Israel to Appoint New Ambassador to Jordan in Bid to Salvage Ties

Foreign Ministry sources confirm that Einat Schlein has begun looking for a new position following the diplomatic crisis ■ 'The Jordanians don't want her back, and this has been a big obstacle in patching things up'

Jordanians on July 25, 2017, at the funeral of of Mohammed al-Jawawdeh, a 16-year-old Jordanian who was killed, along with a Jordanian man, by an Israeli security guard in Amman, Jordan.
Lindsey Leger/AP

Israel plans to appoint a new ambassador to Jordan in a bid to calm Amman's anger over the current envoy's handling of a shooting by an embassy guard in July that has strained relations, an Israeli diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

But Israel has shown no sign of meeting Jordan's demand that it launch criminal proceedings against the guard, who killed two Jordanians in what he called self-defense. He was repatriated along with Ambassador Einat Schlein a day after the incident.

Sources within the Foreign Ministry confirmed that Schlein has begun looking for a new position in the ministry following the diplomatic crisis. Her name appeared on a list of candidates for a senior position this past summer.

While an Israeli diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Schlein would not return, the Foreign Ministry refused to comment officially on the possibility of replacing Schlein.

Jordanian authorities say they suspect the shooting was unprovoked but could not investigate the guard due to his diplomatic immunity. A televised welcome he and Schlein received from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outraged Amman.

Since Schlein's departure on July 24 the embassy has been shuttered, casting a pall over Israel's ties with Jordan, a U.S.-backed regional security partner and one of only two Arab countries that recognize Israel.

Israel says the guard opened fire after being attacked and lightly wounded by a workman, killing him and a Jordanian bystander. Israeli officials have said they were looking into the possibility of compensating the family of the second man.

"The Jordanians don't want her back, and this has been a big obstacle in patching things up," the source said. "We're looking for a replacement."

A source involved in the crisis recently told Haaretz that it seems the Israeli side is communicating more with the Jordanian media, which became angry at the Israeli ambassador to Jordan's warm participation in Netanyahu's event to welcome the security guard following the incident.

According to the same source, the Jordanians say that the solution to the crisis, above all, should involve an investigation into the security guard and prosecution. Another Israeli source involved recently commented that this crisis concerns Jordanian national honor and the legitimacy of the Hashemite Kingdom, adding it can continue for years and cause significant damage to Israeli-Jordanian relations.

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said: "We are working on a solution that will bring the relations back on track." 

They say it is highly unlikely Israel would prosecute the guard, as demanded by Jordan. His prospects of continued work in Israeli diplomatic security abroad were in doubt, however, after a Jordanian newspaper published his name and photograph.

King Abdullah met Jewish leaders in New York in September. They said he had made it clear to them that he would make do with Israel giving Jordan the findings of the Israeli investigation into the security guard's conduct and the incident's circumstances. Whether the security guard is found innocent or guilty, the investigation must be completed in order to reinstate the diplomatic relations, he reportedly said.

A Jordanian source told Haaretz that during the contacts to end the crisis, the Jordanian government asked Israel to release Jordanian prisoners held in Israel, some for security offenses, and that those who still had lengthy prison terms to serve would complete their sentences in Jordan.

The source noted that Jordanian public opinion would not make do with not returning the ambassador, and stressed that the atmosphere was very similar to that which prevailed after the failed attempt to assassinate Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshal in 1997. 

According to this source, not returning the ambassador and appointing a new envoy would not pacify the Jordanian public; therefore, if the security guard will not be prosecuted or punished, Jordan expects the release of prisoners or an agreement that they will serve out their sentences in Jordan. There are 23 Jordanians in Israeli prisons. 

Reuters contributed to this report.