Israel-Jordan crisis over, diplomats leave embassy
The diplomatic crisis between Jordan and Israel lasted a day and-a-half before it was resolved. By late Monday, July 24, the Israeli embassy staff was free to leave Amman and drove through the Allenby Bridge crossing on their way home. Among them was the security guard, who Sunday shot dead two Jordanians in a struggle after he was stabbed with a screwdriver. The Jordanian authorities demanded his handover for their investigation and subjected the embassy to a lockdown for most of the day to prevent their departure. Israel rejected this demands on the grounds that the guard had diplomatic immunity.
During the day, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argamon and Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt travelled to Amman to clear up the crisis with senior Jordanian officials. Jordan’s King Abdullah and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were kept continuously in the picture. When the two leaders spoke directly Monday evening, the end of the crisis was clearly at hand.
While he was in Amman, Argaman invited Jordanian security officials to come to the embassy and view a reconstruction of the contested incident and participate in the questioning of the guard.
debkafile adds: The resolution of the diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman over this incident did not settle the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over Temple Mount. An Israeli-Jordanian deal was almost certainly struck to ease the crisis over the security measures Israeli installed at the shrine after two of its police officers were shot dead there by terrorists. But any such deal will depend on Palestinian approval, and that remains to be ironed out in further negotiations.
debkafile described the incident that provoked the diplomatic crisis between Jordan and Israel as it happened on Sunday:
An incident at the Israeli embassy in Amman Sunday, July 23, left two Jordanians shot dead and an Israeli stabbed and in serious condition. Monday morning, amid reports of an impending evacuation of embassy staff, the building was surrounded by Jordanian forces which prevented departures and entries. This followed a long confrontation overnight between the Jordanian and Israeli governments, most likely at the highest level. Amman demands the Israeli guard surrendered for the investigation into the incident. Israel refuses on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity.
After the story was held back for several hours by the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, the versions which sparked this development released early Monday, combined with earlier international media reports, left more questions than answers.
According to the Israeli official version, an incident occurred in the “space of the Israeli embassy” which is located in the high-end Rabiyeh district of Amman, when a Jordanian workman who came to repair a piece of furniture at the home of the Israeli security guard, attacked him with a screwdriver. The guard pulled a gun and shot him and another Jordanian man described as “the landlord.”
Jordanian General Intelligence stated that when word was received of a shooting at a residential building used by the Israeli embassy and “within its space,” a security force was sent over and locked it down prior to investigating the incident and its circumstances. This account describes three injured individuals, including an Israeli national.
It is not clear in either account whether the Jordanian assailant came from outside and entered one of the most heavily guarded embassy compounds in Amman, or was a member of the embassy staff – in which case his security clearance by Jordan and Israel would have been high.
Other Jordanian sources describe the Jordanian assailant as a member of the embassy’s maintenance staff with whom the Israelis serving in Jordan were well acquainted.
International media carried various accounts hours before the story was officially released for publication. According to one, the Israeli guard was stabbed in a quarrel with a Jordanian and then shot him several times in the chest. The Israeli was then taken in “unstable condition” to hospital. Israel was said to have begun evacuating the Amman embassy.
The two governments appeared to have been engaged in an all-night discussion, most likely at the highest personal level of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah.
On Friday, thousands of Jordanians protested in Amman against Israel over the installation of metal detectors on Temple Mount, a site in the heart of Jerusalem that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. They were installed as a protective measure, after a terrorist on July 14 shot dead two Israeli police officers who were guarding the Lion’s Gate entry to the compound.
Since then, the Waqf and Palestinian leaders have instructed Muslims to refrain from entering Temple Mount for worship at Al Aqsa, but to hold prayers in the street outside the compound. Major disturbances ensued in Jerusalem and other parts of the country and spilled across the border to Arab capitals, including Amman.
Israel later installed new security cameras on Temple Mount, while considering an alternative to the hotly contested metal detectors. But Waqf and Palestinian officials declared emphatically that no security measures installed by Israel for protecting worshippers and visitors to the shrine will be accepted. The Waqf takes its orders from Amman. The Temple Mount crisis has blown up into a major diplomatic incident between Israel and Jordan.