Ne­tanyahu steps in to stop brawl of Is­raeli, Jor­da­nian MPs

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

It had all the in­gre­di­ents of a po­lit­i­cal brawl: a Jor­da­nian and an Is­raeli law­maker, both known for at­ten­tion-seek­ing blus­ter, chal­lenged each other to a show­down yes­ter­day on the bor­der between their two coun­tries. Ev­ery­one ex­pected a fist fight - or at least a shout­ing match. 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 Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu or­dered the Is­raeli law­maker 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 teen at­tacked him with a screw­driver dur­ing a fur­ni­ture de­liv­ery. Hazan and al-Saoud, both provoca­tive politi­cians, had quar­reled pub­licly in re­cent days, ex­chang­ing barbs through me­dia state­ments. Al-Saoud chal­lenged Hazan to a face­off at the Al­lenby Bridge cross­ing af­ter the Is­raeli be­rated Jor­dan, claim­ing Is­rael al­ways “pro­tects their pos­te­rior, day and night. They need a lit­tle reed­u­ca­tion.”

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 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.”

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,” al-Saoud said. Hazan, who made head­lines ear­lier this year when he snapped an un­ex­pected selfie with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump af­ter he landed in Tel Aviv, was head­ing to the bridge on Wed­nes­day morn­ing when the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice called. —AP

JERUSALEM: Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, cen­ter, chairs the weekly cab­i­net meet­ing at his of­fice in Jerusalem. —AFP

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