Five months ago, 28 year old Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, was stabbed in his apartment by a Jordanian assailant, whom he shot and killed.
Moyal also accidentally killed his Jordanian landlord, who was present on the scene.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, incited by the state-controlled media, the Jordanian public was whipped into an anti-Israel frenzy. In short order, a mob surrounded the embassy, to which Moyal and another 20 Israeli diplomats fled immediately after the shooting.
For 24 hours, those Israeli diplomats, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein were besieged.
Despite the fact that they are barred from doing so under the Vienna Convention, Jordanian authorities demanded to interrogate Moyal. By refusing to enable the diplomats to safely return to Israel until Moyal submitted to questioning, they effectively held Schlein and her colleagues hostage.
It took the intervention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the life-threatening crisis. The price Jordan’s King Abdullah II exacted for the freedom and protection of Israel’s diplomatic personnel was high. In exchange for their safe passage, Netanyahu agreed to permit Jordanian officials to be present during Moyal’s questioning by Israeli officials. He also succumbed to Abdullah’s demand that Israeli police remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount, which had been deployed a few days before amid wide-scale violence by Muslim worshipers against Jews.
Since its diplomats were evacuated in July, Israel’s embassy has been closed. Jordan has refused to permit Schlein to return to her duties and has insisted that Moyal be tried for the death of his assailant and his landlord.
It was reported Wednesday that in the interest of ending the diplomatic crisis and reopening Israel’s embassy, Netanyahu has decided to promote Schlein to a senior position in the Foreign Ministry and appoint a replacement.
But Jordan isn’t interested in ending the crisis it deliberately precipitated.
On Thursday, Reuters quoted a Jordanian diplomatic source saying that a new Israeli ambassador “will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course [against Moyal] and justice is served.”
So, unless Israel criminally prosecutes its diplomat who was attacked in his home by a terrorist, Jordan will continue to breach its peace treaty with Israel and bar the Israeli embassy from operating in Amman.
Jordan’s latest round of diplomatic war against Israel took place while Abdullah was in Washington on a “working visit.”
More often than not, Abdullah, who is touted by the US as a moderate leader and a US ally, spends his visits in Washington lobbying against Israel. And, given his reputation as a moderate, he is usually successful.
This week’s visit was no different.
According to the Jordanian media – which he controls – Abdullah is devoting significant time in his meetings with senior administration and Congressional officials to attacking Israel.
Specifically, Abdullah is lobbying against President Donald Trump’s intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with US law.
By December 4, Trump will have to sign a semi-annual waiver of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.
The act requires the State Department to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If Trump doesn’t sign the waiver, the embassy will automatically be moved to Jerusalem, in accordance with the law.
Speculation that Trump may refuse to sign the waiver was raised this week by Vice President Mike Pence. In his speech at a UN event marking the 70th anniversary of the UN vote to end the British Mandate in the land of Israel and partition the land between a Jewish state and an Arab state, Pence made clear that moving the embassy is being actively discussed.
According the Times of Jordan, Abdullah told senior US lawmakers that “moving the embassy… could be potentially exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation in order to spread their ideologies.”
During his visit, Abdullah also met with Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.
Although Jordanian media reports of those visits did not include information regarding the possible move of the US embassy, it stands to reason that Abdullah made similar points to Pence, Tillerson and McMaster.
It can only be hoped that Abdullah’s warnings were rebuked by his American interlocutors.
Because, if terrorists are motivated to act in the wake of a US decision to move the embassy, Jordan will hold a significant share of the blame.
To understand why, it is important to remember what happened last July in Amman. Had Abdullah ordered his media organs to either tell the truth about what happened at Moyal’s apartment or simply not report the incident at all until the embassy staff were safely in Israel, the diplomatic crisis would have been averted.
Abdullah chose, instead, to stoke the passions of his people, which wasn’t difficult. Thanks to decades of antisemitic incitement at the hands of his media, school system and religious authorities, the people of Jordan are overwhelmingly antisemitic. And this suits Abdullah just fine. He, too, is largely sympathetic to anti-Israeli terrorism and terrorists.
Last March, for instance, Abdullah rejected the US’s extradition request for Hamas terrorist and mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem.
