Israel appoints new envoy to Jordan, moving on after diplomatic crisis

Israel appoints new envoy to Jordan, moving on after diplomatic crisis

Amir Weissbrod to replace Einat Schlein, who left Amman embassy hurriedly in July after Israeli security guard shot and killed 2 Jordanians

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod (Courtesy MFA)
Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod (Courtesy MFA)

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday appointed a new ambassador to Jordan, Amir Weissbrod, weeks after Jerusalem and Amman agreed to end a diplomatic standoff over the shooting deaths of two Jordanians by an Israeli security guard who Israel said opened fire in self-defense when under attack.

Weissbrod is a career diplomat who currently heads the Middle East Bureau at the Foreign Ministry’s Center for Political Research. A fluent Arabic speaker, Weissbrod served as first secretary in Israel’s Jordanian embassy between 2001 and 2004. Previously, he also served in Israel’s Liaison Bureau in Morocco.

His appointment awaits final confirmation by the cabinet.

Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely took to Twitter to congratulate Weissbrod, wishing him “much luck in this important position.”

Israel’s outgoing ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, had hurriedly left Amman on July 23, after the Jordanians were killed and the Israeli security guard was injured during the altercation in the embassy compound. The details of the event are a subject of disagreement between Israel and Jordan.

On January 18, Israel and Jordan reached an agreement that ended the standoff, apparently including an understanding that Schlein would not return to Amman.

Last week, the Foreign Ministry announced that the embassy in Amman was “gradually” reopening, but it has remained without an ambassador.

A Jordanian government spokesperson in January said he had received from Israel an “official memorandum” apologizing for the deaths of the two Jordanians, as well as for the killing of a Jordanian judge in a separate incident in 2014.

Shortly afterward, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office put out a statement announcing that the embassy, which was closed in the wake of July’s incident, would reopen.

“Israel attaches great importance to its strategic relations with Jordan, and the two countries will act to advance their cooperation and to strengthen the peace treaty between them,” the statement said.

Diverging from the terms announced by Jordan, it said Israeli authorities would come to a decision “in the coming weeks” as to whether the guard, Ziv Moyal, would stand trial over the shooting.

The Jordanian spokesperson, Mohammad Momani, also said Israel had agreed to comply with all the kingdom’s preconditions for resuming regular diplomatic relations between the two sides. Those included, he said, bringing legal action against the Israeli security guard and offering financial compensation to the bereaved Jordanian families.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with security guard Ziv Moyal (R) and Israel’s Ambassador to Jordan Einat Schlein (L), at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 25, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel has maintained Moyal acted in self-defense, with sources in Jerusalem saying that he would not be prosecuted.

Moyal said he was attacked in his apartment by one of Jordanians, who stabbed him with a screwdriver while carrying out utility work. The second man, the landlord, was apparently killed accidentally by a stray bullet when Moyal opened fire.

Officials in Jerusalem also said Israel had not apologized to the Jordanians, but had rather “expressed regret.”

Right after the incident in July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Moyal a hero’s welcome in Jerusalem, which widened the rift with Jordan.

Israeli officials said Israel has paid reparation money to the Jordanian government, but not to the families of the landlord and worker killed in the scuffle. It is unclear how much has been paid.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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