Yesterday, King Abdullah II of Jordan met with President Biden—the latter’s first meeting with an Arab head of state since taking office. Writing in advance of the visit, Ghaith al-Omari and Ben Fishman discuss the problems currently facing the kingdom, America’s priorities, and how all this relates to Israel:
Externally, Jordan is facing challenges on all of its borders. To the north, the Syrian conflict has flooded the kingdom with refugees, cut off an important trade route, and threatened to bring Iran—directly or through its proxies—to its frontier. To the east, attempts to deepen relations with Iraq (whether bilaterally or through a trilateral process with Egypt) have produced diplomatic progress but few concrete economic dividends. To the west, a weak and fickle Palestinian Authority remains a source of concern, and relations with Israel’s leadership were extremely negative under the former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, causing civil and diplomatic affairs to suffer greatly (though security ties remained strong). And to the south, King Abdullah’s relations with the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman are tepid at best.
[But] Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett and its foreign minister Yair Lapid have placed early emphasis on revitalizing the relationship with Amman. On July 8, Lapid and the Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi signed an important deal that will increase water sales to the kingdom (after the collapse of the long-negotiated Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project) and expand Jordanian trade to the West Bank. The United States should applaud this momentum and encourage other areas of cooperation, including healthcare, energy, the environment, and grassroots initiatives.