Israel Evacuates Embassy in Amman

PNN – Palestine News Network – 15.09.11 – 13:10 | by James Dyet

Israel has evacuated its embassy in Jordan over fears that a planned “Million Man March” could endanger embassy staff.

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(Image: BBC World Service 2000)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the evacuation on Wednesday night over concerns that a planned anti-Israeli protest in Amman may result in a repeat of the violent anti-Israeli protests in Cairo last week.

A Facebook page with over 3,000 members has called for a “Million Man March” under the slogan “No Zionist embassy on Jordanian territory” and has been welcomed by a number of Jordanian political parties, who have pledged to take part in the demonstrations.

Since Wednesday, protestors surrounding the embassy have been burning Israeli flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans, and organizers of the protest have stated clear plans to attempt to enter the building and remove the Israeli flag.

Concerns that the demonstration might escalate into violence come in the wake of the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo last Friday, which left three dead and more than 200 people injured. Egyptian commandos undertook the rescue of six Israeli security personnel and the the Israeli Air Force handled the evacuation of over 80 Israeli diplomats. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Israel must be particularly vigilant.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but much of the Jordanian populace still harbours resent towards the relationship. The demonstration comes just three days after Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that “Israel’s position in the Middle East has deteriorated in the wake of the recent uprisings in the Arab world,” a position that is “more problematic that it has been in the past.’’

However, the Jordanian government has acted quickly to play down the threat of the demonstration, estimating that only a few hundred demonstrators are likely to make appearance and affirming their confidence in the Jordanian security forces which have reinforced security around the embassy compound.

In an exclusive interview with PNN, Palestinian journalist in Jordan and former professor at Princeton University Daoud Kuttab expressed his assessment that Israel had overreacted to the forecasted demonstration.

“I would say there is an overreaction on the Israelis’ part; they are merely worried about a copycat syndrome, where people in different Arab countries emulate the success of another country,” he said.

He also highlighted crucial differences between Jordanian and Egyptian policy and deflated Israeli concerns about King Abdullah’s statements.

“King Abdullah is a much stronger ally of Israel,” he said.” Jordan would never risk putting their borders with Israel in any danger as a national security issue.”

Kuttab also emphasised the importance of recognising the temporary basis of the evacuation and seeing it as merely a precaution. He explained that normal Israeli diplomatic protocol dictates that diplomatic representatives return to Israel every weekend. Therefore, the evacuation in practice only involved repatriating Israeli diplomats a day earlier than schedule.

“Basically they only left one day early this week,” he said. “It is by no means a permanent evacuation.”

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