Israel’s Amman embassy won’t reopen until guard brought to trial – Jordan

Minister says ambassador won’t be allowed to return, demands Jerusalem follow ‘international law’ in prosecuting guard who was stabbed, then shot and killed two Jordanians

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)
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)

Jordan will not allow the Israeli embassy in Amman to reopen until the embassy guard who shot dead two Jordanian nationals after being stabbed is brought to trial.

Speaking on national television Thursday, Jordan’s Media Affairs Minister Mohammad Momani said, “We are committed to international law, and we expect Israel to abide by international law and bring the murderer to trial. This is what we demanded — the ambassador will not be allowed to return and the embassy will not be opened until this is done.”

Israel’s Channel 13 (formerly part of Channel 2) reported Wednesday that Jordan had also refused to allow Ambassador Einat Schlein to return as Jerusalem’s envoy after she was photographed along with the guard, named as Ziv Moyal, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the deadly incident occurred in July.

Jordanian Media Affairs and Communications Minister, Mohammad Momani, in Amman, Jordan, on December 2, 2013.( CC BY Official CTBTO Photostream, Wikimedia commons)

The station also reported 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 July 23 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 Prime Minister Benjamin 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.

The incident caused one of the most toxic diplomatic crises since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

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.

The incident 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.

The increased security at the holy site triggered Muslim protests, including by Jordan, the site’s formal custodian, which viewed it as Israeli encroachment.

Ten days after the Temple Mount attack into the controversy, Mohammed al-Jawawdeh delivered bedroom furniture to a building owned by the Jordanian landlord of the Israeli guard.

Jordanian security officials said at the time 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.

Jordanian protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017, calling for the shutting down the of the embassy, expelling the ambassador, and canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. (AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

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.

What came next infuriated the Jordanians.

Two days after the fatal shooting, Netanyahu praised the guard and gave him a hero’s welcome at the prime minister’s 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.

It marks the first time since 1994 that Israel does not have a top diplomat present in Jordan, said Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to the kingdom. Eran said that “most of the damage could have been averted” if Netanyahu had refrained from his televised, back-slapping welcome of the guard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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