President Joe Biden and King Abdullah II of Jordan met Monday aiming to figure out how to move the Israel-Hamas war into a new phase in which Israeli hostages are released and fighting stops for a prolonged period of time.
“The key elements of the deal are on the table,” Biden said while addressing reporters alongside the king at the White House. “There are gaps that remain, but I’ve encouraged Israeli leaders to keep working to achieve the deal. The United States will do everything possible to make it happen.”
Biden did not elaborate on what the “gaps” in the deal are. He added that a planned Israeli operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah should not go forward without a “credible plan” to protect civilians.
“Many people there have been displaced, displaced multiple times,” Biden said from the White House on Monday, “fleeing the violence to the north, and now they’re packed into Rafah, exposed and vulnerable.”
“They need to be protected,” Biden added.
Biden added that he and Abdullah discussed “a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, which would bring immediate and sustained period of calm into Gaza, for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build into something more enduring,” during the meeting.
But Abdullah, the first Arab leader to visit the White House since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, went further – reiterating his call for a complete ceasefire, which Biden has so far resisted.
“We cannot stand by and let this continue,” the Jordanian king told reporters. “We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end.”
He said it was essential the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the main United Nations agency responsible for Gaza, continues to receive funding. The agency warned earlier this month it may have to halt its work in Gaza after the US and other nations withdrew support last month over allegations some of its staff were involved with Hamas’ October 7 attack.
Abdullah also said in his remarks that a ground operation in Rafah would amount to devastation, adding it would “produce another humanitarian catastrophe.”
“The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started,” Abdullah said.
While the Jordanian king called Biden a “dear friend” and said the president’s leadership is “key to addressing this conflict,” the open rifts between Biden and Abdullah underscored the delicate diplomatic balance the president is facing as the war in Gaza enters its fifth month – and as he faces a possible inflection point in his presidency.
In the wake of special counsel Robert Hur’s report, which contained politically embarrassing passages about the president’s memory, Biden is facing perhaps the most scrutiny of his presidency over his mental acuity. The 81-year-o