AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordanians demonstrated on Friday to urge the government to shut the Israeli embassy and scrap its unpopular peace treaty with the Jewish state after a Jordanian judge was shot dead by an Israeli soldier at a border crossing.
Jordan is one of only two Arab states to have formally ended hostilities with Israel but this has never won much domestic favour given Israel’s continued occupation of the neighbouring West Bank and fears of a spillover of violence if Israel does not soon make peace with Palestinians there.
In Jordan, where many people are of Palestinian origin and are close to West Bank kin on the other side of the Jordan River, the shooting incident triggered the biggest public outpouring of anger against Israel in the last few years.
An Israeli soldier shot dead Raed Zeiter, 38, a respected Jordanian judge, at close range on Monday after a heated argument broke out while he was making his way to the West Bank via the Allenby bridge border crossing.
On Friday, hundreds of demonstrators chanting “no Zionist embassy on Arab land” gathered near a mosque in the Rabia district of the Jordanian capital close to the Israeli embassy.
Security forces deployed in large numbers around the area to prevent protesters reaching the heavily guarded embassy. Some scuffles occurred but there was no serious violence.
Jordan’s parliament also demanded the government expel the Israeli ambassador, and hundreds of Jordanian judges and lawyers staged a rare protest inside the chamber of the palace of justice, the highest state court building, trampling on dozens of Israeli flags rolled on the floor.
“The killing of Zeiter is tantamount to killing every Jordanian and we will not accept less than to scrap the peace treaty and expelling the ambassador,” Sheikh Hamam Said, head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s largest political party, said at the demonstration.
The timing of the shooting incident stung since the United States has been seeking Jordanian support for the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Israeli government expressed regret on Tuesday at the killing of the Jordanian judge and promised Jordan a joint investigation into his death, but fell short of apologising for the incident.
Hours before the Israeli military had issued a statement denouncing Zeiter as a “terrorist”, saying he was killed after attacking security personnel with a metal bar, trying to seize a gun and attempting to strangle a soldier.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich