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.
Abdullah insisted first that Israel replace Ambassador Schlein. Netanyahu finally agreed to replace the senior diplomat in late November. But then Abdullah ratcheted up his demands.
He insisted that Moyal be tried for murder and that Israel apologize for the incident and compensate the families of the Jordanian landlord and Moyal’s assailant.
Over the weekend, the Jordanian media reported that Israel had accepted its demands. Israel reportedly agreed to pay millions of dollars in restitution to the families and officially apologized.
Netanyahu clarified that the government had “expressed regret” for the lives lost. A government source said Moyal will not be tried for any crime. Israel confirmed that it transferred $5 million to the Jordanian government.
Netanyahu thanked President Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, for closing the deal with Abdullah that will enable the Israeli embassy to reopen.
But Abdullah’s refusal to protect Israel’s diplomats was in line with his general support for anti-Israel terrorism.
In 2011, Israel freed more than a thousand convicted Palestinians terrorists to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli army sergeant who had been held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years.
Among the terrorists Israel freed was Ahlam Tamimi.
Tamimi masterminded a suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2001. Fifteen were killed in the attack, and seven of the dead were young children. Tamimi specifically chose the pizzeria as the target of the bombing because it was a popular place for parents with small children during summer vacation.
Two of her victims were U.S. citizens. One of the 122 people wounded in the attack was an American woman who has been in a vegetative state ever since.
Following her release, Tamimi moved to Amman, where she received a royal welcome from Abdullah’s regime. She was also given a television show. On air, Tamimi routinely calls on her viewers to follow her example and murder Israelis.
In January 2017, the FBI placed Tamimi on its most wanted list. The Department of Justice formally requested her extradition to stand trial for the murder and maiming of U.S. citizens.
Jordan signed an extradition treaty with the US in 1995. Last March, Jordan rejected the U.S. request for Tamimi, claiming the treaty was unratified. The power to ratify treaties in Jordan belongs to the King.
So just in the past ten years, Abdullah has rejected a U.S. extradition request and has lobbied the Europeans to condemn Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He facilitated the siege of the Israeli embassy. He leveraged a hostage situation to undermine Israel’s counterterrorism efforts at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He extorted blood money from Israel.
Yet rather than stand up to Abdullah, the Trump administration gives him a pass for everything.
And it has been right to do so.
Because it has no better option.
According to a 2014 Pew survey, 85 percent of Jordanians are anti-American. A 2006 Pew study found that 100 percent of Jordanians are anti-Jewish.
Abdullah and his Hashemite tribe are a minority among Jordan’s Bedouin tribes. And the Bedouin as a whole is a minority in Jordan where, according to the Congressional Research Service, Palestinians make up 55 to 70 percent of the population.
If Abdullah is overthrown, there is little likelihood that a successor regime will be pro-American.
With Abdullah in power, the U.S. is able to project its power from Jordan throughout the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. If the Pentagon concludes that it is necessary to close down its Air Operations Headquarters at Udeid air base in Doha, Qatar, Jordan could serve as the site of a replacement base.
None of this would likely be the case under a different regime. The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political force in Jordan outside the regime.
So despite his double-dealing, the U.S. is better off supporting Abdullah than abandoning him.
This dismal situation is even more frustrating when you consider that Abdullah is arguably America’s most stable Arab ally.
And that’s the essence of the problem. America’s alliances in the Arab world are with regimes, not with nations. During his tenure in office, George W. Bush tried to overturn the equation with his democracy agenda. The devastating results of this strategy are still haunting the region and the U.S.
So long as majorities reject the values of liberal democracies generally, and hate the U.S. specifically, there is little chance of America leading a democratization movement that will result in anything positive. Minority regimes may make unreliable allies. But popularly elected regimes that embrace bigotry and reject the U.S. and democratic values will reliably be enemies.
In Abdullah’s case, while his dependence on the U.S. ensures his loyalty, his regime is inherently weak because he lacks popular support. To avoid widespread unrest, Abdullah proclaims and occasionally adopts extremist positions against Israel and the US and in favor of terrorists.
Abdullah benefits twice from his hostile policies. On the one hand, he keeps his opponents at bay by satisfying their anti-Americanism and hatred of Israel. On the other hand, by encouraging the public to hate America and Israel, he makes it less likely that any pro-American alternatives to his regime will emerge that could reduce U.S. and Israeli dependence on him personally.
To modify his behavior, the U.S. can and should demand that Abdullah bar anti-American and antisemitic incitement in his state-owned media. He should be required to extradite Tamimi to the U.S. and run programming explaining why she is a terrorist, not a hero.
Such steps can begin to move back the dial of anti-Americanism and antisemitism in Jordan, if only minimally.
Over time, such basic steps may diminish Abdullah’s perceived need to buy off the mob at his gates with pro-terror policies and reduce America’s need to accept his double-dealing, as Pence was forced to do on Sunday in Amman.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Caroline Glick