Israel to reopen embassy in Jordan, ending 6 month diplomatic crisis

The Israeli embassy in Amman was shut in July following a shooting incident in which an Israeli guard killed two Jordanians, including one who was attempting to attack him.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The Israeli Embassy in Amman, Jordan, will be reopened to the public in the coming days, Israel Public Radio reported on Tuesday. According to the report, some embassy staff have already returned to their positions, but a new ambassador to replace Einat Schlein has yet to be announced.

The embassy had been closed since July, when Israeli guard Ziv Moyal shot and killed two Jordanians, Mohammed Jawawdeh and Bashar Hamarneh, while he was being attacked by Jawawdeh. The incident began when 17-year-old Jawawdeh attempted to attack Moyal with a screwdriver. Hamarneh, an orthopedic surgeon, was inadvertently hit by a bullet during the scuffle between Jawawden and Moyal.

Israel “strongly apologized” for the July incident and promised to compensate the victims’ families, a Jordanian government spokesman said on January 18.

The Prime Minister’s office issued a statement saying, “Israel attaches great importance to its strategic relations with Jordan, and the two countries will act to advance their cooperation and to strengthen the peace treaty between them.” The reopening of the embassy brings to a close one of the worst crises in Jordanian-Israeli relations since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Dr. Michael Widlanski from the Hebrew University told World Israel News (WIN), “Dealing with King Abdullah is different than dealing with his father King Hussein. Abdullah is not a strong or inspiring leader and he feels vulnerable to both the Palestinian and Bedouin populations in his kingdom. He is under pressure to utter strong positions defending Arab interests. At the same time, he was embarrassed by the shooting incident in Amman.”

“Israel has a major strategic interest in Jordan. They do a great job controlling terror in their country and preventing attacks from reaching Israel. The relationship is equally important to Jordan. The kingdom is facing an Iranian Shiite controlled Iraq and Syria and its military is not as strong as it was under King Hussein. They need Israeli backing to face strategic threats on their borders, but Abdullah cannot afford to sound pro-Israel,” explained Widlanski.

“A compensation payout to Jordan for this shooting incident is a shame and Israel would prefer to build a relationship with Jordan based on bi-lateral economic projects,” he added.

Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN, “Jordan is a critical strategic neighbor of Israel and we view Jordan as our security zone east of the Jordan River. We reached a compromise agreement on the shooting incident in order to stabilize a crucial relationship.”

“Under the radar it’s important to understand that the Jordanians and the Egyptians are unhappy that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is boycotting the US. This intensifies and complicates the stability of both countries because it incites the Arab street. Jordan’s King Abdullah is a moderating force even if he does not always sound like one. We have strong security cooperation with Jordan. Our longest border is shared with them and it’s vitally important to keep them cooperative. Sometimes Abdullah exploits the situation by making objectionable comments about Israel and Palestinians’ rights in Jerusalem even though Jordan will always insist on remaining the ‘guardians of the Muslim shrines’ and will never relinquish that role to the Palestinians,” Diker said.

Jordan had demanded that Israel prosecute Moyal for the shooting. Israel had made it clear that it will not put the security guard on trial but will rather “study the incident and share the results with the Jordanians.”

On October 26, 1994, the governments of Jordan and Israel signed a historic peace treaty. The treaty normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes, such as water sharing. The signing ceremony occurred at the southern border crossing of Arabah, and made Jordan only the second Arab country, after Egypt, to normalize relations with Israel.