Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed Jordanian judge on Monday at the Allenby bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank after reportedly arguing with Israeli border guards on his way back to Amman from the West Bank. Official Israeli statements claimed that the judge “tried to seize the soldier’s weapon when he was shot and killed.” Jordanian press reported on eyewitness accounts that contradicted the Israeli version of events and said that the judge “was never physically threatening the soldiers,” and “was unarmed when he was shot from a point-blank range.” The Jordanian Ministry of Justice identified the man as Ra’ed Zu’eiter, 38, a judge in the magistrates court in Amman.
Angry Jordanian citizens protested the killing by demonstrating at the Israeli embassy in Amman demanding its closing and kicking the Israeli ambassador out from Amman. Jordanian newspapers also reported that protesters criticized Prime Minister Abdullah Ennsour for not taking strong measures against Israel in retaliation to the killing of judge Zu’eiter. The Al Jazeera Arabic website reported that protesters went as far as criticizing King Abdullah II, who has yet to issue a public statement, and did not comment publically on the shooting death of one of his citizens.
Jordanian News Agency Petra reported that Jordanian foreign Minister Nasser Judeh “summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires at the Israeli embassy in Amman to express Jordan’s strong condemnation of the shooting of Judge Ra’ed Aladdine Zu’eiter.”
Moreover, the Jordanian government demanded an “immediate investigation of the incident” and that Israel establish a joint investigation commission to investigate the incident.
The official Jordanian reaction strikes me as powerless and befitting of a failed state not a country that prides itself as one of the Middle East’s most secured nations with one of its best armed forces. Apparently, when it comes to Israel or its actions against Jordanian citizens or in the Palestinian territories or in matters of Jerusalem and its holy places, the government of Jordan blows a lot of hot air, but never takes real substantive actions.
The Jordanian Parliament, moreover, and which, in essence, is a rubber-stamp parliament, is even worse than the prime minister when it comes to the real issues that matter to the citizens of Jordan.
The Parliament has on many occasions passed rather “decorative” resolutions to kick the Israeli ambassador out from Amman. Some of the sponsors of these run-of-the mill resolutions have told me personally that their resolutions were never meant to be acted upon, not only because they are not legally binding, but because they were made as publicity stunts. Adding insult to injury, only 59 members of Parliament out of 150 cared to attend the parliamentary session yesterday to discuss the shooting death of judge Zu’eiter. Bassam Badareen Editor of daily Al Arab A Youm, commented on the reaction of the Jordanian Parliament and government saying that the “Prime Minister is clueless and out of touch with the Jordanian people, while the vast majority of the members of the Parliament don’t deserve to be there in the first place.”
What’s even worse about this tragic incident that took the life of a young and bright judge is the absence of King Abdullah’s reaction to the killing of one of his citizens who was not just any citizen, but also an official in his judiciary. Why the King has not reacted yet to this flagrant killing of a Jordanian citizen remains a mystery. It is telling, however, that many former senior officials questioned the King’s silence and that Jordanians are angry and frustrated with the feckless actions of their feckless leaders. Sources in Amman, in addition, told me that the Jordanian government is hoping that the Israelis will come up with a plausible story so that it, meaning the Jordanian government, can sell it to its people to quell the angry protests. If this turned out to be true, and it is not an unusual behavior by the Jordanian government, it should be considered a serious breach of public trust, if not outright treasonous behavior. The King, in the meantime, needs to step up and address the needs of his people and send a strong message to Israel that its actions will have consequences.