Jordanian parliament threatens to topple government if it doesn’t expel Israeli ambassador

After IDF shooting of Jordanian judge on Monday, lawmakers demand downgrade of diplomatic ties, release of Jordanian who killed 7 Israelis.

By
March 12, 2014 16:45
4 minute read.
JORDANIANS BURN an Israeli flag in front of the parliament in Amman

JORDANIANS BURN an Israeli flag in front of the parliament in Amman. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Jordanian House of Representatives has issued an ultimatum: comply with demands to punish Israel over the killing of Raed Za’eiter at the Allenby Bridge by Tuesday or else it will vote to topple the government.

The lower house of parliament demanded on Wednesday that Jordan expel Israel’s ambassador; withdraw Jordan’s envoy in Israel; and release former army soldier Ahmed Daqamseh, who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 at the Island of Peace (Naharayim) on the border.

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Members of parliament also called for the release of all Jordanians and Palestinians in Israeli jails as well as bringing Za’eiter’s killers to the International Criminal Court. In addition, they called for Jordanian- Palestinian control of the Palestinian side of the Jordan River border crossing.

If the demands are not met by Tuesday, there will be a vote of no-confidence in the government in Amman, according to the threats.

MPs continued to attack Israel, with one calling for the expulsion of the “wretched dog” the Israeli ambassador from Jordan, the country’s Ad-Dustour newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Tuesday that the Israeli government was “completely” responsible for the shooting.

“The Jordanian government holds the Israeli government completely responsible for the hideous crime,” he told MPs at a meeting in parliament to discuss the incident, The Jordan Times reported.

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The Jordanian media has been saturated with coverage over the killing of Za’eiter at the Allenby Bridge on Monday.

An initial inquiry by Israeli security services found that Za’eiter, a Nablus-born jurist and magistrate’s court judge in Jordan, shouted, “Allahu akbar” while charging IDF troops at the terminal.

According to a joint probe by the IDF, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Za’eiter, who had Jordanian citizenship, tried to snatch the rifle of one of the soldiers. Feeling their lives to be in danger, the y acted in accordance with the rules of engagement and fired at the man’s legs.

Za’eiter continued attacking the soldiers with a metal pole and was shot again, this time fatally.

Investigators have so far determined that the soldiers acted properly, given that Za’eiter “posed a clear danger” to their lives. The army said it was continuing the investigation.

The Prime Minister’s Office statement said the joint Israeli- Jordanian investigation team would start its work shortly.

Over the past couple of days the two governments held conversations about the matter at senior levels, government officials said.

Kirk Sowell, the Ammanbased principal of Uticensis Risk Services, a Middle East-focused political risk firm, told The Jerusalem Post, “Whatever the facts of the specific case – there is this theater officials have to go through.

“People in parliament have been after Ensour for the past year,” he said adding that there have been “multiple efforts to remove him, over different issues, and all of them failed.”

However, said Sowell, “If Ensour becomes unpopular enough, the king will push him out.” He does not see anything else changing.

Sowell explained to the Post last month when the House of Representatives was discussing canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel, that it has no real power to change the status quo, and that any bill would also have to pass the Senate, and even then the king could stop it if he wished.

"But it is worth noting," added Sowell, "that absent the government introducing a bill, all they can do is threaten to bring down the government, which they might do, but which won't change Jordan's foreign policy stance."

Despite the continuing foment in Jordan over Za’eiter’s death, both Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Wednesday there was little danger of a break in Israeli- Jordanian ties over the issue.

Liberman, who stressed in an Israel Radio interview that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu already expressed regret over the incident, said the Jordanians would receive the investigative report on the incident, and that they “understand that we acted just as Jordanian soldiers would have acted if something similar happened on their side.”

Steinitz expressed concern about the protests taking place in Jordan, and the epithets used to describe Israeli Ambassador Daniel Nevo in the Jordanian parliament, but said that even though there were anti-Israeli protests in Jordan in the past, the peace agreement and bilateral relations remained stable.

“In the final analysis common sense and joint interests won out,” he said. “Jordan has very important national interests that are linked and connected to ties with Israel, and we also attribute a great deal of importance to the ties and to cooperation. I think this time as well the common interests and common sense will beat out the hot heads.”

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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