by: Janet Aslin
Tuesday, 20 July 2021 | Jordan’s monarch, King Abdullah II, met with US President Joe Biden yesterday, their first encounter since Biden’s inauguration. The two discussed a wide range of topics—from Jordan’s economic challenges stemming from the COVID pandemic to its role as a stabilizing influence in the turbulent region.
Two issues close to the heart of the monarch were also on the table—Jordan’s role with regard to the Temple Mount and the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to the White House press secretary, President Biden 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’s statements are especially helpful to King Abdullah as he publicly supports the Palestinian Authority and its efforts. Several of the decisions made by former President Trump’s administration were seen by the king as less favorable.
The US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 brought a swift warning from Abdullah, who said the move “would have dangerous repercussions for the security and stability of the Middle East, that it would undermine the US administration’s efforts to resume the peace process.”
The “Peace to Prosperity” plan announced by former President Trump in January 2020 also put the Jordanian monarch in an awkward position as it would have allowed 30% of Judea and Samaria—land that the Palestinians want for their state—to instead become sovereign Israeli territory. More than 40% of Jordan’s population are Palestinian, and the loss of a significant portion of land seen as belonging to the future Palestinian state is an issue with the potential to ignite unrest among the king’s constituents.
Another flash-point issue is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Islam’s third holiest site and the single most important location in Judaism. The question concerns non-Muslim access to and worship at the site. The Jerusalem Islamic Wafq, a religious organization that controls and manages the Temple Mount location, regularly prevents prayer and worship by non-Muslims.
Over the years, this has become a serious point of contention. President Biden’s reiteration of US acknowledgement and respect for Jordan’s role on the Temple Mount is an important one for the king as he deals with power struggles that continue to take place over who is allowed to pray there and who isn’t.
President Biden also seemed to acknowledge a return to the policy of previous US administrations who looked to Jordan as an important island of stability in the ever-changing and sometimes volatile world of the Middle East. The invitation of King Abdullah II as the first Middle East leader to visit the White House is a recognition of the importance Jordan plays and will play in the administration’s foreign policy.
As the US is negotiating a withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, Jordan may take on an important role in the region from a military standpoint. The US and Jordan recently signed a defense agreement that allows US forces to transport and stock equipment as well as authorize personnel, their aircraft and ships to “freely enter and exit Jordanian territory.”
During their White House meeting, President Biden confirmed the strong ties between the United States and Jordan when he remarked, “You have always been there, and we will always be there for Jordan.”
King Abdullah II is meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken today.
Posted on July 20, 2021
Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 20, 2021)
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