Posted tagged ‘Israel and Jordan’

Israel and Jordan to reopen their embassies, ending 7-month dispute

January 18, 2018

Israel and Jordan to reopen their embassies, ending 7-month dispute, DEBKAfile, January 18, 2018

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem announced Thursday that the Israeli embassy in Jordan would be reopened immediately, seven months after its staff were forced to flee Amman, when an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanian citizens. The incident occurred during raging Palestinian riots on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al Momani said the Israeli Foreign Ministry had sent a memorandum of “deep regrets and apologies” and Jordan had received word that the Israeli guard went through the “necessary legal proceedings.”. The families of the two Jordanians had received compensation for their loss from the Israeli government. The PMO in Jerusalem stated: “Israel attaches great importance to the strategic relations with Jordan and the states will act to promote cooperation between them and to strengthen the peace agreement.”

Abdullah in Ramallah will strike anti-Israel stance

August 5, 2017

Abdullah in Ramallah will strike anti-Israel stance, DEBKAfile, August 5, 2017

Jordanian King Abdullah’s forthcoming visit to Ramallah Monday, Aug. 7, for talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, bodes ill for Jordanian-Israeli relations at an especially jarring moment.

The Israeli embassy security officer Ziv Moyal, who on July 24 shot dead two Jordanians in the embassy compound when he was attacked with a screwdriver, left a trail of Jordanian ill will in his wake, especially since the incident occurred in the middle of the Temple House crisis in Jerusalem.

King Abdullah proposes to turn this unfortunate incident into a springboard for persuading the Palestinian leader to work with Jordan in the framework of the peace initiative US President Donald Trump is trying to resuscitate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abdullah also plans to take advantage of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a moment of political and personal weakness. He is under a barrage of reported police investigations into allegations of corruption. Netanyahu has brushed the reports aside as “background noise.”

Jordan and Israeli signed a peace treaty in 2004. But since the shooting at the embassy, the Israeli ambassador and staff have not returned to Amman. And with tensions still running high, there is no sign that normal diplomatic business will be resumed any time soon.

In Ramallah, security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is still suspended, since Abbas ordered a freeze in the heat of the Palestinian disturbances over the security measures Israel put in place after the murder of two of its police guards.

The Jordanian king believes that there is plenty of common fodder for him and the Palestinian leader to build a united front that will boost him politically and personally at home. The Hashemite throne is in urgent need of shoring up after the shaking it took from an event that had nothing to do with Temple Mount, Jerusalem or Israel.

Abdullah had to sign a life sentence handed down by a Jordanian court against Marik al-Tuwayha, a Jordanian soldier who fired 70 bullets into vehicle of carrying US military instructors, killing three of them.

The court also booted the shooter out of the royal armed forces.

This judgment was a direct hit at the Tuwayha, a Bedouin tribe that by tradition sends its sons to the royal army and is historically loyal to the Hashemite throne. The fact that one of those sons attacked American soldiers carried the dread message that extremist ISIS ideology has penetrated deep into the king’s most solid power base.

The monarch is therefore in an extremely tight spot: He can’t afford to lose the Tuwayha tribe’s allegiance, on the one hand, but neither can be afford to alienate the Americans, when the US along with Israel, are his regime’s economic and security mainstay.

Netanyahu’s warm hug for the security officer on his safe return from Amman put up too many backs in Jordan and its streets for its king to weather the storm without striking a strong anti-Israeli posture. The Palestinian leader will no doubt take advantage of this situation to stir up the crisis between Amman and Jerusalem and so and lift his own plummeting fortunes in the Palestinian street. The royal visit to Ramallah, the first Abdullah has made in five years, will most likely produce a stream of invective against Israel and tough statements assailing Israel’s right to sovereignty over Jerusalem and Temple Mount.

 

Israel-Jordan crisis over, diplomats leave embassy

July 24, 2017

Israel-Jordan crisis over, diplomats leave embassy, DEBKAfile, July 24, 2017

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.

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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.

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones

July 5, 2017

Astana Peace Talks Fail over Syrian Safe Zones, DEBKAfile, July 5, 2017

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.

