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IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz met Thursday with IDF generals and called for military officers, especially senior ones, to demonstrate caution and sensitivity in every public remark they make.
"A careless remark could be misinterpreted and taken out of context," Halutz said, something that could drag the IDF into an unnecessary public debate and misrepresent Israel's and the military's policy and position.
OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh was expected Thursday to apologize formally to Jordan for saying Wednesday night that King Abdullah II risked being toppled by an "Islamist axis" and could be the last king of Jordan.
Following Naveh's remarks, Jordan threatened to cut back its official ties with Israel.
The Foreign Ministry believes a diplomatic crisis with Jordan was averted by Naveh's forthcoming letter and a conversation between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Jordanian counterpart, Army Radio reported.
"Hamas is gathering strength and a dangerous axis starting in Iran, continuing through Iraq and Jordan is in the process of formation," Naveh told a closed meeting of journalists and diplomats, including the Jordanian Counsel General, at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Wednesday night. "I don't want to be a prophet but I am not sure there will be another king after King Abdullah."
Naveh continued: "Already now, 80 percent of the population [in Jordan] is Palestinian. Let us try and imagine that the entire [Hamas] movement from the West Bank will continue to flow across the bridges into Jordan together with Hamas ideology and leadership. The family ties are taking on Hamas characteristics and this means that in a few years Hamas will become stronger in Jordan."
The Jordanian Charge d'Affairs in Israel Omar Nadif condemned the top IDF officer's prediction, threatening that the remarks could have a "negative effect" on Israeli-Jordanian relations.
"We strongly condemn and reject this irresponsible remark made by Maj.-Gen. Naveh," Nadif told The Jerusalem Post. "We expect the Israeli government to take appropriate action against the officer who made the remark, which indicates both a lack of discipline and a lack of understanding. Such an unfriendly remark may, if it is not corrected, have a negative impact on Jordan-Israel relations."
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz distanced themselves from Naveh's remarks, which officials said were under investigation.
"Mofaz and Halutz wish to clarify that the remarks associated to Naveh do not represent Israel's official position," the statement read. "Israel sees Jordan as a strong and stable country with a glorious tradition and a promising future. Israel wishes to express respect and appreciation to the Hashemite kingdom's vital contributions to the stability and peace in the region."
Military officials said that Naveh's remarks were misunderstood by the Jordanians who were in the crowd and listened to the talk through simultaneous translation to English. The remarks about Jordan, they said, were part of a larger idea that focused on the dangers Israel and Jordan faced from the creation of an Iranian-Hamas axis. Naveh, the officials said, made his remarks with the intention of praising King Abdullah and the cooperation between Israel and Jordan.
JCPA President Dr. Dore Gold said he interpreted Naveh's remarks to be referring to the growing Islamic terror threats both Jordan and Israel were beginning to face.
"Naveh was concerned with the threats that both Israel and Jordan face in the new strategic climate emerging to Israel's east," Gold said. "Specifically he added that Hamas not only posed a potential threat to Israel but also to the Hashemite Kingdom."