Rebuffing Netanyahu, Jordan says it opposes terrorism but still condemns killing of its Jerusalem stabber
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Israel's statement omitted the fact that the incident, 'as bad as it was,' took place on occupied territory, says Amman official

Rebuffing Netanyahu, Jordan says it opposes terrorism but still condemns killing of its Jerusalem stabber

FM Safadi says Amman is investigating Saturday's death of Jordanian citizen who repeatedly stabbed Israeli policeman before being shot

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi speaks during a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in the Jordanian capital Amman on May 14, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi speaks during a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in the Jordanian capital Amman on May 14, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

Jordan’s top diplomat on Sunday dismissed an Israeli accusation that it was justifying terrorism in condemning the killing of a Jordanian assailant in Jerusalem on Saturday, amid a rare public rift between Jerusalem and Amman.

On Saturday, Amman slammed the killing of the Jordanian stabber, who was filmed stabbing an Israeli policeman multiple times before he was shot, as “a heinous crime.” Jordan demanded details about the incident from the Israeli government.

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted Amman’s “outrageous” statement, while demanding that Jordan condemn terror attacks on Israelis. “It’s time for Jordan to stop playing this double game,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Just as Israel condemns terror attacks in Jordan, Jordan must condemn terror attacks in Israel. Terror is terror wherever it is.”

Jordan responded bitterly on Sunday. “Jordan has [been] and continues to be a voice of logic and peace, and our positions against violence and terrorism are clear to everyone,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters at a joint press conference in Amman with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat.

He added, “Jordan’s King Abdullah II is making efforts to establish security, to establish peace and to gain freedom for the Palestinians in accordance with the [Arab] Peace Initiative.”

A Jordanian official also said that the Israeli statement neglected to say that the incident, “as bad as it was,” took place on occupied territory. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying “we don’t want to get into a war of words with them.” (Israel captured Jerusalem’s Old City, where the incident took place, in 1967, and claims sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, but the international community does not recognize this.)

Safadi confirmed at the Sunday joint press conference that his government was investigating the circumstances of its citizen’s death.

Police released security camera footage of the incident Saturday evening, in which the harrowing attack is seen as it occurred in the streets of the Old City. In it, the officer can be seen walking down the street when he is violently assailed by 57-year-old Muhammad Abdullah Salim al-Kassji, a Jordanian national who had entered Israel a few days earlier.

Addressing US President Donald Trump’s recent Israeli-Palestinian peace push, Safadi said that the three countries represented at the press conference had emphasized to Trump the importance of East Jerusalem being the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Safadi added that the issue of Jerusalem should be treated with the utmost caution by the US president, who is currently mulling the possibility of moving his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Everyone is convinced that the president of the United States wants to act effectively for peace, and all three of us have felt a real commitment from Trump to resolve the conflict,” he said.

US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office at the White House as First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Rania look on in Washington, DC, on April 5, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)
US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office at the White House as First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Rania look on in Washington, DC, on April 5, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

The Jordanian foreign minister also said that Israel must respond to the demands of Palestinian hunger-strikers currently detained in Israeli jails. “We emphasized the need for Israel to be obligated to comply to the humanitarian and just demands of the hunger-striking prisoners in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention,” he said.

The hunger strikers have issued a list of demands including better medical services, family visits and more dignified detention conditions. But Israel has vowed not to negotiate with them, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan saying he will not cede to the demands of the “terrorists and incarcerated murderers.”

AP contributed to this report.

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