Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday morning met with the Israeli security officer who became the center of a diplomatic crisis with Jordan after he shot dead two Jordanians during a stabbing attack on him at an Israeli Embassy residence in Amman on Sunday.
The security officer, Ziv, whose last name has not been cleared for publication, was joined at the Prime Minister’s Office by Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein. All Israel’s embassy staff from Jordan entered Israel late Monday night, after a diplomatic standoff that had threatened to escalate already tense bilateral relations.
Jordanian authorities had initially sought to interrogate the guard over the incident, while Israel refused to hand him over, citing diplomatic immunity.
The guard’s release was reportedly part of a larger agreement to de-escalate tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the installation of metal detectors at access points following a terror attack enraged local Muslims.
“A weight fell off my shoulders,” Ziv told Netanyahu. “Thanks with all my heart. I am happy to be here. Einat and I felt that people were standing with us and were making every effort. We felt that, and I’m happy to be here.”
Schlein said: “It’s good to be home. Everything’s great.”
Netanyahu, who also holds the position of foreign minister, told the pair that there was never any doubt that they would be brought back safely to Israel and that Ziv would not have been handed over to Jordanian authorities.
“I am happy to see you, happy that things ended the way they ended,” Netanyahu told Ziv. “You acted well, calmly, and we also had a commitment to get you out, that was never a question. It was only a question of time and I am happy that it is a short time. You represent the State of Israel and Israel doesn’t forget that for a moment.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also spoke with Schlein at the ministry building in Jerusalem, discussing the specific incident and the wider diplomatic situation in Jordan.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the Israeli guard was stabbed on Sunday evening by 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, who was in an embassy residence installing a bedroom set.
Ziv opened fire on Jawawdeh, killing him and a second man, Bashar Hamarneh, at the site, in what the ministry said was self-defense.
Some members of Jawawdeh’s family said he was killed in cold blood and demanded the Israeli guard be executed.
Israel insisted that Ziv had diplomatic immunity and was therefore safe from arrest and interrogation by Jordanian police, according to the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations. But Jordanian authorities initially refused to let the Israeli leave the country, stoking fears of a major crisis between Amman and Jerusalem.
In an effort to solve the crisis, Netanyahu on Monday spoke to Jordanian King Abdullah and sent Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman to Amman. At the same time, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived in the region to help broker an agreement. He met with Netanyahu and later headed to Jordan.
Late Monday evening, the staff at Israel’s Amman Embassy arrived in Israel. Minutes later, the security cabinet voted to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount, a move Jordan had demanded since Israel had erected them following a deadly July 14 terror attack at the site, which was carried about with firearms smuggled onto the mount.
Netanyahu also spoke by telephone with Schlein and Ziv as soon as they had crossed the border back into Israel.
According to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, Ziv, who lives in the south of the country, is a member of the foreign ministry’s security unit that is tasked with protecting Israeli officials abroad. He had been in Jordan for a year.
During his IDF service, he was a company commanding officer in the Givati Infantry Brigade. Family members said that he also took part in combat during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, when the IDF battled against Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
A source familiar with the Israeli investigation into the shooting incident said that were it not for Ziv’s quick response, he could have been killed.
Although he was stabbed with the screwdriver, it did not cause a deep wound, and as he fell to the floor, he was able to draw his gun and open fire, the sources said according to the report.
Prior to the stabbing at the Israeli Embassy compound in Jordan, ties were already fraying, with Jordan sharply criticizing Israel’s security measures at the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is administered by a Jordanian-controlled Islamic trust, and Amman has been highly critical of what it perceived as changes to the status quo at the holy site following the introduction of the metal detectors. Palestinians too had denounced the measures as a bid by Israel to assert control over the holy site and Islamic leaders called on worshipers to boycott the site until the detectors were removed.
Israel has repeatedly denied changing the status quo or trying to do so.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.