Israel will replace its ambassador to Jordan in an effort to alleviate tensions with Amman following a deadly July embassy compound shooting, a diplomatic source told Reuters Wednesday.
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has prevented Israeli Ambassador Einat Schlein from returning to her posting along with the rest of the embassy’s staff, all of whom left the country following the July 23 episode.
In that incident, Israeli embassy guard Ziv Moyal shot dead two Jordanians after allegedly being attacked by one of them, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman.
“The Jordanians don’t want her back, and this has been a big obstacle in patching things up,” the Israeli diplomatic source told Reuters, in reference to Schlein. “We’re looking for a replacement.”
Schlein assumed her post in September 2015, meaning her three-year term is set to expire this upcoming summer, regardless.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined told The Times of Israel that Israel “is working on a solution that will bring bilateral relations back on track.” He did not elaborate.
Earlier this month, Jordanian Media Affairs Minister Mohammad Momani announced that the Hashemite Kingdom would not allow the Israeli embassy to reopen until Moyal is brought to trial.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported separately that Jordan had also refused to allow Schlein to return as Jerusalem’s envoy after she was photographed with Moyal meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the deadly incident.
The station said that the Shin Bet had completed its investigation into the event and concluded that the security guard was justified in shooting Mohammed Jawawdeh, who stabbed him with a screwdriver after learning that he was Israeli. Moyal’s landlord was also shot and killed during the incident. According to Channel 13 there was no doubt that Moyal acted in self-defense and there were no grounds for prosecuting him.
The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Jordan, with Jordan briefly refusing to allow Moyal to return to Israel or acknowledging his diplomatic immunity, a standoff that threatened to mushroom into a larger crisis.
Moyal and the rest of the embassy staff were allowed to return to Israel a day later, following a diplomatic push that included a phone call between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, along with US intervention and a visit by the head of the Shin Bet security agency Nadav Argaman to Amman.
Netanyahu was criticized for his handling of the incident’s aftermath after his office released footage of him meeting and praising the guard before either country’s investigators had determined what had happened in the incident.
For its part, Israel reportedly told Jordan that a joint agreement for the construction of a pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea will not go ahead until Israel is allowed to reopen its embassy in Amman.
According to a Channel 10 report — also from earlier this month — Israel notified Jordan that the water project would not move forward until Schlein and her staff are permitted to return to their posts.
In response, Jordan has reportedly threatened to continue with the project alone. Several Jordanian media outlets have cited officials saying that Amman does not need Israel for the pipeline, and even raised the possibility of bringing in Saudi Arabia to partner with them instead.
The shooting occurred during a period of already strained ties between Jerusalem and Amman over Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount following a July 14 terror attack at the Jerusalem holy site. In that attack, three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers using weapons smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Nine days after the Temple Mount attack, al-Jawawdeh delivered bedroom furniture to a building owned by the Jordanian landlord of the Israeli guard.
Jordanian security officials at the time said that an argument ensued and that the teen attacked the guard with a screwdriver. The guard, who was lightly hurt, opened fire, killing the teen and severely wounding the landlord who stood nearby and later died of his injuries.
The following day, after a phone call between Netanyahu and King Abdullah II, Jordan allowed the guard to leave under the cover of diplomatic immunity, while Israel removed the metal detectors in an apparent tradeoff.
Two days after the fatal shooting, Netanyahu praised the guard and gave him what the Jordanians referred to as “a hero’s welcome” at his office. Netanyahu told the guard he had acted “calmly” and that he was “happy that things ended the way they did.”
Jordan’s monarch promptly slammed Netanyahu for “provocative” behavior, accusing him of trying to score political points in Israel, where the prime minister was being criticized for his handling of the metal detector controversy.
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