Israel’s latest display of contempt for Jordan and its people calls for a firm and decisive response
By Abdel Bari Atwan
By cutting short his summer vacation and returning to Jordan to deal ‘personally’ with the fallout of the killing of two Jordanians by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, King Abdallah II has acknowledged that his government’s handling of the affair has been woeful. Its feeble response to the July 23 murders did not begin to match the enormity of the outrage, and the wave of public anger triggered by that failure is continuing to simmer, requiring exceptional efforts and measures to contain or reduce it
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu staged a deliberate display of disdain for Jordan and its people when he ostentatiously greeted and embraced the killer of the two Jordanians after he and the other embassy staff were allowed to leave the country unchallenged. He expressed his joy at seeing him, praised his behaviour, and stressed that the Israeli government had done everything necessary to ensure his speedy return. The murderer was treated like a hero.
The Jordanian monarch described Netanyahu’s provocative behaviour as ‘showmanship’ aimed a scoring personal political points, and urged him to‘honour his responsibilities and take the necessary legal measures to ensure that the killer is tried and justice is served. ‘
That is all very well. But it is not enough. It needs to be be followed up by tangible steps and measures that teach the Israelis a lesson they will not forget and puts an end to their habitually high-handed treatment of Jordan and successive demonstrations of contempt for its people – reflecting their attitude to Arabs in general.
The Jordanian people have a strong sense of national pride that may not necessarily be matched by others in the region. They feel insulted by their current government’s supine treatment of the Israeli government, whether in signing last year’s disgraceful gas deal which caused public outrage, or its feebleness and collusion in quickly allowing the embassy killer out of the country, citing spurious legal pretexts that have been refuted by experts in international law.
Netanyahu’s insulting behaviour certainly warrants a strong and firm response on the part of the Jordanian authorities. But the Jordanian officials who facilitated or turned a blind eye to the spiriting away of the murderer and the other Israeli diplomats should also be held to account. It is behaviour like theirs which encourages the likes of Netanyahu to repeatedly flaunt their contempt for Jordan and its sovereignty with impunity.
Successive Israeli transgressions of this kind have left a deep wound on the pride of the Jordanian people. Their leadership needs to act firmly and decisively in this regard if it is to retain their respect – as the late King Hussein did when Israeli agents tried to murder Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal in Amman in 1997. He threatened to scrap Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel unless it provided the antidote to the poison used against Mishaal, and held firm until it released Hamas’ founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and all Jordanian prisoners from its jails.
Jordanians have long shown patience in response to these repeated Israeli insults. But the growing public clamour for the closure of the embassy and cancellation of the treaty — echoed by the thousands of mourners who attended the two martyrs’ funerals – indicates that this patience is running out. They have had enough.
We agree with the Jordanian monarch that Netanyahu’s provocative conduct ‘angers us all, threatens regional security, and fuels extremism.’ But the danger will be worse if there is no serious response to this provocation. Jordan is surrounded by extremism and extremists surround Jordan on all four sides, and the region could be heading for an unprecedented surge in terrorism.
Many Jordanians struggle to make ends meet. They have faced draconian price hikes on essential goods and services due to the budget deficits the government has burdened them with – as a result both of corruption and of being let down by the brethren in the Gulf. They have shown that they are prepared to put up with these conditions and remain patient a little longer in order to preserve their country’s security and stability during turbulent times.
But there are limits to their tolerance when affronted, most especially at the hands of the Israeli occupier and enemy. Anyone who doubts that does not know the people of Jordan and their particular sense of patriotism and pride.