President Joe Biden will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Washington on Monday, and the two leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing effort to free hostages being held in Gaza and growing concerns about an Israeli military operation. in the port city of Rafah.
It was the first meeting between the allies since three American soldiers were killed last month in a drone attack on a US base in Jordan. Biden blamed Iranian-backed militias for the deaths, the first for the United States after months of attacks by such groups on American forces across the Middle East since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The meeting with King Abdullah II comes as Biden and his aides work to broker another ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas to send humanitarian aid and supplies to the region and remove hostages. The White House is facing growing criticism from Arab Americans over the administration’s continued support for Israel in the face of mounting casualties in Gaza.
It appears that an agreement is nearing for another stoppage of the fighting. A senior US administration official said Sunday that after weeks of shuttle diplomacy and phone talks, there is a substantial framework for an agreement that would allow the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. instead of stopping the fight.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged that gaps remain but declined to specify what they are. The official said that Israel’s military pressure on Hamas in Khan Younis in recent weeks has helped bring the militant group closer to accepting a deal. The possibility of a deal occupied much of Biden’s call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The official said the two leaders also had important exchanges on the possible expansion of Israeli military operations in Rafah and that Biden reiterated US opposition to the idea under “current conditions” while more than 1.3 million people gathered. They took refuge there.
It was the president’s strongest language yet about the possible operation. Biden, who last week called Israel’s military response to Gaza “overblown,” also called for “urgent and targeted” steps to bolster humanitarian aid. Israeli television channel Channel 13 said the conversation lasted 45 minutes.
The official said the Israelis “made it clear that they would not consider an operation” in Rafah without protecting the civilian population. The official said the United States is not sure there is a viable or enforceable plan to move civilians out of Rafah and allow military operations to take place.
Jordan and other Arab states have been highly critical of Israel’s actions and shunned public support for long-term planning about what happens next, arguing that the fighting must end before discussions can begin. They have been demanding a ceasefire since mid-October when civilian casualties began to mount.
Biden had planned to visit Jordan during his trip to Israel in October, shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack, but the trip was scrapped. On his return from Israel, Biden announced that he helped negotiate the first agreement to temporarily stop the fighting and open the Rafah crossing to humanitarian aid.
In the months that followed, members of his administration made repeated trips to the region to speak with leaders there.