Hashemite King, Standing Beside Biden, Says United Nations Refugee Agency, Facing Accusations of Complicity With Hamas, Deserves Funding

The direct message from Jordanian monarch to America and its Western allies seems to catch the president off-guard.

AP/Andrew Harnik
King Abdullah II of Jordan speaks as President Biden listens in the Cross Hall of the White House, February 12, 2024. AP/Andrew Harnik

The Hashemite king, Abdullah II of Jordan, has called on President Biden to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency even after it was disclosed that employees for the agency participated in the October 7 attacks on Israel. The commander-in-chief — seemingly taken aback by the king’s demand for the funds — stood silently beside him as he made his ask. 

Appearing together at a White House press event, Mr. Biden first took the podium and described Abdullah as a “good friend” and helpful strategic partner in the region. The king then took the microphone to disagree vehemently with the policies of the Biden administration in respect of Israel and Gaza. 

“Unfortunately, one of the most devastating wars in recent history continues to unfold in Gaza as we speak. Nearly 100,00 people have been killed, injured, or are missing — the majority are women and children,” Abdullah said. 

He also demanded that Israel cease operations at the southern Gazan city of Rafah. “We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe. The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started,” he said.

Mr. Biden said in his remarks that the Rafah operation should not continue “without a credible plan … for ensuring the safety and support of more than one million people sheltering there.”

“We cannot stand by and let this continue,” Abdullah added, demanding an end to the war while making no mention of the hostages currently held by Hamas. “We need a lasting cease-fire now. This war must end. We must urgently and immediately work to ensure the sustainable delivery of sufficient aid to Gaza through all possible entry points and mechanisms.”

The king then said that Unrwa — which harbored terrorists among its employees even after the October 7 attacks — should receive the money that America has held on to since the reports of involvement in the attack.

“Restrictions on vital relief, aid, and medical items are leading to inhumane conditions. No other UN agency can do what Unrwa is doing in helping the people of Gaza through this humanitarian catastrophe,” Abdullah said. 

“Its work in other areas of operation — especially in Jordan, where 2.3 million are registered — is also vital,” he continued. “It is imperative that Unrwa continues to receive the support it needs to carry out its mandate.”

Shortly after the report that a dozen Unrwa employees were involved in the October 7 attacks, several Western countries placed a temporary pause on funding Unrwa. The UN has called on the countries to resume funding, saying that the actions of “a few bad apples” should not affect Unrwa’s work. 

King Abdullah and Mr. Biden both said that a two-state solution must be pursued at the soonest possible opportunity, but the Jordanian leader blamed “extremist settlers” for the lack of progress made toward peace. 

“We cannot ignore — we must not ignore — the situation in the West Bank and the holy sites in Jerusalem,” the king said. “Continued escalation by extremist settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s holy sites and the expansion of illegal settlements will unleash chaos on the entire region. The vast majority of Muslim worshippers are not being allowed to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Abdullah also seemed to call for a contiguous Palestinian Arab state that connects both Gaza and the West Bank. “The separation of the West Bank and Gaza cannot be accepted. Seven decades of occupation, death, and destruction have proven beyond any doubt that there can be no peace without a political horizon” for the Palestinian Arabs,” the king said. “Military and security installations are not the answer. They can never bring peace. Civilians on both sides continue to pay for this protracted conflict with their lives.”

“An independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. … This is the only solution,” Abdullah declared. 


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