Netanyahu thanks US for ‘behind-the-scenes’ work to end Jordan embassy impasse
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Efforts said underway to arrange Netanyahu-Abdullah meeting

Netanyahu thanks US for ‘behind-the-scenes’ work to end Jordan embassy impasse

PM singles out Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt after agreement reached to resolve dispute over shooting at embassy compound

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner (left), meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on August 24, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner (left), meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on August 24, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday thanked the United States for its “behind-the-scenes efforts” to solve Israel’s diplomatic standoff with Jordan over a shooting incident at the Israeli embassy in Amman.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation to [Jared] Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt for their behind-the-scenes efforts, which helped solve the crisis,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Following the July incident, in which an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians after one allegedly attacked him, Jordan had prevented Israel from reopening its embassy or returning its ambassador to Amman in protest of the warm reception given to the guard and embassy staff upon their return to Israel in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

Israel will pay $5 million in compensation to the families, diplomats in Jordan told the al-Rai newspaper Saturday. Israeli officials have previously said an undisclosed sum would be paid to the Jordanian government and not to the families. The paper reported that the sum will be transferred by Jordan’s leaders to the families.

With an agreement now reached on ending the diplomatic impasse, Channel 10 reported Saturday that Israel is working to arrange a phone call between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, as well as an eventual meeting.

The news station said the two leaders have not spoken since July and it has been almost three years since they met in person. Both leaders will be in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, but no meeting has yet been agreed, the TV news report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan on July 27, 2010. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on July 27, 2010. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

A Jordanian government spokesman announced Thursday that Israel had apologized for the shooting deaths, as well 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.

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 in the embassy compound, and offering financial compensation to all three 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 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.

Mourners attend the funeral of 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh, who was killed when he allegedly attacked a security guard at the Israeli embassy compound in the Jordanian capital with a screwdriver, on July 25, 2017, in Amman. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

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

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.

The shooting at the embassy led to a nadir in bilateral ties, which were already strained over Israel’s decision to place metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount following a terror attack at the Jerusalem holy site. The metal detectors were later removed. Jordan is the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, which sits atop the Temple Mount.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Jordan briefly refused to allow Moyal to return to Israel or to acknowledge his diplomatic immunity, a standoff that threatened to mushroom into a larger crisis.

But a day later, Moyal and the rest of the embassy staff were allowed to return to Israel, following a diplomatic push that included a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, along with US intervention and a visit in Amman by the head of the Shin Bet security agency, Nadav Argaman.

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)

Netanyahu was criticized for his handling of the incident after his office released footage of him meeting and praising Moyal before either country’s investigators had determined what had happened during the incident.

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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