Biden said mulling East Jerusalem visit during Israel trip

Jordanian king to meet Biden at White House amid Temple Mount tensions

Leaders reportedly to focus on reducing pressure at flashpoint Jerusalem holy site that threatens to spark a wider conflict and damage ties between Israel and Jordan

In this July 19, 2021 file photo, US President Joe Biden, right, meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this July 19, 2021 file photo, US President Joe Biden, right, meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II will meet with US President Joe Biden on Friday, the White House announced, with tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem expected to be high on the agenda.

The two leaders are set to discuss bilateral relations, as well as the recent flare-ups between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, especially surrounding the Temple Mount compound, and efforts to deescalate tensions in the city, according to the Walla news site.

The Hashemite monarch is also slated to meet with top American officials in Washington, including a congressional delegation led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news site reported

Abdullah’s meeting with Biden will come ahead of a scheduled trip to Israel next month by the US president, with an Israeli official telling The Times of Israel that the trip may include a stop at the Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem in order to announce a new funding initiative. Former president Donald Trump cut $25 million in US funding for the Palestinian hospital network in 2018.

A visit to Al Makassed would be seen as a nod to an unofficial Palestinian institution in Jerusalem and would surely be welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. However, it still falls well short of the PA’s expectation that Biden follow through on his pledge to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem that was shuttered by Trump in 2019.

Israel has dug its heels in against the move, arguing that it amounts to an encroachment on its sovereignty in Jerusalem. Unwilling to pick a fight with the fragile Israeli government, the Biden administration has held off on following through on the campaign promise.

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House said Tuesday that Abdullah’s visit — his second since Biden entered office — “will reinforce the close friendship and enduring partnership between the United States and Jordan.”

“Jordan is a critical force for stability in the Middle East and strategic partner and ally of the United States,” the White House said.

Abdullah, who has been in the US for several days, met on Monday with religious figures in New York to discuss the situation in Jerusalem, according to a statement from the royal court.

“The King reiterated that the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem is an honor and a responsibility that helps preserve the unity of all churches, and—more importantly—unity among the Muslim and Christian communities,” the statement read.

“The King reaffirmed Jordan’s commitment to the principles of interfaith harmony and dialogue, as well as moderation and openness, underscoring the promotion of peace and stability as pillars of Jordan’s foreign policy,” it said.

Palestinian clash with Israeli police at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Jordan, which ruled the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1948 until the 1967 Six Day War, has long maintained that its treaties with Israel grant it custodianship over Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites; while Israel has never accepted this claim, it grants day-to-day administration of the Temple Mount to the Jordan-funded Waqf.

Known as Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa complex to Muslims, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest.

It has long been a flashpoint for violence and conflict, with tensions again surging in recent weeks, including Palestinian riots, clashes with the Israel Police and by Jewish activists seeking to pray on the Mount.

Tensions on the holy site have reverberated into terror attacks, diplomatic tensions with Israel’s allies, threats from Hamas, and the exacerbation of the ongoing coalition crisis.

Israeli police move behind riot shields during clashes with Palestinians at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The clashes have also led to escalating tensions between Israel and Jordan in particular.

Abdullah has condemned Israel for the clashes, slamming it for allowing Jewish pilgrims to enter the site and calling on it to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there, according to a statement from the Royal Hashemite Court.

During a phone call last month with Biden, Abdullah stressed the importance of respecting the Al Aqsa Mosque and said his country will continue to take necessary action to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites.

During their meeting last July, Biden’s first with a Middle Eastern ally since assuming office, the US president said he supported the “position of Jordan as protector of the holy sites in Jerusalem.” He added: “You have always been there for us and we’ll always be there for Jordan,” noting that the Middle East was a “rough neighborhood.”

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