PM Promises Security Guard Stuck in Jordan: We’ll Get You Home

YERUSHALAYIM -
Security officials park near the approach toward the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Monday afternoon with the Israeli security guard who is holed up in the Israeli embassy in Amman. Netanyahu said the government was “carrying out discussions at all levels with security officials in Israel and the government in Amman in order to bring this situation to a resolution. We are doing everything we can to bring our people home.” Regarding the security guard, Netanyahu said, “I have spoken to him and I promised we would get him home. We are very experienced at doing that.”

A meeting of the security cabinet on the diplomatic crisis with Jordan set for Monday afternoon has been postponed until Monday night, as Israel tries to work out a deal to ensure the safety of the security guard and the rest of its staff in Amman — all of whom are basically trapped inside the embassy.

Jordan is demanding that Israel surrender for questioning the security guard who shot and killed a Jordanian who stabbed him. Israel has refused to do so, claiming the security guard has diplomatic immunity. A second Jordanian citizen who was wounded in the incident — the owner of the apartment in which the 17-year-old Jordanian stabber was doing carpentry work — has died as well. The stabber’s father told Jordanian media Monday that as far as he is concerned, his son is a “martyr,” and the only possible punishment is the death penalty. Jordanian media was nearly entirely focused on the story Monday, with editorials in newspapers and broadcast media also demanding the death penalty.

The Jordanian news site Hala Akhbar, which is linked to the kingdom’s military, quoted diplomatic and security officials as saying that Jordan refused to let the guard leave without an investigation and might take “diplomatic measures” if Israel refuses to meet this demand.

An Israeli government official said talks were underway whether to evacuate the embassy staff, given the tensions in Jordan.

He said either all or none of the staff would be evacuated, and that the security guard would not be left behind.

Overnight Sunday, the Foreign Ministry called on the staff in Amman to come home, but Jordanian officials refused to authorize the exit of the security guard — and most of the diplomatic staff decided to stay on in solidarity. Meanwhile, however, mass demonstrations have formed outside the embassy over demands that the security guard be arrested, and sources inside the embassy told the NRG news site that they dare not leave the building now. “It’s a matter of pikuach nefesh,” the source said. “At 6 a.m. staff tried to leave, but they were stopped by security officials” who told them it was too dangerous to leave. This is where it stands now, and we don’t know what will happen.”

A Foreign Ministry source told the site that the situation was reminiscent of the incident in Cairo in 2011, when an Egyptian mob invaded the embassy and trashed it, with staff escaping by the skin of their teeth.

“There is a great deal of tension out there, and this can only be defused by the leaders of each country. Part of the problem is that the Jordanian government kowtows to the mob because they fear them. This could turn into a major riot that could cost King Abdullah his throne.”

In light of the tension, Israel kept its embassy in Ankara, Turkey, closed Monday. Sources said that while there was no specific threat to Israel or Israelis in Turkey, it was decided to keep the embassy closed as a precaution. This decision was made over the weekend, in light of the statements made by Turkish government officials over the tensions on Har HaBayis, the sources said.