Quarterly Updates for (16 Nov 2017 — 15 Feb 2018)

After months of tension and uncertainty following the 7/23 killing of two Jordanians at the hands of an Israeli Embassy security guard and the subsequent recall of the Israeli Embassy staff from Amman (see JPS 47 [1] and [2]), the Israeli government took steps this quarter to repair some of the damage in its relationship with Jordan.

Last quarter, the Israeli government had threatened to suspend its 12/9/2013 watersharing agreement with Jordan, providing for joint construction of a water desalination plant on the Gulf of Aqaba and a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea (see JPS 43 [3] and 44 [4]), if the Jordanian government did not allow the embassy staff to return. The Jordanian government, which insisted from the beginning that the embassy staff would not be allowed to return until Israel carried out a full investigation into the 7/23 incident, reportedly held to its position, expressing a willingness to proceed on the project alone or to bring on Saudi Arabia as a replacement partner (see JPS 47 [2]). In mid-11/2017, Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem al-Naser sent a letter to the Israeli authorities requesting an official answer regarding Israel’s commitment to the project (AlGhad, 11/27). There were no reports of an official Israeli response, and tensions persisted until mid-1/2018 when a Jordanian spokesperson announced (1/18) that Israel had formally apologized for both the killing of the two Jordanian citizens and that of a Jordanian judge on 3/10/2014 (see JPS 43 [4]). He added that Israel had pledged to take legal measures with respect to the 7/23 incident, and to provide compensation for the families of the victims. Hours after the Jordanian statement, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s office announced (1/18) that the Israeli Embassy in Amman would reopen.

By the end of the quarter, some Israeli diplomats had returned to the embassy in Amman, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry appointed a senior ministry official, Amir Weisbrod, as the new ambassador to Jordan (Times of Israel, 1/30; Haaretz, 2/8). However, Israeli sources said (1/21) that the Israeli government had no plans to actually prosecute the security guard responsible for the 7/23 killings. They indicated that the Foreign Ministry and Shin Bet intended to merely review protocols surrounding the guard’s behavior and share the results with their Jordanian counterparts. It was therefore unclear whether the Red Sea–Dead Sea partnership or the broader Israeli-Jordanian relationship was fully back on track.