Amman’s parliament displays Israel with Palestine-Jordan flag, calls to expel envoy

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Jordan’s parliament on Wednesday proposed expelling the Israeli ambassador, showing a map of Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – all under the colors of the Jordanian and Palestinian flags.

The vote and the map came in response to a speech given by Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich over the weekend in which he claimed that the Palestinian people were an “invention” while holding up a map of “Greater Israel” that included the territory of the Hashemite Kingdom. , in line with the hardline aspirations of some fringe extremists.

The expulsion of Israeli Ambassador Eitan Surkis would require approval from the Jordanian government, an unlikely scenario. The foreign ministry summoned Amman Surkis on Monday night in protest against Smotrich’s speech.

Symbolic votes to expel the Israeli envoy are common during periods of heightened tension between Jerusalem and Amman. In May 2021, Jordanian lawmakers unanimously called on the government to expel an Israeli envoy amid Operation Guardian of the Walls, an 11-day war between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in Paris at a private memorial service on Sunday for a prominent right-wing Likud activist, Smotrich claimed that the Palestinian people were an “invention” from the last century and that people like him and his grandparents were “real Palestine”.

Smotrich said there was “no such thing as the Palestinians because there is no such thing as the Palestinian people,” a statement that drew applause and cheers from attendees in footage posted online.

“Do you know who the Palestinians are?” asked the leader of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party and Israel’s finance minister. “I am Palestinian,” he said, also referring to his grandmother who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metulla 100 years ago, and his grandfather, a 13th-generation Jerusalemite, as the “true Palestinians.”

“This truth needs to be heard in the White House in Washington. The whole world needs to hear this truth because it is the truth – and the truth will win,” Smotrich continued.

The comments drew a harsh response from Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which called them “reckless provocation and a violation of international norms and the Jordanian Peace Treaty.”

In the face of Jordanian anger at the speech, Israel’s Foreign Ministry sought to downplay the backlash. “Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. The position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom, has not changed,” the Ministry tweeted in Hebrew and English. He did not mention Smotrich’s comments about the Palestinians.

An Israeli diplomat told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that Jerusalem understands “Jordanian sensitivities,” adding that they were “working to send conciliatory messages.”

“Israel’s connection with Jordan is vital for regional calm and stability,” the official said. “They have conveyed their message,” the official said, stressing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working “based on the government’s decision to strengthen ties with Jordan because they are important.”

The United States joined several other countries on Tuesday in condemning the comments.

King Hussein of Jordan, left, lights a cigarette for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after the signing ceremony of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan Wednesday, Oct. 26, 1994 in Aqaba, Jordan. (AP Photo/pool/IGPO)

Smotrich has a history of making inflammatory statements against Palestinians, Arab citizens of Israel, non-Orthodox Jews, and the LGBTQ community.

Earlier this month, the minister sparked international outrage with a call to “destroy” a Palestinian home in the West Bank following a deadly terrorist attack in Palestine that killed two Israeli brothers. He later walked back the comment and apologized.

His comments on Sunday came hours after Israeli and PA delegations met for a rare regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where they again pledged to de-escalate tensions, days before the start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan. They also agreed to combat incitement to violence.

Lazar Berman and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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