Netanyahu: Relations with Jordan back on track, new envoy to be named in days

PM confirms Amman and Jerusalem reach agreement over reparations, restoration of ties following deadly July altercation at Israeli embassy

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on December 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on December 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that relations with Jordan are “back on track” and indicated that he will name a new ambassador to Amman in the coming days.

Israel has not had an ambassador in Jordan since July, when two Jordanians were killed and an Israeli security guard was injured at Israel’s Amman embassy during an apparent altercation between them, whose details are the subject of disagreement between Israel and Jordan. The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis.

“We’ve put relations back on track, and I’m sure both sides have learned lessons,” Netanyahu said. “There is a peace treaty [between our two countries] that is an important interest to both states, and that found expression in the solution that was reached.”

Speaking to reporters as he returned to Israel following a five-day visit to India, Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister, said former ambassador Einat Schlein would be moved to some other post.

“I will decide on the new ambassador soon. I very much appreciate the former ambassador and that will be shown in her next position,” he said.

A Jordanian government spokesperson said Thursday evening that he had received from Israel an “official memorandum” apologizing for the deaths of the two Jordanians, as well as 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, will reopen.

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)

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 accused of killing the two Jordanians, and offering financial compensation to the bereaved Jordanian families.

In its statement Thursday night, the PMO confirmed it had come to an agreement with Jordan over both incidents and said the embassy will “will return to full activity immediately.” 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, will stand trial over the shooting.

“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 PMO said in its statement, which did not address the reported apology or reparations to Jordanian bereaved families.

Moyal shot the two Jordanians dead after one of them allegedly attacked him, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman, and prompting all diplomatic staff, including Ambassador Einat Schlein, to return to Israel.

On Friday, Netanyahu also said Israel had not apologized to the Jordanians, but had told them that it “expresses regret.”

He said Israel had paid reparation money to the government but not the family of the landlord and worker killed in the scuffle. He did not say how much was paid.

The prime minister refused to say if US Vice President Mike Pence would bring a peace initiative during his visit next week, and said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should not look for another mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“There’s no other mediator,” Netanyahu said. “If he doesn’t want a mediator, if he doesn’t want the US, he doesn’t want peace.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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