Jordan and Israel chasm over Amman embassy incident is not healing

"With Jordan we have to walk very carefully and be aware of the sensitivity of the relationship and the status of Jordan in the Arab world.”

August 1, 2017 00:24
A photo identity card belonging to Ziv Moyal, published by Jordanian newspaper Al-Rad, July 30, 2017

A photo identity card belonging to Ziv Moyal, published by Jordanian newspaper Al-Rad, July 30, 2017.. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The Foreign Ministry’s announcement on Friday that a probe has been opened into the fatal shootings of two Jordanians by a security officer at the Israeli Embassy in Amman on July 23 has done nothing to calm a wave of anger in the Hashemite Kingdom.

The security officer was stabbed and slightly wounded by a screwdriver-wielding worker who had entered the embassy compound for furniture replacement, the ministry said. The worker, Muhammad Jawawdah, 17, was shot dead by the guard, who was acting in self-defense, according to the ministry. The guard also fatally shot Bashar al-Hamarneh, a physician, who according to Jordan’s Petra news agency “happened to be there when the incident occurred as he is the owner of the building.”

On Monday, Jordan’s Al-Ghad website published the name of the guard, Ziv Moyal, 28, which had been censored in Israeli reports. Al-Ghad published a photo of Moyal’s embassy ID, which listed his name in Arabic, prompting his family to leave their home in a moshav in southern Israel and move in with relatives out of fear for their safety, JTA reported.

Jordan Times columnist Daoud Kuttab, speaking to The Jerusalem Post from Amman, said: “People want him to be tried for the crime he did. They don’t want to see him hanging out in Tel Aviv. They want some kind of justice.”

Kuttab said the way Moyal was welcomed and embraced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video posted by the Prime Minister’s Office had “raised the bar [of anger] a lot.”

In the video, Netanyahu tells Moyal. “I am happy to see you here and that things ended the way they did. You acted well, calmly and we also had an obligation to get you out [of Jordan].”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs the security guard from the Israeli embassy in Amman Jordan who was stabbed by a terrorist. (Chaim Tzach/ GPO)

Kuttab added: “The anger is mostly at Israel but also at the Jordanian government” for letting Moyal return to Israel after a tense standoff that was resolved by the dispatch of Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman to Amman, the intervention of the United States and a phone call between Netanyahu and King Abdullah. “People don’t understand how he would be able to get away with murder,” Kuttab said.

The view from Jerusalem, however, is that Moyal was defending himself against a terrorist attack and deserves praise for that, and that in any case he had diplomatic immunity.

Kuttab wrote an article in Al-Rai newspaper calling for an unambiguous apology by Netanyahu or President Reuven Rivlin, an admission of guilt, the payment of compensation to the families as was done for Turkish fatalities of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident and a “genuine trial” of Moyal.

Asked if he thought Jordan would accept the return to Amman of Ambassador Einat Shlain, Kuttab responded: “I don’t think now is the right time for Jordan, that Jordan would allow her back if she’s interested. I think both Israel and Jordan are interested in letting things quiet down a little bit. But there is the issue of an apology, especially to the Hamarneh family.

Israel has not even issued a statement regretting the loss of life, which is the simplest thing people say in such circumstances, and this angers people.”

The driver of the furniture truck, in testimony widely publicized in Jordan, said Jawawdah stabbed Moyal with nails, not a screwdriver, after an argument erupted, according to Ynet.

The Post has learned that senior officials in the State Attorney’s Office who are investigating the incident have received materials on the matter from the Jordanians. Any expression of regret for loss of life will wait until the investigation is concluded. It is not clear how long that will take.

Jordanian anger over Netanyahu meeting the guard has been noted in Jerusalem, but the view from the capital is that the guard defended himself during a terrorist attack in which he was stabbed, and that this is something that should be acknowledged and praised. The purpose of Netanyahu’s meeting the guard was to let him know that the public was behind him, and that the government worked hard to get him out of Jordan.

That the Jordanians are now putting out a different version of events, according to this position, does not mean that it is true.
Jordanian protesters at Israeli embassy call for ending peace treaty (credit: REUTERS)

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), however, said on Monday that “it was really irresponsible to celebrate the coming back of the security officer. With Jordan we have to walk very carefully and be aware of the sensitivity of the relationship and the status of Jordan in the Arab world.”

“Jordan was ready to handle it under the radar, that nothing will happen and that things will continue, something that is in their interest and ours. But now after this public welcome and the video of the guard being welcomed by Netanyahu, it forced the king to go to the [Jawawdah] family and make statements declaring ‘He is my son, like yours.’” Shai said that the government should express regret over the death of Hamarneh, the doctor and owner of the apartment. “It doesn’t cost me anything and if it helps the king and the Jordanian government to restore tranquility, I would have done it.”

Abdullah last Thursday demanded that Israel put Moyal on trial and said Jordan would “dedicate all the efforts and resources of the Jordanian state to ensure that justice takes its course.”

Israel’s handling of the incident was “utterly rejected and provocative,” something that “angers us all, threatens regional security and fuels extremism,” he said.

Kuttab said “the king has set the bar high and it will be difficult for him to come down on this.”

Jordanian Attorney-General Akram Masaadeh has charged Moyal in absentia with two counts of murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm, Jordanian media reported Friday.

According to Jordan’s Khaberni website, the number of members of parliament signing on to a statement demanding closure of the Israeli Embassy in Amman and withdrawal of Jordan’s envoy to Israel reached 75 out of the 130 legislators on Sunday.

The statement blasted the government for letting Moyal go back to Israel. “Jordanian blood and honor are not cheap and it was incumbent on the government to stand up for this blood and maintain this honor with all force and decisiveness.”

It alleged that the deaths of the two Jordanians is “an extension of the Israeli crimes that continue with the violation of Jordanian custodianship of al-Aksa Mosque and the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

It also linked the deaths to the fatal shooting in 2014 at the Allenby Bridge of Raed Zeiter, a judge in the magistrate’s court in Amman. The army said that Zeiter was shot after he tried to seize a soldier’s gun and threatened two soldiers with a metal bar. Zeiter’s family and Palestinian witnesses said he was killed in cold blood during an argument with soldiers.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement of regret and then-president Shimon Peres issued an apology to Abdullah. No one was placed on trial over the incident.

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