Jordan’s King Abdullah meets with US defence secretary over Israeli violence in Palestine

Jordan’s King Abdullah meets with US defence secretary over Israeli violence in Palestine
3 min read
06 March, 2023
King Abdullah "stressed the need to restore calm and de-escalate in the Palestinian territories."
Despite Israel committing to stopping new settlement construction last week, Israeli government officials have said construction would continue "as planned." [Getty]

Jordanian King Abdullah II met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Amman on Sunday, where the two discussed the escalating violence in the occupied West Bank.

During the meeting, King Abdullah "stressed the need to restore calm and de-escalate in the Palestinian territories, as well as cease any unilateral measures that undermine stability and peace prospects," a Royal Court statement said.

The king also urged relaunching Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a two-state solution. No negotiations have been held since talks between the two parties failed in 2014.

The meeting comes as violence in Palestine soars to unprecedented levels, with at least 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli violence since the start of the year, according to the Palestinian health authority.

Most recently, Israeli settlers rampaged through the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, burning Palestinian houses and cars and leaving one Palestinian dead.

The settler attack on Hawara has been condemned as a modern-day "pogrom," even by conservative commentators in the Israeli political scene.

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Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said last week that he believed that "Huwara needs to be erased" by Israel.

The US State Department said the minister's comments were "repugnant" and "disgusting," calling for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to condemn them.

Jordan hosted Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and US officials in the southern city of Aqaba on 26 February to de-escalate the violence in Palestine.

The parties issued the Aqaba Joint Communique, which included a call for both sides to "work towards a just and lasting peace" and to "work to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months."

It also said that Israel committed to stopping discussions of any new settlements for 4 months.

Despite Israel's agreement to the Communique, high-ranking government officials have issued statements which appear to renege on the statement.

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Israeli PM Netanyahu tweeted last week that settlement construction in "Judea and Samaria [terms the Israeli right-wing use to describe the occupied West Bank] would continue according to the original planning."

Washington has asked for clarifications from Netanyahu on his statements, according to Israeli media.

US Defence Secretary Austin will go on to visit Israel, where he will discuss the escalating violence, as well as Iran's activities in the region, which both the US and Israel view as a threat to regional security.

The Jordanian king also requested more military aid from Washington to increase security along its border with Syria, according to Reuters.

Iran-backed groups operate along the Syrian-Jordanian border and are active in smuggling drugs into the Hashemite Kingdom. The drugs then are transported to the Gulf – the region's most lucrative drug market.

The US has given around US$1 billion to Jordan since 2011 to help patrol its border with Syria.

Security cooperation with Jordan is a cornerstone of US security policy in the region, maintaining multiple military bases in the country, along with close collaboration with its intelligence wing.

In January 2021, the US signed a defence agreement with Jordan which allows US military personnel and vehicles free entry into the kingdom, as well as lets US forces "possess and circulate" weapons in the country while on duty.