A week after Israeli soldiers shot dead Jordanian judge Raed Za’eiter at the Allenby Bridge, President Shimon Peres attempted on Monday to defuse the hostile atmosphere, which has been steadily intensifying since the shooting.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed regret over the incident soon after it occurred, sent condolences to Za’eiter’s family and agreed to a Jordanian request that a joint Jordanian-Israeli team investigate. But for many Jordanians this was not enough, and there have been calls in political circles and elsewhere for the recall of Jordan’s ambassador to Israel and the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador.
Peres, who had an excellent relationship with the late King Hussein and who has met on several occasions with Hussein’s son, King Abdullah II, reiterated the condolence message in a telephone conversation with Abdullah.
“On behalf of the State of Israel, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the people of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the death of Judge Raed Za’eiter at the King Hussein Bridge on March 10th,” Peres said, using the Jordanian name for the border crossing over the Jordan River. “As the president of the State of Israel I would like to express compassion to the bereaved family. I share their grief.”
In a statement to the media, Peres said the conversation had been significant. He said that in addition to talking about the incident, he and the king discussed the importance of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the urgent need to bring an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East and to advance a stable and prosperous future for the people of the region.
“Peace and cooperation with all our neighbors remains Israel’s highest hope,” said Peres. “Israel attaches great importance to our relations with Jordan and the peace agreement between our two countries.”
Peres lauded Abdullah as “a leader of vision,” stating that under his leadership Jordan plays a key role in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East.
Referring to the Jordanian request for a joint team to probe the death of Za’eiter, Peres said the work of the team had already begun.