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The fifth round of Russian-initiated Syrian peace talks taking place Tuesday, July 4, in the Kazakh capital of Astana was designed to prepare the ground for the Trump-Putin summit Friday on the sidelines of the Hamburg G20 summit, by laying out proposals for deconfliction zones in Syria.

To support this move, Moscow twisted the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad’s arm to declare a unilateral ceasefire in southern Syria.

However, the ploy was soon aborted. The Astana conference quickly broke down when Iran and Turkey, two of the three sponsors along with Russia, rejected the formula for deconfliction zones on Syria’s borders with Iraq, Jordan and Israel, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Present at Astana along with the three sponsors were leading Syrian opposition and rebel groups, as well as UN envoy for Syrian affairs Staffan de Minstura, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones, and Jordanian Foreign Ministry adviser Nawaf Uasfi Tal.

The Iranina and Turkish delegates had no objections to the two demilitarized zones proposed for the Damascus and Homs areas, but withheld their consent for the zones in eastern and southern Syria, and refused to accept the formula for forces policing the latter deconfliction zones, their identity, powers as truce monitors and the types of arms they were allowed to carry.

Iran and Turkey demanded the deployment of their own troops along with Russians in the two safe zones, which border on Israel, Jordan and Iraq, and wanted them armed for “self-defense.” The representatives of the US and Jordan refused, proposing instead that an international force be established to supervise the zones. Turkey and Iran rejected this out of hand.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that the Russians suggested that the discussion be held over for the next session. They then took the Americans by surprise by relocating the sixth session of the Astana conference to Tehran. This too was a measure of the conference’s breakdown as a peace forum. US, Jordanian and Syrian rebel opposition groups will never travel to the Iranian capital to negotiate an end to the Syrian war.

By knuckling under to Tehran on this venue, the Russians have shown their hand as supporters of Iran’s military objectives in Syria, which they have hitherto tried to disguise.

The failure of the Astana peace track calls into question the ceasefire declared on Sunday by Damascus on all the warfronts of southeastern Syria, including the battle for Daraa, 1 km from the Jordanian border, and the fighting for the Quneitra region, just 3 km from Israel’s Golan.  That front was the source of the mortar shells that strayed across the border into the Golan last week.

The ceasefire was supposed to be in effect until midnight on Thursday, June 6, but there is now a possibility that the fighting will resume earlier, perhaps even in the coming hours.

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem

June 2, 2017

Turkish takeover in Jerusalem, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, June 2, 2017

(Please see also, Report: Turkey Eclipsing Jordan in Old City, Temple Mount. — DM)

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

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The fireworks and fanfare of the Jerusalem liberation jubilee have shoved under the radar a blockbuster expose about the unruly situation in east Jerusalem. Alarm bells should be ringing about the nefarious intensifying involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey and other radical Islamist groups in Jerusalem political and social affairs.

Dr. David Koren and Ben Avrahami are the advisors on east Jerusalem affairs for the Jerusalem Municipality. They lead the municipal team that oversees all of Jerusalem City Hall’s interactions with the Muslim and Christian populations of the city. They are intimately familiar with the thicket of contradictory interests, tensions, and disagreements that inform daily life in earthly Jerusalem.

The two experts have just published a rare, breathtaking and shocking description of political trends in east Jerusalem. Their article, “East Jerusalem Arabs Between Erdogan and Israel,” published in the new, important Hebrew intellectual journal Hashiloach (Vol. 4, May 2017), offers a brief account of the fruits of normalization and Arab east Jerusalemites’ increasing integration into the Israeli scene, But mainly it serves as a wake-up call regarding countervailing toxic trends.

According to Koren and Avrahami there has been very significant erosion in the status of the veteran east Jerusalem mukhtars and the influence of Fatah political infrastructures and Palestinian Authority leaders. Into the vacuum have stepped elements identified with Hamas, with the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and with the Muslim Brotherhood in its wider context.

Through a series of civic associations, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations, sometimes at the neighborhood level and sometimes more extensive, they are investing tens of millions of dollars per year in dawa (missionary) activities, mainly charitable enterprises and educational programs to attract the young to Islamic values.

