Jordan’s King Abdullah is set to become the first leader of an Arab nation to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden since the president’s inauguration in January.
“By granting the Jordanian monarch the honor of being the first Arab leader to visit the new president, the U.S. administration is putting wind in Jordan’s sails as it seeks to fend off Saudi claims regarding custodianship of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem,” James M. Dorsey wrote for the Begin-Sadat Center.
The meeting comes after weeks of rapprochement between Israel and Jordan – but also on the heels of an official Jordanian complaint over Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount on Sunday. The Hashemite Kingdom is custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem including the Haram al-Sharif complex which includes al-Aqsa Mosque.
“The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned, and represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem,” said Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayez, adding that the entire Temple Mount compound “is a place of worship purely for Muslims.”
Though Jordan and Israel have had a formal peace agreement since 1994, relations – though never warm – had been particularly chilly in recent years.
However, prior to the tense incidents of yesterday, we have been reporting for several weeks now about a shift in Israel’s foreign policy approach to Jordan including a deal in which Israel will supply Jordan with additional water for five years and allow Amman to increase its exports to the Palestinian Authority.
Then, just 10 days ago, dramatic news broke that the new right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly met with Abdullah in Amman.
“The Kingdom of Jordan is an important neighbor and partner,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement at the time. “We will broaden economic cooperation for the good of the two countries.”
These outreaches marked a clear shift in Israeli foreign policy with the Bennett-Lapid government all in a possible effort to get on the Biden administration's good side.
In casting today's meeting, the White House called Jordan “a key security partner” and emphasized its “leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.”
But just 24 hours after Muslims clashed with Israeli police over Jewish worshippers entering the Temple Mount to pray – and official complaints lodged by several Arab countries over the incident – the optics look bad for Israel.
For his part, Bennett said Sunday that both Jews and Muslims have “freedom of worship” at the site, a statement that could hint at a change in the status quo adopted years ago that prevents Jews and Christians from praying at the site.
It will be interesting to see whether Abdullah raises any of these points at his meeting with Biden.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS