It's unusual for senior politicians to speak in absolutes. They normally qualify their statements, leaving themselves an escape in case circumstances change. But what happened in the industrial Jordanian city of Zarqa, where King Abdullah II met with local leaders March 21, was an exception.
Speaking on the issue of Jerusalem, the king did not mince words. “I will never change my position toward Jerusalem in my life,” he said, adding, “All my people are with me.”
His statement came nine days after the Jordanian monarch had visited Washington and met with President Donald Trump's team. Press speculation focused on a clear increase in political pressure on Jordan to acquiesce to Washington and its plans to publicly introduce its “deal of the century” shortly after the Israeli elections on April 9. The United States is desperate for Arab support for its plans in light of the boycott by the Palestinian leadership of the US administration since December 2017, when Trump announced plans to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
It was not long before the king’s seriousness was tested. On March 24, Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila told the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington that she was “pleased” to announce that “I, as prime minister of Romania, and the government that I run will move our embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”
The following day, King Abdullah was due to travel to the Romanian capital Bucharest for a series of meetings. The Royal Court announced March 25 that the king had decided to cancel the visit to Romania, scheduled for March 25, “in solidarity with Jerusalem.”
According to the press release, the visit to Romania, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, had been planned to include meetings with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and parliament leaders. The king was also expected to participate in the international counterterrorism Aqaba meetings to be hosted by Romania in partnership with Jordan.
The Jordanian and Romanian governments had also been due to sign a trade agreement, two memoranda of understanding and a cooperation program. A Jordanian-Romanian business forum had been planned with the participation of private sector representatives from the two countries.
The king's decision quickly produced wide acclaim from Palestinians and Jordanians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the Jordanian monarch March 25 to thank him for his support.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that the king’s move was courageous, saying, “This is a position of courage and integrity. It is also consistent with his responsibility for the holy sites in Jerusalem.” Ashrawi also noted that there is “a need for more leaders like him who don’t just pay lip service to justice but who act in a bold and principled manner.”
Support for the king also came from Palestinian activists. Fatah's spokesman for international affairs, Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, called the decision historic: “His Majesty King Abdullah’s decision to cancel his trip to Romania reflects the true and historical commitment of the Hashemite family and Kingdom of Jordan to stand and support the protection of the Islamic and Christian Holy sites in Jerusalem and the international law and resolutions that deny the Israeli claims to complete authority over occupied East Jerusalem,” Abu Zayyad told Al-Monitor.
Jordan’s professional unions issued a joint statement in support of the king. Leading members of parliament also chimed in during the March 25 parliamentary session to support the message that the king’s move represented.
Wafa Bani Mustafa, a longstanding member of the Jordanian Parliament, told Arab News March 25 that the king’s decision “is an important message to all those countries that are trying to follow the isolationist decisions of the United States.”
Wasfi Kailani, the director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Al-Monitor that the move by the new European Union member is very worrisome. “The Romanian move is risky for both regional peace and Jordanian safeguarding of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites.”
According to the Romanian Constitution, the president must approve foreign-policy decisions. Iohannis rejected the suggestion, calling his prime minister ignorant of “foreign policy issues.”
The words of Jordan’s monarch as well Romania’s president appear to have forced the prime minister to backtrack from her previous statement. “I said that we must complete all constitutional steps first. I haven't said I will relocate the embassy. I said we must observe the constitution,” Dancila told Romanian Television March 25.
King Abdullah has shown courage and principled commitment in regard to the issue of Jerusalem, his public statements and policy decisions in sync. The message they send to the world, especially the Trump administration, is that one of the most moderate and pro-US Arab leaders will not budge on the issue of Jerusalem.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly