AMMAN, Jordan – An attempt in Jordan’s parliament to topple the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Nesour over his refusal to expel Israel’s ambassador ended when several members of parliament backed-down according to official sources. Despite the failure of the move to send Israeli Ambassador Daniel Nevo packing, the incident underscores the viability of opposition to normalization with the Jewish state.
A strong majority of 86 out of 150 lawmakers had signed a memorandum calling for a parliamentary session to debate a no-confidence motion less than a month after the government survived a similar motion by a narrow margin.
Legislators accused the government of ignoring parliament's decision to ask the Israeli ambassador to leave the kingdom in protest of what backers of the move charge is settlement expansion in Jerusalem as the Israeli government’s allowing settlers to enter Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Supporters of the move also alleged that Israeli police detained the Jerusalem Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein for questioning on suspicion that he organized disorder on the Temple Mount and that Nesour did little to punish Israel for its actions.
Despite the media hype, the parliamentary move was shot down under pressure from the palace, the government and security officials, all of whom are keen to maintain stability now, according to observers.
MP Yaya Saoud, who orchestrated the move and later asked the speaker of the parliament to shelve the motion, insists the issue remains ripe. "Our push to evict the Israeli ambassador did not die, it only stopped after some MPs asked to have their names withdrawn from the list," he told The Media Line.
Jordan considers itself custodian of religious institutions in east Jerusalem, over which Israel obtained control in 1967 and annexed by Israeli law not recognized by most nations, in the 1970s.
In 1994, Jordan signed a the Wadi Araba peace treaty with Israel, in which the Israelis gave the Jordanians certain rights as custodian of Jerusalem holy sites. Recently, Jordan signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority which reiterates the kingdom’s role in Jerusalem.
Despite occasional spats, authorities in Amman have repeatedly reiterated their strong support for the peace agreement with Israel.
Asked about Ambassador Nevo's most recent departure from Jordan, Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Ilana Stein told The Media Line that, “[Ambassadors] go back and forth all the time…We still have good diplomatic ties with Jordan – nothing has changed at all, and that’s what counts. We're not really concerned by this, it was a declaration of some of the people there but it doesn’t affect what’s going to happen."
Observers believe the drama that emanated from the Jordanian parliament was destined to fail simply because the monarchy and government are committed to the peace with Israel.
Some suggest that the no-confidence motion was part of an angry reaction by lawmakers to what they see as broken promises by Nesour. The prime minister had promised to give ministerial portfolios to some members of the parliament but was unable to deliver when King Abdullah II nixed the move, saying it was premature to make the MPs ministers.
Abdullah is seen as favoring a more gradual move toward democracy by closely supervising the empowerment of parliament, which is largely comprised of former army generals, tribal leaders and business tycoons.
When Ambassador Nevo left Jordan following the memorandum for reasons Israel claim was unrelated to the move by MPs to expel him, a statement by the government spokesman that Nevo left "after receiving a strongly worded message from the deputy foreign minister" was seen as an attempt by the regime to usurp the issue from the parliamentarians.
Political analyst Moafaq Malkawee believes that MPs were trying to paint themselves a positive image.
"It is very difficult to segregate the incident of the letter to topple the government from the political atmosphere. The current parliament feels greatly isolated from the public, partly due to negative contributions of previous MPs and lack of confidence in the parliament. The MPs realize that any contribution against Israel or the Wadi Araba peace treaty will bring them closer to the street, even though this issue is not a top priority for most people. However, this issue has been acting like a compass to all protests during the past two years," he said.
Palestinian refugee Mohammad Abu Azzam anticipated that the parliamentary move would be still- born.
"If the MPs wanted to hurt Israel, they should have cancelled the Wadi Araba peace treaty, rather than ask for expelling the Israeli ambassador. This is a show that has become classic and boring," Azzam told The Media Line.
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