Fifteen people, including eight children were murdered in the attack. Tamimi selected the Sbarro pizzeria as her target because of the large number of children who frequented the eatery during summer vacation.
She was sentenced to 16 life-in-prison sentences, but was released in Israel’s exchange of Hamas terrorists for captive IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit in 2011. Upon her release, she moved to Amman where Abdullah gave her the red carpet treatment. In her new home, Tamimi hosts a show on Hamas’s television station. She uses her platform to incite terrorism and indoctrinate her viewers to aspire to murder Israelis, as she did.
Several of Tamimi’s victims at Sbarro were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Shoshana Judy Greenbaum.
Greenbaum was five months pregnant when her body was blown apart.
By harboring Tamimi, Abdullah tells his subjects they are right to hate Israelis and to work toward Israel’s destruction.
This brings us to the question of Trump’s possible decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital.
By having his media spew a constant diet of genocidal antisemitism, Abdullah is all but guaranteeing that the terrorism he warns of will occur if Trump enforces US law and moves the embassy. So he is not speaking as a worried friend when he tells his American hosts of the dire consequences of moving the embassy. He is threatening them with an outcome for which he will have significant responsibility.
One of the reasons Abdullah feels comfortable making the argument that moving the embassy will provoke terrorism is because that is the argument that has been used successfully to block the transfer of the US embassy to Israel in the past.
But, in October, we received a clear indication that these Chicken Little warnings are untrue.
In October, Trump overruled Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster, and chose not to tell Congress that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal the Iranians were breaching. Supporters of the nuclear deal in the administration and outside of it warned that such a move would have a deeply destabilizing impact on the region and endanger the US.
As the past three months have shown, those warnings were entirely wrong.
The world did not explode after Trump rejected the received wisdom of the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Instead, the US’s Sunni-Arab allies have been empowered to join forces to combat Iran. Economically and diplomatically, Iran is far more isolated globally today than it was three months ago.
Moreover, freed from the need to pretend that Iran is a credible actor in the international community, Trump can base US policy toward Iran on reality.
No, Trump has not mapped out a clear strategy for containing and scaling back Iranian power. If he had, the US would have stopped arming and funding the Iranian-controlled Lebanese Armed Forces by now.
But, at least he hasn’t based an Iran policy on fantasy as his predecessor Barack Obama did.
Moreover, even the limited steps Trump has taken toward developing a strategy for dealing with Iran have been effective and rational. For instance, to protect the nuclear deal and maintain its claim that Iran was formally complying with its terms, the Obama administration paid the Iranian regime $8.6 million to buy heavy water that Iran produced in excess of the quantities permitted under the nuclear deal.
This week, the White House announced that it would stop this practice. As a National Security Council spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon, “The United States is not planning to purchase any Iranian heavy water. We have made it clear to Iran that it is their responsibility to remain under the heavy water limit.”
In summary, disaster did not strike after Trump bucked the collected wisdom of the entire foreign policy elite in Washington, including his top three national security advisers. To the contrary, things improved. By basing his policy on reality, Trump expanded his maneuver room, empowered US allies and began basing US policies toward Iran on reality.
By the same token, if Trump disregards Abdullah’s threats posing as warnings, and disregards the advice of Abdullah’s many friends in Washington, and moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the sky will not fall. By recognizing the basic fact that Jerusalem is and always will be Israel’s capital, Trump will give himself the ability to develop Middle East policies that are similarly grounded in reality.
By calling the bluff of the myriad experts that insist recognizing reality will bring war, Trump can expand US power, credibility and deterrence in an unstable region. Far from causing a war, Trump can diminish the chance of war by demanding that Jordan and other disingenuous allies stop empowering jihadists and terrorists.
To this end, rather than heeding Abdullah’s threats of violence, Trump can tell Abdullah to prevent that violence by ending his media’s antisemitic incitement; extraditing Tamimi to the US; accepting the credentials of the Israeli ambassador; and reopening the Israeli embassy in Amman.
Truth is a powerful weapon. Once you base your foreign policy on it, there is no limit to the potential effectiveness of that policy in preventing war and expanding the prospects of true and lasting peace.