President Barack Obama warmly praised Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House Tuesday, thanking him for hosting talks with the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
“We have very few countries around the world that are better friends and better partners than the Jordanians,” said the president. “And so I want to publicly express my appreciation for His Majesty’s leadership not only in forging a strong bilateral relationship, but also all the multilateral efforts that he is engaged in to encourage peace and prosperity during what has been an extraordinary time.”
President Obama constantly cast King Abdullah in the limelight during his remarks, saying that he consulted the monarch several times during the Arab Spring uprisings that have rocked the Arab world since early last year.
The president then zeroed in on the failed peace process that the United States has sponsored to help the Palestinian Authority establish itself as a new Arab country within Israel’s current borders.
“The Jordanians have taken great leadership on this issue, and we very much appreciate their direction on this issue,” said President Obama. He also said that King Abdullah has been “ahead of the curve” by encouraging reforms in his country and being “the first Arab leader to publicly call on President Assad to step down, in the face of the terrible brutality we’ve been seeing inside of Syria.”
President Obama offered to continue to provide Jordan with “timely assistance in areas like food security…to make sure that there’s bread in Jordan.”
King Abdullah candidly stated that the PA-Israeli talks he is trying to encourage are not guaranteed to be a success. “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,” he said.
Israeli and Jordanian negotiators have met three times in Jordan the past three weeks as the Quartet tries to pressure Israel to submit proposals for borders and security by its self-imposed January 26 deadline. Little progress has been made, and King Abdullah's intervention may take some of the heat off President Obama if the discussions reach a dead end, as in the past.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has objected to the demand because doing so would in effect contradict the concept of direct negotiations, which PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has avoided for more than two years except for a two-hour session in Washington under the gaze of President Obama.
Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this week that Abbas' constant pre-conditions for talks show he has “no interest in entering peace talks." Abbas reportedly agreed to send his aides to Jordan for talks only to avoid insulting King Abdullah.