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Jordan’s King Needs Peace Process Progress

Abdullah visits D.C., helps P.A. to bolster own authority

Marc Tracy
January 18, 2012
King Abdullah II and President Obama in the Oval Office yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
King Abdullah II and President Obama in the Oval Office yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited the White House yesterday. With his back somewhat against the wall in the face of his country’s Palestinian majority and growing Islamist movement and with the absence from the scene of the ousted Hosni Mubarak, the Hashemite king has taken the lead among Arab countries in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: the two sides have met twice this month in Amman, and are scheduled to meet there again next week. “We talked about the importance of us continuing to consult closely together to encourage the Palestinians and the Israelis to come back to the table and negotiate in a serious fashion,” President Obama said yesterday. “And the Jordanians have taken great leadership on this issue, and we very much appreciate their direction.” Added the king, “Although this is still in the very early stages, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that we can bring the Israelis and Palestinians out of the impasse that we’re facing. We’re in coordination on a regular basis with the President, as well as with his administration.” Earlier this week, Abdullah II told the Washington Post he was “cautious about saying that I’m cautiously optimistic.” The plan is for Jordan to take the lead for now; the president will step in if and when the time is right, which (this part was unsaid, but FYI) won’t come for at least another, oh, ten months.

For the United States, this is about bolstering Jordan, one of only two countries that has a peace treaty with Israel (and Egypt’s future stance is unpredictable given that country’s impending Islamist parliament), a close Arab ally sitting on a crucial piece of territory and possessing ace intelligence services. for Jordan, this is about bolstering the Palestinian Authority, which it hopes can contain Hamas (who have brethren among anti-regime Islamists in Jordan) and bring a Palestinian state to fruition before talk grows about Palestinian-majority Jordan absorbing the West Bank. One thing Jordan is doing to help P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas consolidate his power is persecute his archrival within the Fatah Party, Muhammad Dahlan: upon the P.A.’s request, it stripped Dahlan of his assets, said to include companies together worth millions of dollars. The P.A. has accused Dahlan of corruption, which he denies.

Abdullah is starting to get antsy. On his fourth prime minister since a year ago, there are reports that he has begun to crack down violently on some dissent. Jordan provides more reason for the U.S. to pressure Israel to make concessions for the sake of the peace process—pressure that almost certainly won’t be forthcoming until at least November.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.