JERUSALEM — The arrival in Washington of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, accompanied by his highly prominent wife, Queen Rania, on Monday put a spotlight on the Hashemite Kingdom’s awkward position in the Middle East as the country’s leadership tries to walk the line between maintaining close ties with the U.S. and taking a hard stance toward Israel and its war in Gaza to placate its large Palestinian population.
Following their meeting, Biden thanked Jordan for its help in supplying humanitarian aid to Gaza and recognized the Arab nation as an important U.S. ally: 'We're grateful to our partners and allies like the king who work with us every single day to advance security stability across the region and beyond. It's difficult times like these when the bonds between nations are more important than ever.'
In his remarks, Abdullah called for an end to the war: 'We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting cease-fire now. This war must end. We must urgently and immediately work to ensure the sustainable delivery of sufficient aid to Gaza through all possible entry points and mechanisms. And I thank you, Mr. President, for your support on this.'
Abdullah’s visit to the White House on Monday was the first by an Arab leader to the U.S. since Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack against Israel, which sparked a full-scale war in the Gaza Strip and increased tensions throughout the Middle East, including in Jordan.
While Jordan, unlike Qatar and Egypt, has not taken a direct role in mediating between Israel and Hamas, the king is likely to pressure Biden to seek an end to the four-month conflict and secure a role for itself in postwar efforts to rebuild Gaza.
Dr. Saud Al-Sharafat, a former brigadier general in the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate, told Fox News Digital that both the Israelis and Americans have long been aware of the king’s dilemma and, despite the tensions, 'relations between the three parties continue even in the most difficult circumstances, like the one we are facing today.'
Al-Sharafat, the founder and director of the Shorufat Center for Globalization and Terrorism Studies based in Jordan’s capital, Aman, said he believes the goal of Abdullah’s visit was to gain American assurances that Jordan will remain the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem – a position it has held since Israel took over Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War – and to gain guarantees that Palestinian refugees from Gaza would not be sent to Jordan or the West Bank.
He also said that Jordan is vying for a role in Gaza’s postwar reconstruction and hoping to secure U.S. military aid to bulk up its air defense system, particularly following the deadly Jan. 28 drone attack by Iran-backed militants on a U.S. military base in northeastern Jordan. Three American soldiers were killed in that attack.
'Politics is the art of managing long-term international political relations and managing emergency crises,' said Al-Sharafat, adding that Jordan’s internal politics have dictated the country’s tough stance toward Israel’s actions in Gaza and also prevented the king and other top leaders from condemning the brutal attack carried out by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
'First, the king presents himself in the Arab and Islamic world and the world as a defender and guardian of Islamic sanctities in Jerusalem, which was part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan until 1967,' said Al-Sharafat. 'Second, the social and demographic factors of contemporary Jordan, with half of Jordan’s citizens being of Palestinian origin, put pressure on the regime to take a hard line and sometimes extreme positions against Israel and America as a supporter of Israel.'
Less than three weeks after Hamas’ murderous rampage, Queen Rania, herself a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, harshly spoke out against Israel’s military response, refusing to acknowledge any of the atrocities carried out by the Iranian-backed terror group in interviews with Western journalists and on social media. Her comments were followed by accusations from Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi, who called Israeli actions in Gaza a 'war crime.'
'To vent and control the feelings of the popular masses and the Islamist opposition, Queen Rania and Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi were allowed to make strong statements,' Al-Sharafat said.
Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a D.C.-based think tank, called Jordan’s position during the current conflict 'bizarre.'
'It has been vitriolic as it relates to Israel,' he said, acknowledging that this stems from the country’s large Palestinian population.
However, said Schanzer, 'Jordan is also battling Iran-backed militias on its border with Syria, and although the Jordanians may not like it, they face the same enemy as the Israelis. In addition, Israel remains pivotal to Jordan's stability because of the water, gas and intelligence the Israelis provide.'
'All this appears to be lost on the king,' he continued. 'Queen Rania has unquestionably emerged as a champion of the Palestinians since Oct. 7, and her voice has been rather disturbing, not because it is pro-Palestinian but because her commentary appears to be detached from the realities of Jordan's vulnerabilities and its heavy reliance on Israel.'
Schanzer said that despite the apparent discrepancies between Jordanian and U.S. approaches to the conflict in the Middle East, 'the Jordanians are still pinning their hopes on a strong America.'
He said that the fact the U.S. 'has not nudged the Jordanians toward a more moderate position vis-à-vis Israel reflects an utter lack of American leadership.'
'We need to keep our strongest allies in the region more unified,' Schanzer said. 'They may not be best friends, but they need to hang together or hang separately. … This should be our message.'
Calls and emails to the Jordanian spokesperson at its embassy in Washington, D.C., for comment were not returned.