Middle East Eye / February 2, 2023
Biden also discussed heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank during a private lunch at the White House with King Abdullah.
US President Joe Biden emphasized US support for Jordan’s custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem and discussed efforts to reduce tensions in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, during a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah II.
The meeting marked King Abdullah’s second visit to the White House in less than a year and the third since Biden took office.
Biden, the king, and Crown Prince Hussein had a private lunch in which the US president “reaffirmed the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan”, the White House said.
Biden also underlined his support for the legal “status quo” of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque complex and recognized Jordan’s “crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem”.
The 10 million-strong kingdom squeezed between Iraq, Syria, Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia is one of the US’s closest regional allies and heavily dependent on Washington for aid.
Despite its stability in the region, the country is coping with a flagging economy and sky-high unemployment. Jordan was hit by protests over rising fuel prices late last year and economic frustration has been growing.
In September, Washington provided a large boost in aid to Jordan, committing $10.15bn over the next seven years.
Jordan is also concerned about rising tensions in the occupied West Bank.
Red lines and Netanyahu visit
In December, King Abdullah warned about a potential “breakdown of law and order” in the neighbouring occupied West Bank and cautioned Israel not to cross Amman’s “red lines” over Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Before visiting Washington, Abdullah met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman to discuss regional tensions, including over Jerusalem’s holy sites. King Abdullah and Netanyahu have had a testy relationship in the past.
In January, Israeli forces held up Jordan’s ambassador to Israel at an entrance to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, prompting condemnation from Amman.
The Hashemite royal family of Jordan are custodians of both the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, going back to an agreement dating to the time of the British mandate of Palestine.
Referring to growing tensions around al-Aqsa Mosque, Biden reaffirmed “the critical need to preserve the historic status quo”, the White House said in a statement.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden reiterated the US position of “strong support for a two-state solution” and thanked King Abdullah “for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East.”
Biden stands by Jerusalem status quo in meeting with Jordan king
Al-Jazeera / February 3, 2023
The US president praised Jordan for its ‘crucial role’ as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
United States President Joe Biden has underlined his support for the legal “status quo” of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in a meeting at the White House with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
In a private lunch with the king and Crown Prince Hussein on Thursday, Biden referred to growing tensions around the site – venerated both by Muslims and Jews in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem – and reaffirmed “the critical need to preserve the historic status quo”.
Under a longstanding agreement, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there. Jordan was recognized as the custodian of the compound, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.
In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the site, angering Palestinians.
That is despite a mainstream Jewish restriction on Jewish prayer in the compound.
In January, the national security minister in Israel’s new far-right government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, entered the site, sparking a torrent of international condemnation, with Palestinians fearful of any change in the long-term status of a location they regard as a national symbol.
Jordan, which runs the Waqf Department – the exclusive authority supervising holy sites in Jerusalem – last month said the Jordanian ambassador had been prevented from entering the site.
Biden recognized Jordan’s “crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem”, the White House said in a statement, and reaffirmed the close friendship between the US and the Hashemite Kingdom.
He also reiterated his “strong support for a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thanked King Abdullah for “the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East”.
However, Biden did not express any serious criticism of the Israeli position, despite what observers regard as the new far-right government’s increasingly hostile policies towards Palestinians, and the escalating violence in the occupied West Bank.
Instead, media reports have said the US has put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Palestinian armed groups, with little emphasis on Israeli military raids, which have killed at least 200 Palestinians in the last year.
SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES