque, changing King Abdullah. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly supported Jordan’s particular function on the holy mosque. One factor is evident: President Biden helps the brand new détente between Israel and Jordan as exemplified by the lately unannounced go to by Bennett to Amman and the following settlement to produce water-parched Jordan with an extra 50 million cubic meters of Israeli water. In recent times Jordan had grow to be more and more dependent — to the anger of many Jordanians — on Israeli pure gasoline and water. Israel additionally agreed to permit Amman to extend its exports to the West Financial institution from $160 million to $700 million yearly.
Earlier than he left Amman the king met with the Palestinian president, who, in accordance with sources, approved him to take any steps wanted to persuade the U.S. administration to revive the peace course of. Each Amman and Ramallah misplaced a number of political sway throughout and after the latest Israel-Gaza warfare, when Hamas emerged as a key participant in Palestinian politics on the expense of the PA. Jordan has no formal ties with Hamas whereas Abbas didn’t reconcile with the motion, which controls Gaza. And following the demise of a Palestinian activist, who had been important of Abbas, whereas within the PA’s custody in late June, protests broke out within the West Financial institution calling for Abbas’ ouster. The Palestinian chief, whose time period as president ended nearly a decade in the past, has by no means been extra unpopular amongst his personal individuals. His personal Fatah motion has splintered as he postponed legislative and presidential elections earlier this yr.
For King Abdullah there are different points that he wish to focus on with the Biden administration as properly. Jordan’s economic system is struggling with file unemployment and poverty charges and a hovering public debt. Public stress is mounting on the federal government to offer socio-economic options — a key think about a sedition plot involving the king’s half-brother and a former aide aimed toward destabilizing the dominion, which the Biden administration helped expose final March.
Behind closed doorways the king, who’s accompanied on the journey by Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein, will in all probability ask President Biden to seek out methods to exempt the dominion from penalties below the Caesar Act relating to buying and selling with Syria, Jordan’s northern neighbor. The war-torn nation is in dangerous want of primary items and supplies that Jordan can present, particularly to southern Syria. The White Home will nearly actually put stress on the king to hurry up the method of adopting real political and financial reforms whereas enhancing the dominion’s human rights and freedom of speech information.
However from a strategic angle, the 2 nations are boosting their navy and intelligence cooperation. Earlier this month the U.S. introduced that it was redeploying navy belongings and personnel from Afghanistan and Qatar to Jordanian bases. This comes after the 2 nations signed a controversial protection settlement final January that was not ratified by the Jordanian parliament.
As the 2 nations mark greater than 70 years of bilateral ties, there isn’t a doubt that the king, who may also meet senior administration officers; Congress management; members of the Senate Armed Companies, International Relations, and Appropriations committees; and members of the Home International Affairs Committee, will return to Amman feeling a lot better about the way forward for this strategic relationship. The query is how will this relationship form the way forward for Jordan in a quick altering area?
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator primarily based in Amman. The opinions expressed on this piece are his personal.
Picture by KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP through Getty Pictures