Jordan says replacing Israeli envoy not enough to mend ties

A senior Jordanian diplomat Thursday made it clear that a reported Israeli offer to replace its ambassador to Amman as a measure towards patching ties between the countries was not enough and that an embassy guard who shot dead two Jordanian nationals must be brought to trial in Israel.

In July, Israeli embassy guard Ziv Moyal shot dead two Jordanians in the course of being attacked by one of them, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman.

“They can look for a new ambassador but that ambassador will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course and justice is served,” a Jordanian official told the Reuters news agency.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has prevented Israeli Ambassador Einat Schlein from returning to her posting along with the rest of the embassy’s staff, all of whom left the country following the July 23 episode.

The official, described as a senior source and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Israel must convince Jordan that “justice has been served.”

On Wednesday Reuters cited an Israeli diplomatic source as saying that Israel will replace Schlein in an effort to alleviate tensions with Amman.

Schlein assumed her post in September 2015, meaning her three-year term is set to expire next summer.

Jordan refused to allow Schlein to return as Jerusalem’s envoy after she was photographed with Moyal meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on their return to Israel following the deadly incident.

Channel 13 reported Wednesday that the Shin Bet had completed its investigation into the event and concluded that the security guard was justified in shooting Mohammed Jawawdeh, who stabbed him with a screwdriver after learning that he was Israeli. Moyal’s landlord, a bystander, was also shot and killed during the incident. According to Channel 13 there was no doubt that Moyal acted in self-defense and there were no grounds for prosecuting him.

Earlier this month, Jordanian Media Affairs Minister Mohammad Momani announced that the Hashemite Kingdom would not allow the Israeli embassy to reopen until Moyal is brought to trial.

The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Jordan, with Jordan briefly refusing to allow Moyal to return to Israel or acknowledging his diplomatic immunity, a standoff that threatened to mushroom into a larger crisis.

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

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

The shooting occurred during a period of already strained ties between Jerusalem and Amman over Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount following a July 14 terror attack at the Jerusalem holy site. In that attack, three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers using weapons smuggled into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Nine days after the Temple Mount attack, al-Jawawdeh delivered bedroom furniture to a building owned by the Jordanian landlord of the Israeli guard.

Jordanian security officials at the time said that an argument ensued and that the teen attacked the guard with a screwdriver. The guard, who was lightly hurt, opened fire, killing the teen and severely wounding the landlord who stood nearby and later died of his injuries.

The following day, after a phone call between Netanyahu and King Abdullah II, Jordan allowed the guard to leave under the cover of diplomatic immunity, while Israel removed the metal detectors in an apparent tradeoff.

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