Vice President Mike Pence met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan on Sunday and praised the U.S.-Jordan alliance. In particular, Pence applauded Jordan’s role in the campaign that defeated the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Jordan.
Abdullah was less enthusiastic.
Sitting next to Pence, Abdullah reinstated his outspoken opposition to President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and committing the U.S. to moving its embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with U.S. law.
Last month, Abdullah attacked Trump’s move and referred to it as “null and void.” In the weeks that followed Trump’s December 6 announcement, Abdullah went to Europe to lobby European governments to oppose the American move.
At least in part as a result of Abdullah’s lobbying efforts, U.S. allies like Britain and France were among the 178 nations, including Jordan, that voted on December 21 for the U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning America for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Sitting with Pence Sunday, Abdullah said, “Today we have a major challenge to overcome, especially with some of the rising frustrations” in the wake of Trump’s move on Jerusalem.
He said the goal of Pence’s trip must be “to rebuild trust and confidence” in America’s commitment to establishing a Palestinian state.
The most notable aspect of Abdullah’s role in the campaign to castigate Trump’s policy towards Jerusalem is that he owes his regime’s survival to the U.S. and Israel.
The U.S. provides Jordan with more than $1.5 billion a year in military and civilian aid. The Trump administration has pledged to maintain aid levels in 2018.
As Jordan expert David Schenker noted in a briefing last September, Jordan is one of the poorest states in the Arab world. Only a quarter of its adult population is gainfully employed.
Israel ensures the regime’s survival by providing Jordan with water and natural gas.
There are more than 2,800 U.S. troops in Jordan. U.S. forces in Jordan use the kingdom as a base for anti-ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq. They are also tasked with protecting Abdullah’s regime.
Pence’s forbearance of Abdullah’s slights Sunday was in keeping with America’s consistent tolerance for Abdullah’s deeply problematic behavior.
On July 23, 2017, a Jordanian terrorist in Amman tried to stab Ziv Moyal, an Israeli embassy officer, with a screwdriver in Moyal’s apartment adjacent to the Israeli embassy compound. Moyal shot and killed his assailant. He also killed his landlord, who was present at the scene.
Moyal quickly sought refuge at the Israeli embassy. Within moments, all of Israel’s diplomats had converged there to avoid revenge attacks and to evacuate to Israel for safety.
Wild press reports claiming that Moyal had murdered two Jordanians in cold blood brought angry anti-Israel rioters into the streets. Protesters quickly surrounded the embassy compound, and effectively held Israel’s diplomats, including Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, hostage.
Under international law, Abdullah was obliged to protect the diplomats. But he refused, for nearly 24 hours.
A few days before the event, Muslim terrorists at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem murdered three Israeli policemen. Israel responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the mosques to make it more difficult for worshippers to smuggle weapons inside the mosques.
Jordan serves as the Islamic administrator of the mosques on the Temple Mount. Rather than support Israel’s move, Abdullah condemned it.
But with Israel’s diplomats in danger, the Trump administration cut a deal with Abdullah to save them. In exchange for an Israeli pledge to remove the metal detectors at the Temple Mount, Abdullah sent his military forces to the embassy to extract the diplomats and enable them to cross the border to Israel.
In other words, to save the lives of Israel’s diplomats, the Trump administration convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make concessions to Jordan, which directly benefited terrorists like the ones who murdered the Israeli police officers.
Israel hoped that once the mob had dispersed, Abdullah would allow its diplomats to return and resume normal operations at its embassy, in conformity with the terms of its peace treaty with Jordan. But Abdullah would have none of it.