There is a direct line, say the article authors, from civic dawa to radicalization and active enlistment in the armed struggle against Israel. This includes active social networking which glorifies terrorists, martyrs, and prisoners, and explicitly calls for violent resistance to Israel. These networks were also the source for the libel that Al-Aqsa mosque is endangered by the Jews/Zionists, and for dissemination of an incredible volume of disinformation related to Israeli actions on the Temple Mount.

The authors ask for particular attention to the mounting involvement of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is the worldwide Brotherhood’s main patron. Turkey now enjoys unprecedented popularity among the Arab residents of east Jerusalem, the authors write. The Turks’ public support of the Palestinian cause and adoption of the Al-Aqsa issue, and their decision to inject millions of dollars into east Jerusalem, have won them great sympathy and support.

The Turks fund a great part of the dawa activities in the city, with Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri as the lead Turkish agent. (He is a former grand mufti of Jerusalem appointed by the PA and today the most prominent representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city.) The Turkish consulate in Jerusalem, the Turkish government assistance agency, and a string of Turkish organizations that have local branches in Israel or the West Bank, are directly implicated in this subversive activity too. As a result, Turkish flags today fly everywhere in east Jerusalem and prominently on the Temple Mount as well.

The Turks also have injected significant sums to those who do their bidding on the Temple Mount, for various activities such as Quran-recitation groups, transportation of worshipers to and from the mosque, iftar feasts in Ramadan, renovation and cleaning campaigns, and the like. In general, the Islamist forces on the Temple Mount operate, intentionally or not, to Turkey’s benefit and the detriment of Jordan. They may believe that the replacement of the Jordanian presence by a Turkish presence would be a positive and welcome development.

The main loser here is Jordan, which long enjoyed the status of Guardian of the Holy Places and protector of the Arabs of Jerusalem. This also is the context of the PA’s intensive activity in the international arena, and especially at UNESCO, ostensibly intended to protect the Islamic holy places against an Israeli takeover. This tactic allows the PA to convey to its critics that it is the true defender of Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem against the threat of “Judaization,” while at the same time gnawing at Jordan’s historic role as guardian of the Mount and seeking to counteract the emerging Turkish dominance in Temple Mount affairs.

Attention should be devoted also to another mounting force in Jerusalem, the Islamic Liberation Party, or Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has several thousand supporters in the city. This Salafist group, like ISIS, seeks to proclaim a global Islamic caliphate from Al-Aqsa. It has acquired growing influence on college campuses throughout the West Bank, including al-Quds University near Jerusalem. Sheikh Issam Amira of the al-Rahman Mosque in Beit Safafa is the group’s most conspicuous preacher, and he enjoys freedom of activity and speech on the Temple Mount.

While the Liberation Party does not advocate violent jihad, some party members could “advance” from a Salafi mindset to a Salafi-jihadist outlook and join the ranks of ISIS. This may explain, say Koren and Avrahami, the presence of ISIS cells and ISIS operatives in Jerusalem, such as Fadi al-Qunbar, who carried out the terrorist truck-ramming attack in East Talpiot in early 2017, and the ISIS cell that was apprehended in the Shuafat refugee camp several months earlier.

In short, the disintegration of Palestinian secular nationalist organizations and institutions in east Jerusalem, alongside Israeli torpor, has facilitated the rise of Islamist factions and hostile foreign actors.

The enlarged foreign presence in the heart of Israel’s capital touches the deepest chords of the issue of Israeli sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. Koren and Avrahami warn that this presence cannot be easily eliminated. While significant security action and determined diplomatic maneuver are clearly mandated, Israel will have to do more to “recapture” east Jerusalem. It will have to assume full responsibility for the services that east Jerusalem Arab residents need, with major budgetary repercussions.

In a future article, we will look at the remedies for this situation being implemented by Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem (and more still required) in order to increase east Jerusalem Arabs’ sense of belonging to a united Jerusalem. Also to be considered are the complicated proposals coming from the political Left for redistricting of the city into independent boroughs or divesting some Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference

April 5, 2017

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference, White House via YouTube, April 5, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel

April 3, 2017

Sisi as key to Arab anti-ISIS pact with Israel, DEBKAfile, April 3, 2017

(Please see also, Restore the U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Alliance, Designate the Muslim Brothers as Terrorists. — DM)

Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.

