Relations between Israel and Jordan have always been quite a bit warmer than the ice-cold peace that existed between the Jewish state and Egypt. But that is not the same thing as genuine warmth or even a widespread acceptance of the legitimacy and the permanence of Israel. Hostility for Israel on the eastern bank of the Jordan River is actually quite virulent, though it was overshadowed for so long by the exemplary behavior of the late King Hussein.
Hussein’s image as a genuine peacemaker was solidified in the aftermath of an incident along the border with Israel in 1997, when a Jordanian soldier went on a shooting spree, killing seven Jewish girls who were there on a school outing at a spot called the Peace Island. Hussein went to the homes of the bereaved parents and personally asked for forgiveness. His humility and decency under these circumstances were so praiseworthy that his behavior seemed to overshadow the original crime.
While Hussein’s successor, King Abdullah, has kept the peace with Israel, the sins of Jew-hatred that were so much a part of the cold peace with Egypt have become unmistakable in that country as well. Ironically, an incident connected to the actions of the king’s late father reminds us that this strain of hate is not only alive and well in Jordan but is also championed by an influential member of the king’s government.
The Associated Press reports today that Jordan’s minister of justice, Hussein Mjali, joined a rally in Amman calling for the release of Ahmed Daqamseh, the Jordanian soldier who was sentenced to life in prison by a military court for the murder of those seven Israeli girls whose deaths King Hussein publicly mourned. This is partly explained by the fact that Mjali was the killer’s defense lawyer at his trial. But as far back as 2009, the MEMRI.org media-monitoring group noted that Jordanian “human rights” groups were taking up Daqamseh’s case and treating his crime as a matter of an understandable instance of “patriotic rage.”
While there doesn’t appear to be any real movement toward the murderer’s release, let alone a Jordanian repudiation of the peace treaty with Israel, the justice minister’s decision to join this demonstration may give us an indication of just how deep anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments run even in this most “moderate” of Arab countries.