For Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who has been dealing with a series of domestic and foreign crises, fortunately, the 59-year-old monarch will become the first Arab leader to meet during his visit to US President Biden. The White House on Monday.
As a staunch ally of the United States, the King has ruled Jordan for the past 21 years, but has a difficult relationship with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who believes that the latter is excluding his country from regional development.
“There is no friendly relationship between Trump and the King,” former Brigadier General Saudi Shaafat of the Jordanian Intelligence Directorate told Al Jazeera.
“[Jordan’s] Political leaders think [Trump] The Hashemite dynasty was completely ignored. “
In 2017, the king told Trump of his decision Recognize Jerusalem According to the royal statement, being the capital of Israel will “have a dangerous impact on the stability and security of the region.”
Although Jordan established full relations with Israel in 1994, the king also opposed transaction Trump administration 2020 Brokerage Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco have established diplomatic relations with Israel.
Analysts say the Trump administration’s data see the king as an obstacle to further transactions.
The king hopes to establish a better relationship with Biden.
“Jordan will find friends in Joe Biden,” Osama Sharif, a political analyst based in Amman, told Al Jazeera.
The Biden administration stated that they will not move the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv, but will Reopening the Consulate General In Jerusalem, restore relations with the Palestinians.
Sharif said: “The President will publicly recognize the special role of Hashemites in East Jerusalem and restore Jordan’s role as a key interlocutor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Natasha Hall, a senior researcher on the Middle East Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Al Jazeera: “This visit has blown the wind to the king who has been under considerable pressure.”
In April, Jordan was Inciting conspiracy The stated purpose of the authorities is to overthrow the monarch. The king’s distant relatives and former senior adviser were recently sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for planning to replace the king with his half-brother, Prince Hamza bin Hussein.
Prince Hamza was placed under house arrest in April and since then sworn allegiance to his brother, but before that he released a video in which he called for rampant corruption in the kingdom, collapse of governance, and a growing lack of political freedom.
The allegations that foreign powers participated in or understood the conspiracy exposed tensions between Jordan and its ally, Saudi Arabia.
As the head of the Hashemite royal family, King Abdullah was the official guardian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordan ruled Jerusalem until it was defeated by Israel in the 1967 war.
Nearly half of Jordan’s 10.6 million people are Palestinians, and many Jordanians have close family ties along the West Bank border.
When the King was about to visit the White House, Abdullah not only lived longer than Trump, but also lived longer than his close ally, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Benjamin Netanyahu). According to reports, he and Trump lived longer. There is a hostile relationship.
According to several Israeli media reports, before leaving for the United States, King Abdullah secretly met with the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Amman. Coinciding with this meeting, the foreign ministers of the two countries became an agreement. Water sales in Israel doubled The resource-poor kingdom and allow Jordan to increase exports to the West Bank.
Although the court conspiracy and competition from neighboring countries have attracted widespread international attention, the king also faced growing domestic dissatisfaction with corruption and economic stagnation.
“Economy will be the primary issue of discussion,” Shaafat said. “We are in a very bad situation, and every aspect of our lives is affected by the economic crisis.”
Jordan’s economy has been deteriorating for many years. Since 2009, the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has declined more or less.
The economic growth rate is not fast enough to create enough employment opportunities for the country’s expanding population. Jordan has one of the lowest official labor force participation rates in the world. Large numbers of workers work in the informal economy, where they lack job security and benefits.
The pandemic will only exacerbate these economic challenges. After the oil price plunge in 2020, tourism, which accounts for 20% of GDP, will be squeezed, and remittances in the Gulf region will be hit hard. By the last quarter of last year, the unemployment rate reached a staggering 24.7%.
Jordan is also responding to the influx of refugees from conflicts in neighboring countries, hosting nearly 1.3 million Syrians from war-torn neighboring countries.
Foreign aid is essential to support the country. The United States is Jordan’s largest donor country, donating more than 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The US aid level exceeds the amount provided to Egypt, which is another US ally in the region and has 10 times the population of Jordan.
The king is expected to seek more support, but some analysts say there is a limit to how much support the United States will provide. Even in the context of tensions during the Trump administration, the country received increased aid in 2018—an additional $1.3 billion in five years.
“I think there is little hope for military and economic aid. In terms of the aid we can get from the United States, we have indeed reached the peak,” Oreib Rantawi, director of the Al Quds Political Research Center in Amman, told Al Jazeera.
Many ordinary Jordanians say that the country is plagued by high levels of corruption, which permeates almost every aspect of life. Although external shocks have certainly brought pressure on the economy, it still has larger structural problems that need to be resolved.
In this resource-poor kingdom, maintaining a stable social contract revolves around a huge sponsorship system in which Jordanian tribes support the Hashemite monarchy and provide public sector wages in return.
Even if measures are taken to solve the public expenditure problem, as part of its IMF loan, Jordan’s 2021 budget still shows that the system is deeply entrenched. This year, 65% of the country’s total expenditure was used for public sector wages and pensions, and 17% was dedicated to repaying soaring debt.
Hall said that potential discussions between the Jordanian and Biden administrations may seek to link aid to the recent political reforms of countries that have slipped from “partially free” to “unfree” in the Freedom House Index.
“I don’t think this will be a confrontational approach, it will be more friendly,” she said of Washington’s possible efforts to get Jordan to resolve the recent stalled political reforms.
After the sedition conspiracy, King Abdullah appointed a 92-member reform committee, but its scope was limited to the country’s electoral law. Many critics claimed that the government’s attempts to promote meaningful change were half-hearted. Try half-heartedly.
“The current system is unsustainable,” Shaafat said, adding, “It may not be in public view, but I believe the king will hear criticism from Washington, DC for internal handling.”
Rantawi said that the Biden administration’s attention to human rights provides opportunities for reformers in the kingdom, but emphasized the need for real efforts.
“This should not just be to please the newcomers in Washington, DC. It is our duty to implement systematic democratic reforms and it is in Jordan’s own interests,” he said.
As the US’s focus on terrorism diminishes and Washington reassesss its commitment to the region in response to major power threats from China and Russia, dissatisfaction surrounding political and economic issues may continue to plague Jordan.
Although the past few months have looked bleak to Jordan, the changes sweeping the region also provide opportunities. King Abdullah II met with his Egyptian and Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad this month because the three countries hope to deepen cooperation on economic and security issues.
“I think the United States will look for a reliable agent to handle some documents in the region. I think Jordan is becoming more and more important to the United States,” Rantawi said.
Jordan’s challenge will be to use its stability and Western countries’ trust to create more opportunities for its people. If possible, the Hashemite monarchy, known for its endurance, may gain a foothold in the new Middle East.