Jordanian official: Use detained Israeli as ‘chip’ for return of 2 Jordanians

Hashemite kingdom arrests unnamed Israeli citizen who illegally crossed border hours after Amman recalled ambassador to protest continued detention of two Jordanians

Israeli activists protest in solidarity with Jordanian Heba al-Labadi (portrait), who is currently in Israeli custody and has been on hunger strike, outside Ofer Prison during her court hearing in the West Bank on October 28, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Israeli activists protest in solidarity with Jordanian Heba al-Labadi (portrait), who is currently in Israeli custody and has been on hunger strike, outside Ofer Prison during her court hearing in the West Bank on October 28, 2019. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

A senior Jordanian official suggested late Tuesday that the Hashemite kingdom use an Israeli citizen detained after crossing the border as a bargaining chip to secure the release of two Jordanians being held by Israel.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufyan Qudah said earlier that Jordan had arrested an Israeli citizen who he said “illegally” crossed into the kingdom.

Qudah added that Jordanian authorities were interrogating the Israeli before transferring him to “the relevant legal parties to take the necessary legal measures against him.”

He did not provide details on the identity of the Israeli. The IDF confirmed that an Israeli citizen had crossed the border and said the incident was being investigated. It provided no further details.

“Politically we cannot consider the idea of a prisoner exchange with the occupation,” said Nidal Ta’ani, the head of the Jordanian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, in remarks reported by Israel’s Walla news site.

Heba al-Labadi in an undated photo (Courtesy)

“However, we can keep the Israeli in Jordan to use as a chip to place pressure on the occupation (Israel) to free the prisoners al-Labadi and Miri,” he said, referring to the two Jordanians being held by Israel.

Earlier Tuesday evening Jordan announced it was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s ongoing detention of two of its citizens.

“In light of Israel’s failure to heed our demands for months that it free Jordanian citizens Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri and their continued detention in an illegal and inhumane way, we have summoned the Jordanian ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted.

“We hold Israel completely responsible for the lives of our citizens and we will continue to undertake legal, diplomatic and political measures to guarantee their safe return home,” he said. “Putting the lives of our citizens, whose health conditions are deteriorating, at risk is a condemned act that the kingdom rejects.”

Safadi’s statement was a further indication of the tense state of relations between Israel and Jordan, which marked the 25th anniversary of the signing their landmark peace agreement last weekend.

Ghassan Majali, Jordan’s newly appointed ambassador to Israel. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Jordan’s ambassador to Israel is Ghassan Majali, who has largely stayed out of the public’s eye since arriving in October 2018.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was checking the Jordanian announcement with authorities in Amman.

Israel detained Labadi, 32, and Miri, 29, at the Allenby crossing in the Jordan Valley on August 20 and September 2, respectively. The Palestinian Authority Prisoners Affairs Commission has said that both of them are being held under administrative detention orders.

Administrative detention orders allow Israel to hold certain suspects for months at a time without formal charges.

Earlier in October, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said that Labadi, who is of Palestinian descent, is being held “because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations,” without elaborating.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Jordan in January 2014 (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90/ File)

The Haaretz daily on Monday quoted Raslan Mahajna, Labadi’s lawyer, as saying that she is suspected of “meeting with persons identified” with the Hezbollah terror group in Beirut in trips in 2018 and 2019. According to the newspaper, Mahajna said that Labadi met once with an employee of the Hezbollah owned al-Nour radio station, while visiting her sister in the Lebanese capital.

Labadi has been carrying out a hunger strike for 36 days, according to the Prisoner’s Club, a group that mainly advocates for Palestinian prisoners. Her health has recently deteriorated and she has been to a hospital in Haifa multiple times in the past week, the organization said on Tuesday.

Miri has suffered from cancer since 2010 and needs regular medical check-ups, according to the PA Prisoners Affairs Commission.

An Israeli military court on Tuesday refused an appeal to release Miri.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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