Likud MK Oren Chazan almost had a chance to fight for the honor of Israel — literally, but was forced to call off a “non-violent” face-off with a Jordanian challenger Wednesday after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office ordered him to stand down.
Chazan had said he would respond to the challenge laid down by a Jordanian parliament member for a meeting — and possible wrestling match — on the Allenby Bridge crossing between Israel and Jordan. “I’ll be on the bridge tomorrow [Wednesday] at 10 a.m. for a frank discussion on the bridge,” Chazan wrote on social media Tuesday night. “I have an offer that Yehiya a-Saud will not be able to refuse.”
Expectations were high of a possible fist-fight — or at least a shouting match — and both a-Saud and Chazan were on their way to the meeting when Netanyahu’s office called Chazan off.
The showdown averted but the hyperbole from both sides reflects heightened diplomatic tensions between Israel and Jordan. The story began last week, after the incident at an apartment rented by the Israeli embassy in Amman, in which Ziv Moyal — a security guard at the embassy — was attacked by a terrorist. Moyal defended himself, shooting the terrorist. He later died of his wounds, as did the owner of the apartment. In the wake of that incident, mass riots were held in Amman against Israel, demanding that Moyal be turned over to Jordanian authorities for trial. The riots featured many anti-Israel slogans and speeches, with Jordanians demanding that their government “punish” Israel by ripping up the 1994 peace treaty signed by the two countries. Those calls were reiterated by several Jordanian parliament members.
When two countries that are supposed to be friendly — or at least at peace — find themselves at odds, they should come up with a peaceful way to resolve their differences, and not castigate the other party with hateful vituperation, said Chazan. In a social media post, the MK wrote that “it appears that our neighbors to the east in Jordan, who we support and protect day and night, need to be re-educated. It’s starting to feel as if we should be saying goodbye to our relationship with them.”
Although the post wasn’t aimed at him specifically, a-Saud attacked Chazan in his own post, calling Chazan a “disgusting person. If he is a real man, let him meet me on the bridge. I will beat him up,” he threatened, adding that Chazan probably wouldn’t show up, because like all Israelis “he is a low person who hides behind the protection of American aid.” Chazan responded that he would be there on time, and bring his best fight to the game.
However, in the end, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office said they would not allow the “dueling match” to go through; and Chazan, who had begun making his way to the crossing until he received the instructions from Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz not to go to the border or meet the Jordanian, turned back.
A-Saud’s tone remained belligerent when he arrived at the bridge, and he said he was “not shaking hands with someone who killed Palestinian people.”
Chazan made headlines earlier this year when he snapped an unexpected selfie with President Donald Trump after he landed in Tel Aviv.
Commenting on the “battle royale,” Labor MK Shelly Yechimovich blamed the incident on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “If we didn’t have a peace treaty with Jordan, then the idea of politicians fighting out their differences instead of soldiers doing so would be a good idea,” she told Israel Radio. “The tragedy is that we do have such a peace treaty, and King Abdullah of Jordan is not our enemy.” Had Netanyahu not greeted Moyal honorably with full media coverage “just to take advantage of a photo-op, we would not be facing this situation. We need to repair our relationship with Jordan immediately.”