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US President Donald Trump’s first face to face with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi at the White House Monday, April 3, focuses on four main topics, DEBKAfile reports: The fight against Islamist State terror rampant in Egyptian Sinai and neighboring Libya; topping up US military assistance to Cairo, aid for easing Egypt’s dire economic straits and, finally, the effort to bolster normal relations between the Arab world (including the Palestinians) and Israel.

From the moment he assumed the Egyptian presidency in June 2014, El-Sisi has waged a never-ending war on Islamist terror against Ansar Beit-al Maqdis, which later pledged alliance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Egyptian army has so far been worsted.  The Egyptian president is not deaf to the criticism of the Second and Third Armies’ failure to overcome a few thousand armed men, even though they can at a moment’s notice raise several thousand more fighters from the Bedouin tribes of Sinai. US intelligence has rated the Egyptian forces as slow-moving and unwieldy; but for limited forays, its contingents preferring to sit safely in their barracks rather than risk going out and pursuing the enemy across the Peninsula.

Shortly before President El-Sisi’s trip to Washington, the Egyptian air force conducted intense bombardments of ISIS concentrations around the northern town of El Arish, killing at least 14 terrorists, nabbing 22 and seizing large caches of roadside bombs. But they too long delayed bearding the Islamists in their main stronghold atop Mount Jabal Hala in central Sinai. ISIS is therefore free to move around the territory and strike at will, the while expanding its operations into Egypt proper.

The weekend air strikes came after months in which ISIS overran sections of El Arish, Sinai’s biggest town (pop: 100,000). Their grip is such that Egyptian forces no longer dared venture into those lawless neighborhoods, especially at night. Earlier this year, terrible persecution including executions forced the few thousand indigenous Christians, most of them Copts, to flee their homes in El Arish. Egyptian forces proved unequal to safeguarding the US-led international observer force (MFO) monitoring the 1972 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty at a nearby station.

American military aid to Egypt stands today at $1.3bn a year. Even though the US president means to slash foreign aid programs, he may make an exception in this case and expand military assistance -, possibly in the coin of advanced military hardware, given the country’s unending frontline battle against Islamist terror.

Its presence in El Arish, 130km from the Egyptian-Israeli border, plants the peril on the doorsteps of Egypt’s neighbors as well: Northern Sinai borders on Israel, its northwestern district shares a border with the Gaza Strip, abutting in the east on Jordan and in the southwest on Libya. The cities of western Sinai sit on the banks of the Suez Canal.

The Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate is closely allied with Salafi organizations in the Gaza Strip and works hand in glove with its Palestinian Hamas rulers, especially in the lucrative arms-smuggling business.

Al-Baghdadi last year posted a group of Iraqi officers in his service to the Sinai contingent. They travelled through southern Jordan to reach the peninsula. The Islamist cells in Libya have moreover made ISIS-held turf in Sinai their safe highway for traveling undetected to their other strongholds across the Middle East.

To stamp out this sprawling, multi-branched menace, the Trump administration needs to bring Egypt, Jordan and Israel into a coalition for a sustained, common campaign.

The Obama administration, which boycotted President El-Sisi for persecuting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, tried unsuccessfully to build Turkey, Egypt and Israel into a counterterrorism pact. The Trump administration, for which the Brotherhood is anathema, has a better chance. But first, relations between the Arab world and Israel need to be placed on a regular footing. Some groundwork already exists in the informal bilateral military ties Egypt and Jordan maintain with Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources have revealed in past reports the limited give-and-take relations for fighting terror Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi maintain with Israel.

The US President’s advisers recognize that before a broad, effective front against ISIS and Al Qaeda can be put together from these partial, often covert ties, progress is necessary towards normalizing relations between the Arab governments and the Jewish state, including the Israeli-Palestinian track.

Trump will certainly want to hear what role his Egyptian guest is willing to take for bringing this process forward. He will ask his next Middle East visitor, Jordan’s Abdullah II, the same question, when he arrives in Washington Tuesday. As for the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he was promised an invitation to the White House this month, but not yet been given a date. He is clearly being left to wait until the senior players in the region have had their say. Our Washington sources report that President Trump aims to complete his plan for bringing together Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel on a new footing by September.