Netanyahu vows to bring home embassy guard as crisis with Jordan deepens
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Netanyahu vows to bring home embassy guard as crisis with Jordan deepens

Prime minister expected to speak to King Abdullah amid intensive effort to end ongoing impasse over attack, Temple Mount tensions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference with his Georgian counterpart at the Prime Minister's Office office in Jerusalem on July 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Jack Guez)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference with his Georgian counterpart at the Prime Minister's Office office in Jerusalem on July 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Jack Guez)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said that Israel was working to try to end a growing crisis with Jordan and to bring home an Israeli security guard who shot dead two Jordanians at the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman after he was attacked by one of them with a screwdriver.

Speaking in Jerusalem alongside Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Netanyahu said that he spoke twice with Israel’s Ambassador to Jordan Einat Schlein following Sunday’s incident, as well as with the security guard.

“I assured the security guard that we will see to bringing him back to Israel; we have experience in this,” he said. “I told both of them that we are holding ongoing contacts with security and government officials in Amman, on all levels, in order to bring the incident to a close as quickly as possible.”

The comments came as Jordanian officials said they would not allow the Israeli guard to leave or extend diplomatic immunity to him, threatening a larger diplomatic crisis over the issue, amid already sky-high tensions over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Some in Jordan have called for the guard to be tried and executed over the incident.

Netanyahu was expected to speak by phone later Monday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, while Israeli security officials have also been speaking to their Jordanian counterparts in an attempt to prevent tensions from deteriorating further after the incident, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

The prime minister said that Jordan’s ambassador to Israel met with Foreign Ministry officials Monday morning and was asked to help try to end the incident, which Netanyahu said Israel was working “determinedly and responsibly” to solve.

“We are also holding contacts on various other channels with one objective – to bring the incident to a close and to bring our people to Israel. And we are doing this determinedly and responsibly,” he said.

“Thus we are also acting regarding the right way to ensure security and quiet on the Temple Mount, in the Old City and in Jerusalem as a whole,” he added.

Security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in the residential Rabiyeh neighborhood of the Jordanian capital Amman, on July 23, 2017.(AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)
Security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in the residential Rabiyeh neighborhood of the Jordanian capital Amman, on July 23, 2017.(AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

Prior to the stabbing Sunday at the Israeli embassy compound in Jordan, ties were already strained between the two countries, with Jordan sharply criticizing Israel’s decision to place metal detectors at the gates to the Temple Mount, after two Israeli police officers were shot dead just outside the compound on July 14 in a terror attack by three Arab Israelis who used guns they had smuggled into the holy site.

The Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is administered by a Jordanian controlled Islamic trust, and Amman has been highly critical of what it perceives to be any changes to the status quo at the holy site.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the Israeli guard was stabbed by 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, who was in an embassy residence installing a bedroom set.

The guard opened fire on Jawawdeh, killing him and a second man, Bashar Hamarneh, at the site at the time in what the ministry said was “self-defense.”

Jawawdeh’s family said he was killed in cold blood and demanded the Israeli guard be executed.

Jordanians shout slogans during a demonstration in Amman on July 21, 2017, protesting against new Israeli security measures implemented at the Temple Mount. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)
Jordanians shout slogans during a demonstration in Amman on July 21, 2017, protesting new Israeli security measures implemented at the Temple Mount. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

On Monday, Jordanian officials told the al-Ghad daily that Jordan will not allow the Israeli security guard to leave the country and must hand him over to be interrogated over the incident, with one government source saying that Amman would escalate the diplomatic standoff with Jerusalem until he is turned over for questioning.

The Israeli security guard, who was injured during the attack, enjoys diplomatic immunity according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and is safe from arrest and investigation, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday morning.

In light of the diplomatic crisis, Israel’s security cabinet was set to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the matter, after having convened for more than six hours overnight.

Israel’s military censors barred Israeli media from reporting on the incident from late Sunday afternoon until early Monday morning.

Dov Lieber and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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