It could have gone down in a footnote of history as the Rumble on the Bridge — if only cooler heads hadn’t prevailed. Israel’s most unruly lawmaker came tantalizingly close Wednesday morning to facing off with a Jordanian parliament member at the border between the two countries, but the fight was called off minutes before it was set to begin.
Amid ongoing tensions between Israel and Jordan, rabble-rouser Yahya Al-Saud, known for violent outbursts in the Jordanian parliament, on Sunday urged troublemaker Likud MK Oren Hazan to meet him at the Allenby Bridge on the Jordan River for a fistfight.
“The shoe of any Palestinian child is more honorable than this villain and his entity [country],” Saud said of Hazan, according to Jordanian reports, “and the shoe of any Arab and Muslim is better than him and his rogue entity, which has no origin and no religion.”
Hazan replied on Twitter that he would be there. “I accept the invitation of the Jordanian member of parliament to the meeting on the bridge. Tomorrow at 10 a.m. I’ll be at Allenby Bridge for a face-to-face talk. I’ve got an offer he can’t refuse,” he tweeted.
Despite rumors that the confrontation would be prevented by border guards at the crossing, both men posted their preparations for the encounter Wednesday morning, with Hazan tweeting photos of himself at the hairdresser and, later, in the car en route, while Saud livestreamed his ride to the border on Facebook.
נערך למפגש הפסגה עם נציג הפרלמנט הירדני.
פניי לשלום! pic.twitter.com/rfnAPPLJ4V
— אורן חזן (@oren_haz) August 2, 2017
Calling the ties between Israel and Jordan a “five-star hotel relationship” because groups from each side “just meet in hotels,” Saud said the showdown with Hazan was an opportunity for him to express the public’s real opinion of Israel, stripped of diplomatic niceties.
“The Jordanian people totally refuse any relationship with the [Israeli] entity… we stand with the Palestinian people,” he ranted in a tirade that lasted over an hour and was only interrupted briefly when he stopped to relieve himself in the bushes on the side of the road.
Striking a rare conciliatory note, Hazan said he was “coming in peace.”
But with social media anticipation at a frenzy, minutes before the two were set to clash on the bridge, Hazan said that he was pulling out of the rendezvous at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I came today ready for a meeting of peace but when the prime minister asks, I respect his request,” he told Israel Radio from the border.
In a highly unusual statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horovitz had called Hazan and instructed him not to attend.
Hazan said that he would be asking the Foreign Ministry to organize a proper meeting with Saud in the future.
The Jordanian MP, learning of Hazan’s decision while still on livestream, said that if he was prevented from meeting “that pig” at the border, he would face Hazan “in any country in the world… No one tells me where to go.”
In a furious diatribe watched by over 11,000 people, Saud suggested that had the meeting gone ahead, Hazan may have been injured. “Netanyahu felt the anger of the Jordanians and acted wisely not to open the crossing before that tramp,” he said.
Tensions between Jerusalem and Amman ramped up recently after an Israeli guard at the embassy in Amman killed two Jordanians, after he was attacked by one of them. Netanyahu was photographed hugging the guard upon his return home, angering many Jordanians, and King Abdullah said the incident would have diplomatic repercussions.
On July 23, with Jordan and Israel at loggerheads over the shooting, Hazan berated the Hashemite Kingdom on Twitter. “It seems our neighbors to the east, Jordan, whom we douse with water and whose asses we protect day and night, need a little reeducation,” he wrote.
That tweet was apparently what prompted Saud to issue the challenge.
Saud has a history of violent behavior. In 2013 he was involved in an argument with another lawmaker, Qusay al-Damissi. In a video of the incident, Saud can be seen physically attacking his opponent and also appears to be brandishing a knife. Later another MP, Talal al-Sharif, opened fire on Damissi outside the parliament building.
In 2014, Saud was slammed for verbally attacking a female member of parliament, yelling, “Sit down,” several times at Hind al-Fayez, while cursing the quota for female lawmakers, which he claimed was the only reason she was elected.
The scandal-plagued Hazan, meanwhile, has his own share of controversies under his belt.
Hazan, who entered the Knesset in the last election, has become known as the enfant terrible of Israel’s parliament.
Shortly after he went into politics, Channel 2 News reported that he had previously run a casino in Bulgaria where hard drugs and prostitution were allowed. He sued reporter Amit Segal for libel but the court rejected the bulk of the lawsuit.
Hazan was also suspected of assaulting a senior official in the municipality of the West Bank town of Ariel in 2014 in an apparent dispute over a debt. After the city froze his bank account, Hazan went to the municipal office, where he allegedly cursed and pushed the municipal director.
Last week, Hazan was reprimanded — not for the first time — by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee for insults against female lawmakers, with the panel warning that repeat offenses could land him a lengthy suspension.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.