Jordan said to launch diplomatic offensive over Israeli Embassy shooting
Amman’s three-pronged approach reportedly includes a message to Riyadh warning of Netanyahu’s ‘mocking’ and his efforts to influence their relations
Jordan is reportedly taking diplomatic action against the Jewish state in response to a deadly shooting last month at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman.
The July 23 episode, in which Israeli embassy guard Ziv Moyal shot to death two Jordanians, sparked a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman. The guard said he was attacked by one of the two with a screwdriver, and Israel said he opened fire in self-defense. Under pressure from Jordan, Israel last week opened an investigation into the incident.
The tussle worsened after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office published photographs of the premier warmly hugging Moyal upon his return to Israel, with Jordan’s King Abdullah warning of diplomatic repercussions.
Abdullah said that Jordan was “infuriated” by the matter, calling it “unacceptable and provocative behavior.”
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has yet to allow Israeli Ambassador Einat Schlein to return to her posting along with the rest of the embassy’s staff, all of whom left the country, according to a Sunday report in the Jordanian al-Ghad daily.
According to the outlet, considered close to kingdom’s Hashemite rulers, Amman is studying possible “diplomatic options” it can take against Israel over incident.
London-based pan-Arabic daily Rai al-Youm reported that Amman has already launched a three-pronged response to what it considered an inappropriate handling of the incident by Netanyahu.
The response includes providing detailed information on how Netanyahu tried to manipulate Israeli public opinion following the shooting, a rare visit to Ramallah by Abdullah, and the passing of a message to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman warning him against “an Israeli plot to spoil the cards.”
The latter step is believed to be the most significant given Jerusalem’s recent attempts to thaw relations with Riyadh.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.
In the past few months, Israeli officials have hinted at a desire for Saudi Arabia to play a role in a regional Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and the US is reportedly also pushing for Riyadh to be involved.
In a cable to the Crown Prince, Amman wrote that Netanyahu “mocks” the two Arab countries and seeks to influence their bilateral relations, Rai al-Youm reported.
Abdullah is expected to visit Ramallah on Monday for several hours, the first such visit in five years.
Mohammed Shtayyeh, a top official in Abbas’s Fatah party, told AFP Saturday that the two leaders would discuss efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been at a standstill since 2014.
Israeli officials also saw the leaking of Moyal’s identity to al-Ghad last week as a punitive measure taken by Amman, which is demanding the guard face justice over the incident.
On Friday, the State Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had opened a preliminary probe into the incident at the behest of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani called Israel’s decision a “step in the right direction” over the weekend.
“We expect a complete followup on the legal procedure in accordance to international law relevant to these cases. Justice must be served,” he said.
During security cabinet meetings following the incident, Mandelblit told ministers that as a signatory to the Vienna Convention, Israel is required to investigate suspects upon their return from a host country that provided diplomatic immunity for charges against them, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported last week.
While Mandelblit emphasized that the inquiry is entirely routine, Moyal will likely be investigated on suspicion of manslaughter, that report said.
Channel 2 reported Thursday that police were preparing to send a team to Jordan to gather material.
“The investigation will be carried out with the assistance of the State Prosecutor’s Office, and later, in light of [the] findings that come up, the possibility of turning to the Jordanian authorities to request the transfer of additional materials will be weighed,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement Friday.
Shortly upon returning home, Moyal was questioned by Israeli authorities over the affair, during which he said 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh stabbed him after learning that he was Israeli.
Jawawdeh, the son of a furniture store owner, was in the embassy residence installing a bedroom set at the time of the incident.
The landlord, Bashar Hamarneh, was also hit by a bullet and later died of his wounds.
Responding to Israel’s announcement that it would be opening a probe into the shooting, Jawawdeh’s father Zakariya told Al Jazeera that Moyal should face criminal prosecution.
“I don’t mind the guard facing the Israeli or any legal system so long as he faces justice and my son’s blood does not go in vain,” he told the Qatari broadcaster.
Moyal has reportedly rejected Jordanian claims that the incident was sparked by a dispute over furniture, saying he was attacked for “nationalistic” reasons.
The episode 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 which three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers with weapons smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jordan is the custodian of the Temple Mount and administers the site through the Jerusalem-based Waqf.
The security measures were later removed, hours after the Jordanian embassy staff was allowed to return to Israel.
On Friday, hundreds of Jordanians protested against Israel outside the closed embassy in Amman, where they called for the embassy to be shut down and for a natural gas deal with Israel to be nixed.