Monday 27 January 2020

Netanyahu steps in to stop showdown between Israeli and Jordanian MPs

Oren Hazan had said he would meet Yehiya al-Saoud and 'make him an offer he can't refuse' (Emil Salman/AP)
Oren Hazan had said he would meet Yehiya al-Saoud and 'make him an offer he can't refuse' (Emil Salman/AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped in to prevent a showdown between a Jordanian and an Israeli politician who had challenged each other to a face-off on the border between their two countries.

Israel's Oren Hazan and Jordan's Yehiya al-Saoud were each already on their way to the border crossing on Allenby Bridge on the River Jordan when Mr Netanyahu ordered the Israeli politician to stand down.

The showdown was averted but the hyperbole from both sides reflects heightened diplomatic tensions between Israel and Jordan over the escalation around a contested Jerusalem shrine and over last month's deadly shooting at the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 but ties are often strained over Israeli-Palestinian flare-ups.

There has also been widespread anger in Jordan over last month's deadly shooting in which an Israeli embassy guard killed two Jordanians, including a 16-year-old.

Authorities said the guard opened fire after the teenager attacked him with a screwdriver during a furniture delivery.

Mr Hazan and Mr Al-Saoud, both provocative politicians, had quarrelled publicly in recent days, exchanging barbs through media statements.

Mr Al-Saoud challenged Mr Hazan to a face-off at the Allenby Bridge crossing after the Israeli berated Jordan, claiming Israel always "protects their posterior, day and night. They need a little re-education".

Mr Hazan picked up the gauntlet but struck a more jocular tone ahead of the rendezvous, posting photos of getting a haircut and tweeting: "A gentleman is never late!"

He said he would meet Mr Al-Saoud and "make him an offer he can't refuse".

His spokesman Daniel Zirlin said the meeting would be "non-violent" and would carry "a message of reconciliation and peace".

Mr Al-Saoud struck a harsher tone, telling reporters on his way to the crossing that he was "serious about going to the bridge and beating up this dirty person".

"We want to tell Netanyahu that if the door to jihad (holy war) was open, the Jordanians would stomp on them (Israelis) with their shoes," Mr Al-Saoud said.

Mr Hazan, who made headlines earlier this year when he snapped an unexpected selfie with US President Donald Trump after he landed in Tel Aviv, was heading to the bridge on Wednesday morning when the prime minister's office called.


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