In late January 2023, King Abdullah II of Jordan embarked on a diplomatic tour that included Qatar, Canada, and the United States.
His Majesty’s meeting with the President Joe Biden for the fourth time in 18 months was accompanied by significant developments in the region, especially in the Palestinian, Iranian, and Israeli arenas, the latter of which is the common denominator among the three.
The Palestinian arena is witnessing an accelerating escalation of tension that threatens to intensify the economic, political, and security crises in a West Bank already under the pressure of Israel’s military and settlement measures.
This escalation also leads to an unprecedented level of extreme policies by the Israeli government towards Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque while also activating advanced levels of grey warfare methods and tactics between Israel and Iran, the effects of which are alarming to all countries in the region.
Events Leading Up to the Visit
The king’s visit to the United States was preceded by numerous political events and security moves imposed by the escalating situation that included important visits to both Palestinian territories and Israel by senior security officials that included Jordan’s director of General Intelligence, Gen. Ahmed Hosni; the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence, Gen. Abbas Kamel; U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan; and CIA Director Bill Burns.
In a statement released immediately after Abdullah met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 24 in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the Royal Hashemite Court asserted that “the historical and legal situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif must be respected and never compromised,” emphasizing the need to “maintain calm and cease all acts of violence” and calling for “an end to any measures that could undermine peace prospects.”
This message was echoed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during his January 29–31 visit to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. In his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, for instance, Blinken reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the two-state solution and its opposition to any unilateral measures that may prevent it, particularly the Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.
The Visit and Beyond:
The particular importance of His Majesty’s visit to the United States and meeting with its president, speaker of the House, members of top congressional committees, and other government officials originates from Jordan’s great responsibility in the area and region.
The United States’ recognition of Jordan’s geopolitical status and its historical role as a central stabilizing factor in the Middle East is reflected in His Majesty’s visit, which implies several indications of Jordan’s powerful influence coefficient to correct the course.
These indicators are evident in four clear messages carried by His Majesty.
King Abdullah’s first message was that Jerusalem and the holy sites must not be compromised, notably the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that Israel should be compelled to respect the Hashemite guardianship of Jerusalem and its sanctities.
In this regard, the visit was a reminder of what has been agreed upon in the 1995 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, especially in Article 9, which stipulates that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”
Hence, it was important that after meeting with His Majesty, the White House released a statement affirming “Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem [and] citing the critical need to preserve the historic status quo at the Hram al-Sharif/temple Mount.”
The king’s second message assured the balance of the political, economic, and security pathways in resolving the Palestinian cause, as well as the centrality of a political solution based on resolutions of international legitimacy.
It was also a warning of the dangers of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, and implied reservations on giving precedence to the security solution proposal presented by Blinken in his earlier call to the Palestinian Authority to form a special security force to “regain control” of Nablus and Jenin in the West Bank.
His Majesty asserted the leading role of the United States in pushing for de-escalation and developing a genuine political horizon to preserve the chances of achieving a comprehensive and just peace based on the two-state solution.
The king also underscored the necessity to stop Israeli steps that undermine the two-state solution and push for further escalation. He emphasized the importance of intensifying all efforts to support the Palestinian people in realizing their just and legitimate rights, and establishing their independent state on the lines of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to living in security and peace alongside Israel.
In return, Biden reaffirmed his country’s strong support of the two-state solution.
The king’s third message conveyed strengthening strategic relations between the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on clear grounds, the most important of which is the United States’ appreciation of the Kingdom’s role in maintaining the stability of the Middle East. This was clearly manifested in the two leaders’ comments regarding the deep strategic partnership between the two countries and the commitment to further strengthen it in various areas.
The king expressed his appreciation for the deep and friendly relations between the two countries and praised the continuous support of the United States to the Kingdom in various areas. In turn, the president thanked His Majesty for his leadership of Jordan as a stability hub in the Middle East. Biden also affirmed the full commitment of the United States in supporting the Kingdom’s stability and economic prosperity to meet various regional and global challenges.’
This support translated into a meeting of His Majesty with the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, on February 2 to discuss the continuous partnership between the agency and Jordan. The meeting stressed their mutual commitment to Jordan’s key development priorities, including economic stability and water sustainability.
Fourth, the king declared the growing impact of Jordan’s role in the region through its efforts in promoting multilateral economic partnerships as a means to implement security and stability in the region. Washington has supported this position since Amman hosted the second summit of joint talks between Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt in 2019 to bolster triangular cooperation between the three states.
Therefore, the royal visit to Washington may play a role in advancing several strategic cooperation projects in the areas of energy and transport.
The king’s final message was that despite Jordan’s challenges at the domestic level, the Kingdom’s leadership in Arab and Islamic issues—including Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Jordan’s active role in the Middle East—is becoming increasingly powerful and more influential by the day.
Ultimately, this is the most prominent theme of His Majesty King Hussain II’s visit to the United States, especially since Jordan’s responsibility is maximized by increased burdens while the challenges of responding to them have been raised to their highest levels.