Jordanian hunger striker to be released, Ambassador to Israel returns

“Israel views the relationship between Jordan and Israel as a cornerstone of regional stability, and will continue to act to ensure the region’s security,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

By
November 5, 2019 07:18
3 minute read.
A demonstrator holds a picture of Jordanian citizen Hiba Labadi during a protest calling for the rel

A demonstrator holds a picture of Jordanian citizen Hiba Labadi during a protest calling for the release of Labadi and Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

Israel plans to release two Jordanians jailed on suspicion that they constituted a security risk, as a step toward ending the crisis between Jerusalem and Amman.

Jordan last week had recalled its ambassador, Ghassan al-Majali, to protest the arrest of Heba al-Labadi, 24, and Abdul Rahman Miri, 29. Based on an agreement worked out between Jerusalem and Amman, Majali will now return to Israel.

The exchange comes after protests for the release of the detainees, including a social media campaign, which focused in particular on Labadi, who went on a hunger strike 41 days ago. She has now ended that strike.

In announcing the deal, the Prime Minister’s Office spoke of the importance of the relationship between the two countries, which was cemented in a peace deal signed 25 years ago last month.

“Israel views the relationship between Jordan and Israel as a cornerstone of regional stability, and will continue to act to ensure the region’s security,” the office said.

It explained that “Jordan will return its ambassador to Israel in the coming days, after an agreement was reached between the countries for the transferring of the responsibility of the two arrested Jordanians in Israel to the Jordanian security forces.”

“The head of the ISA [Shin Bet/Israel Security Agency, Nadav Argaman] agreed on the terms of the transfer with his Jordanian counterpart,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. Argaman conducted the security efforts toward the deal, and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat dealt with the diplomatic aspects of the arrangements, including making a trip to Jordan on Monday morning.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted mid-afternoon that the two Jordanians jailed by Israel will be returned to the Hashemite Kingdom by the end of the week.

Labadi and Miri were detained at the Allenby Bridge crossing in the Jordan Valley on August 20 and September 2, respectively.

Labadi, who was traveling to the West Bank to attend a family wedding, was arrested on suspicion that she had met with Hezbollah terrorists during a trip to Lebanon. Miri was arrested on suspicion that he is affiliated with Hamas. They have both rejected the charges.

Safadi’s tweet said that the government has worked to free them since the first day and is working with King Abdullah II to take all “necessary steps to return them safely at all costs.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman welcomed the news that the two Jordanian detainees were due to be released.
“Heba’s righteous struggle, in a 40-day-long hunger strike, won over Israel, which tried to use her as a bargaining chip,” Touma-Sliman said. “There are cases in which justice wins. I wish Heba and Abdul Rahman health after their cruel arrest.”

The arrests have heightened tensions between Israel and Jordan, which are also at odds over Amman’s refusal to renew a land lease to Israel of two tracts of territory at Naharayim and Tzofar, which Israelis have had access to for 25 years. Under the terms of the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, Jordan had the option not to renew the leases.

In the case of Moshav Tzofar in the Arava Valley, Israeli farmers from the moshav had leased the property from Jordan so that they could continue to farm it as they had when it was under Israeli sovereignty. The Naharayim property, at the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, is owned by Jews; Jordan had continued granting access to the site, including for farming. Unless a last-minute deal is reached, as of November 10, Israelis will no longer be able to access either tracts of land.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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