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As part of his continuing efforts to reinvigorate peace talks between the Arabs and Israelis, Jordan's King Abdullah II left Amman on Saturday for a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington. Since becoming the first Arab leader to meet with Obama after he took office last year, King Abdullah has been working to position himself as a key player in any future peace talks.
In his meeting with the American president, King Abdullah is expected to call for a freeze of settlement activity in East Jerusalem before Arab and Palestinian leaders return to the table, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
While the Obama administration has arguably taken little action in regard to the Israel-Palestine situation since the two leaders' meeting last April, this time around things may be different. A year ago the freshly inaugurated U.S. president was saving his political capital to push through domestic plans and was most likely unwilling to risk alienating vital allies in congress by taking a potentially unpopular stand against Israel. Now with the economic stimulus plan and health care reform under his belt, Obama may be willing to take bigger chances with his foreign policy.
In the last year, the Obama administration has also been frustrated by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's seeming unwillingness to cooperate with U.S. requests. Most recently, Vice President Joe Biden condemned the Israeli government after it announced plans to construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem during his visit.
As a result, the Guardian's Middle East editor, Ian Black writes that when King Abdullah inevitably asks the president to get tough on Israel "it may be that Obama, frustrated and angered by Netanyahu's stonewalling over settlements and Arab disappointment with his own Middle Eastern performance so far, is ready to do just that."
In recent months, King Abdullah has been increasingly outspoken about the need for diplomatic action as relations between Israel and the region deteriorate. "For the first time since my father made peace with Israel [in 1994], our relationship with Israel is at an all bottom low. It hasn't been as bad as it is today and as tense as it is today," said King Abdullah in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Monday.