US President Joe Biden welcomes King Abdullah to the White House


Abdullah will meet with Harris and Blinken during the week. Talks with the king are expected to include the way forward for Israel and the Palestinians. OMRI NAHMIAS, REUTERS

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, July 19, 2021.(photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

US President Joe Biden welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah to the White House on Monday. It is the first of three face-to-face meetings with leaders from the Middle East expected this summer.

Abdullah, who faced down a challenge to his authority in April from his half-brother, Prince Hamzah, held his first Oval Office talks with Biden since he took power in January.

He will also have a working breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday at the Vice President’s Residence, followed by a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department.

Abdullah is the first Middle East leader to visit the Biden White House, and will be followed on July 26 by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. US and Israeli officials are currently working on scheduling a meeting between Biden and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

A senior Biden administration official said the president’s talks with the king are expected to include the way forward for Israel and the Palestinians, with Bennett having recently replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister.

Tensions remain high in the wake of the 11-day war in May between Israel and Hamas and other Gazan terrorists.

Abdullah’s standing in his own country may come up in the talks. Jordan’s image as an island of stability in the turbulent Middle East was called into question after Prince Hamzah was accused of a plot to destabilize the country in April.

Biden has offered full support to Abdullah, who was joined at the White House by his wife, Queen Rania.

“We have great confidence in the king’s leadership, and I think the visit over the course of the coming days will just reaffirm that confidence,” a senior Biden administration official said.

Other topics likely to come up are the future of the Trump-era Abraham Accords – the normalization deals reached between Israel and four Arab states – negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and Syria’s humanitarian crisis, the official said.

Ambassador Dennis Ross, a Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Jerusalem Post that the visit doesn’t signal a higher priority for the Middle East, “but does signal a recognition that even a management strategy requires not just active diplomacy but also visible involvement of the president and secretary of state from time-to-time.”

“King Abdullah hopes to reestablish not just a close relationship with the Biden administration in keeping with the one he has had in all previous administrations with the exception of Trump’s,” Ross said. “He similarly hopes to sustain the level of foreign assistance he has been receiving from the US and have the administration help promote private investment in Jordan.”

The King also wants “a strong public reaffirmation of the Biden administration’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Ross. “He has no illusions about achieving that soon, but he wants it to be an unmistakable American objective. For its part, the Biden administration understands how important Jordan is to stability in the Middle East, with it having Israel’s longest border and it being a buffer state for the Saudis.”

Ross added that the Administration is likely to reaffirm its commitment to Jordan, “while also emphasizing the need for reforms, especially economic reforms and the importance of battling corruption for attracting private investment.”

“It will certainly also make clear its commitment to the two state outcome and may be very open to King Abdullah pressing [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas to be open to taking practical steps with the Israelis; to among other things health and economic development in the PA,” Ross added.



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