Jordan gov't shake-up creates tension with Israel

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Jordan, despite being the region’s most stable Arab regime, has not been immune to the revolutionary wave sweeping the Middle East. In order to head off any serious threat to his rule, King Abdullah II this month fired the governing cabinet and appointed a new one. But that move has resulted in new tension with Israel.

Newly-appointed Jordanian Justice Minister Hussein Mjali on Monday joined a demonstration demanding the early release of jailed army Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh.

In 1997, Daqamseh massacred seven 11-year-old Israeli school girls while they were on a field trip to the “Island of Peace,” a small Israeli-Jordanian island tourist center that sits in the northern part of the Jordan River. The island is under the control of the Jordanian military.

Before being appointed as Jordan’s new justice minister, Mjali was Cpl. Daqamseh’s defense lawyer.

At Monday’s rally, he referred to his blood-soaked client as a “hero” for butchering young Jewish girls, and insisted that Daqamseh “does not deserve prison.”

Mjali falsely claimed that in Israel Jews who kill unarmed Arabs are similarly held aloft as heroes. As evidence that is not true, most Israelis revile the memory of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 29 Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Mjali’s remarks infuriated Israel, which demanded that the government in Amman reprimand its new justice minster.

“We demand the Jordanian government clarify that it rejects all calls to release the loathsome murderer and that he will keep on serving his sentence,” Israeli Foreign Ministry official Yaakov Hadas told the director of the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, the forces that would like to also overthrow the Jordanian monarchy continued their assault on Queen Rania this week.

In another letter released to the public, the leaders of Jordan’s 36 chief Beduin tribes, which represent 40 percent of the population and are the backbone of King Abdullah II’s political support, accused Rania of “corruption, stealing money from the Treasury and manipulating in order to promote her public image – against the Jordanian people’s will.”

In the letter, Rania was compared to the wife of former Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Leila Ben Ali’s extravagant lifestyle and her unrestrained use of public funds was a catalyst for the Tunisian uprising.

Jordan’s tribal leaders warned that if Abdullah does not reign in his wife soon, he will experience a similar uprising that could end his rule.

While the likelihood of the royal family in Jordan being overthrown appears to be small at this time, there is nevertheless concern in Israel that Abdullah could ultimately be replaced by yet another Islamist regime on Israel’s doorstep.

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