Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan has been forced to call off a “non-violent” faceoff with a Jordanian challenger after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office ordered him to stand down.
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Jordanian lawmaker Yehiya al-Saoud challenged Israeli provocateur MK Oren Hazan to a duel on Wednesday. Though the provocation has been called off, the proposed fistfight fortified strains in current relations between the two countries.
Yehiya al-Saoud insisted Likud MK Hazan meet him for a brawl at the Allenby Bridge border crossing on Wednesday morning, as reported by the Jordanian website JO24.net.
Al-Saoud said "The shoe of any Palestinian child is more honorable than this villain and his entity [country] and the shoe of any Arab and Muslim is better than him and his rogue entity, which has no origin and religion."
Hazan accepted the challenge, replying on Twitter "I accept the invitation of the Jordanian member of parliament to the meeting on the bridge. Tomorrow at 10:00 A.M. I'll be at Allenby Bridge for a face-to-face talk. I've got an offer he can't refuse."
Expectations were high of a possible fist-fight — or at least a shouting match — and both al-Saoud and Hazan were on their way to the meeting when Netanyahu’s office called Hazan off.
Al-Saoud’s tone remained belligerent when he arrived at the bridge, and he said he was “not shaking hands with someone who killed Palestinian people.”
Following an attack on a guard at Israeli Embassy in Amman Israeli embassy which left two Jordanians dead, diplomatic relations between Amman and Jerusalem have become increasingly taut.
Senior Jordanian officials expressed anger at Israel's portrayal of the attack, including videos distributed by the Prime Minister's Office giving the security guard a hero's welcome and Benjamin Netanyahu's warm meeting with the guard.
Fanning the flames, Hazan took to Twitter: "It seems our neighbors to the east, Jordan, who we shower with water and protect their asses day and night, need a little reeducation."
Al-Saoud's violent challenge was apparently a reaction to Hazan's disparagement. The parliament member has engaged in volatile behavior in the past, attacking lawmaker Qusay al-Damissi in 2013 and verbally abusing a female member of Jordanian parliament in 2014, claiming a gender quota was the only reason for her election.
Hazan is known for scandalous behavior as well, previously running a casino in Bulgaria and famously taking a selfie with U.S. President Donald Trump as he walked off the tarmac beginning his recent visit to Israel.
In December 2015, the ethics committee suspended him from the Knesset for a month in response to a series of complaints filed against him for mocking Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy.
Following press attention drawn by the online scuffle, MK Hazan called journalists "nerdy children who cheer on the bullies from the sidelines when they fight. This is a diplomatic matter."
Al-Saoud said "I hope the media does not relate this story disrespectfully. It's a serious story. I rebelled on behalf of the Palestinian people."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the buildup ordering Hazan to stand down, saying "Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz called on MK Oren Hazan not too long ago, ordering him not to go to the Allenby Crossing."
AP contributed to this report.