Quarterly Updates for (16 May 2017 — 15 Aug 2017)

Jordan played a key role in the crisis at Haram al-Sharif in 7/2017. Amman funds the Islamic Waqf, which led the 2-week boycott against the new Israeli security measures, and Jordan’s King Abdullah was involved in the regional and international talks on resolving the crisis (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above). A fatal shooting at the Israeli embassy compound in Amman further entrenched Jordan in the conflict, resulting in a standoff with the Israeli govt. at the height of the crisis.

In a residential building used by embassy staff on 7/23, an Israeli security guard shot and killed 2 Jordanian civilians. The circumstances of the shooting were contested. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs endorsed the action, saying that the guard was defending himself from a politically motivated stabbing attack. It was later reported that one of those killed, a 17-year-old, was delivering furniture, while the other, a 51-year-old orthopedic surgeon, was the apartment owner. Some witnesses alleged that the incident stemmed from a dispute over payment. Meanwhile, the Israeli govt. refused to allow the Jordanian police to interrogate the guard, citing diplomatic immunity. After hundreds of Jordanians came out to protest the killing, the Israeli cabinet decided (7/23) to evacuate all 30 embassy staffers for fear of anti-Israel riots and reprisals. The Jordanian authorities, however, refused to allow the guard to leave the country without a proper interrogation.

The Israeli govt. deployed Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman to Amman to negotiate the next day, and he secured the return of the entire embassy staff to Israel that night, including the guard. Abdullah spoke with Netanyahu by phone on 7/24 as well. According to an Israeli official, the Jordanian police took down the guard’s statement about the incident before he left the country, but they were not allowed to question him fully.

The resolution did not sit well with the Jordanian govt., particularly after Netanyahu personally welcomed the guard home to Israel on 7/24. Abdullah called (7/27) Netanyahu a “political showoff” and said his embrace of the guard was “provocative and destabilizes security and encourages extremism in the region.” Abdullah also said that Israel’s response to the crisis would directly affect bilateral relations. Jordan’s atty. gen., Akram Masadeh, announced (7/27) that he intended to pursue the case in international courts, while the Jordanian authorities informed (7/26) the Israeli govt. that the Israeli embassy would not be allowed to reopen unless Israel carried out a full investigation, as required under the Vienna Convention.

Under increasing pressure from Jordan, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced (7/28) an investigation of the incident and promised to brief Jordanian officials on the process. Israel’s Ministry of Justice then announced (8/4) a preliminary investigation to be overseen by the state prosecutor’s office. A Jordanian spokesperson called (8/4) the investigation a “step in the right direction,” and a senior Jordanian official later said (8/11) Amman would wait to see what sort of legal action the Israelis might take before making a final decision on the reopening of the embassy.