Jordan: freeze with Israel, local elections

Summary: relations with Israel frozen since an Israeli embassy guard shot two Jordanians dead in July. First local elections since 2013.
The incident on 23 July when a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman was attacked and shot his 17-year-old attacker and a Jordanian surgeon dead (our posting of 25 July) has not been resolved and has had a serious impact on Israeli/Jordanian relations; a report in the Los Angeles Times is headlined “Relations between Israel and Jordan have become ‘very dangerous’ “. Embassy staff were withdrawn (by Israel, not expelled by Jordan) to Israel on the following day, and the guard was given a hero’s welcome by Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted that the guard had “acted well and calmly.” A Jordanian official told the press that Netanyahu’s behaviour “is damaging to bilateral relations and the regional acceptance Israel is seeking.” Another Jordanian official said later that when Jordan was asked in August to allow the Israeli ambassador to return Israel was told to “hold on”, signalling continued tension.
The father of the 17-year-old wants his son’s killer to face justice, and the surgeon’s family issued a statement denouncing “the crime committed by the Zionists” and calling on the government to “punish the criminals and defend the national honour”.
An article on the Israeli Ynet website considers some of the practical consequences. The Israeli embassy in Cairo has also been closed for nine months, and the double closure makes it difficult or impossible for those few Egyptians who want to travel to Israel, for example for business or for medical treatment. The article adds that King Abdullah has tied the reopening of the embassy to receiving the report from the Israeli investigation into the shooting and seeing the security guard brought to justice; “We should also not forget that to this day, we have not heard a convincing Israeli version of what happened.”
The present situation according to the Jerusalem Post is that a Jordanian order was issued on 14 August “banning the Israeli ambassador in the absence of an initial investigation in Israel”. Jordanian officials were said to have informed Israel that the ambassador could not return to her post without “guarantees of a serious and thorough investigation of the embassy guard and the bringing of him to trial.” Indications are that the guard may be investigated on suspicion of manslaughter. Mass demonstrations are said to have taken place outside the Israeli embassy with chants of “death to Israel”.
The Jerusalem Post adds that “The embassy incident occurred against the backdrop of recent tensions centered on the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. Following the killing of two police officers at the compound on July 14, Israel installed metal detectors at the holy site, a move vehemently rejected by Muslims worldwide. Two weeks of upheaval ensued, leading Netanyahu to backtrack and remove the security measures.
Jordan held local elections on 15 August, the first since 2013 in a bid by King Abdullah’s government to develop wider grassroots democracy, which according to Reuters critics say falls short of promised wider political reform. Only one serious incident has been reported, a polling station looted close to Amman. Over 1.3 million people voted, a turnout of 31%, with 6,000 candidates competing for 1,833 seats. The lowest turnout was in Amman, 7%. Women took part both as candidates and as voters, but only a small percentage voted. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed a victory for their coalition, the main opposition group, with for example 5 of 12 seats in Amman. A Jordan Times comment attributes the low turnover to a mix of election fatigue, a mood of despondency during economic hardship, regional tension, and perhaps the hot weather.

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