Jordan set to approve new Israeli ambassador – report

Jordan set to approve new Israeli ambassador – report

Amman mission has been without an envoy since July incident that saw an Israeli security guard shoot dead two Jordanians

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

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

Jordan is expected to approve the appointment of the new Israeli ambassador to the kingdom, the Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad reported on Sunday.

Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced the appointment of Amir Weissbrod as Israel’s new ambassador to Jordan.

The announcement came after Israel and Jordan reached an agreement to end a diplomatic standoff over the July 23, 2017, shooting deaths of two Jordanian men by an Israeli embassy security guard. Israel says the guard opened fire in self-defense after being attacked by one of the men.

The Jordanian foreign ministry is holding consultations and pursuing diplomatic procedures regarding the appointment of the new Israeli ambassador to Jordan, Sunday’s report said.

It quoted an official Jordanian source as saying that the reopening of the embassy in Amman “must go through diplomatic procedures” before the ambassador is allowed to assume his job.

Sources told the newspaper that the Jordanian government was expected to approve the appointment of the new ambassador, though they did not say when. One source noted that according to diplomatic protocols, the approval of a new ambassador generally takes place within 10-20 days of the appointment.

The embassy has been shuttered since shortly after the deadly incident.

The alleged assailant was identified as Mohammed Jawawdeh. The second man shot dead by the Israeli guard was identified as Bashar Hamarneh, an orthopedic surgeon who was the owner of the apartment rented out to the embassy.

In the wake of the incident, Jordan initially refused to allow the evacuation of the embassy staff. However, the Jordanians relented after a phone conversation between Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II.

Israel’s outgoing ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, hurriedly left Amman late on July 23 along with the rest of the embassy staff, leaving the mission empty.

Jordanian security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy in the residential Rabiyeh neighborhood of the capital Amman on July 23, 2017. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

It wasn’t until January 18 that Israel and Jordan announced they had reached an agreement to end the standoff, apparently including an understanding that Schlein would not return to Amman.

Weissbrod, the new designated ambassador, 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 received final confirmation by the cabinet on February 25.

Last month, the Foreign Ministry announced that the embassy in Amman was “gradually” reopening, though 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 at a border crossing in 2014.

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 guard, Ziv Moyal, and offering financial compensation to the bereaved Jordanian families.

Shortly afterward, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office put out a statement announcing that the embassy 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 Moyal would stand trial over the shooting.

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 that Moyal acted in self-defense, and sources in Jerusalem have said he will not be prosecuted.

Israeli officials 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, widening the rift with Jordan.

Israeli officials said Israel has paid reparation money to the Jordanian government, but not to the families of the two men killed by Moyal. It is unclear how much has been paid.

Raphael Ahren and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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