It’s not unusual for Israeli and Jordanian politicians to hammer each other on Twitter. It is unusual for Israeli and Jordanian politicians to set up a time to literally hammer each other in person. But that’s exactly what happened Wednesday when a lawmaker from each country headed to the border with violence on his mind.
The two men — Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan and Jordanian lawmaker Yahya Soud — had agreed to meet each other at the Allenby Bridge on the Jordan River for a fistfight. The clash was averted at the last-minute when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office ordered Hazan to turn around.
It all started after Hazan, a member of Netanyahu’s rightist Likud party, tweeted on July 23 that Jordanians “who we keep supplied with water and whose butts we defend day and night” needed “re-education.”
That didn’t sit well with Soud, a politician in Jordan’s parliament who has a history of fighting with fellow members of parliament. He took to Twitter to challenge Hazan to a fight. “Let him meet me, if he is a man,” tweeted Soud, Reuters reported.
A Jordanian news organization, JFRA News, was in the car with Soud as he drove to the border and live-streamed the ride on Facebook.
Unfortunately for fans of full-contact politics, the fight never happened. Netanyahu’s office didn’t explain why the prime minister ordered Hazan to turn around.
Soud learned that the meeting was called off while the live stream was still rolling. In a bit of verbal chest-pounding, Soud said he’d have hurt Hazan if the fight happened, reported the Times of Israel. “Netanyahu felt the anger of the Jordanians and acted wisely not to open the crossing before that tramp,” he told reporters during the live stream.
Hazan said on Twitter that he was also disappointed that the encounter did not happen.
Tensions between Jordan and Israel are escalating
The whole incident is undeniably bizarre and almost comical, but it also shows how tense relations between Jordan and Israel have become in recent weeks.
Hazan’s initial tweet was a response to an Israeli security guard shooting and killing two Jordanians at Israel’s embassy in Amman, Jordan’s capital, on July 23. The guard said a Jordanian used a screwdriver to attack, so the guard fired a gun out of self-defense, reported Al Jazeera.
Jordanian officials have said they want to question the guard, but Israel is refusing to allow that, noting the guard’s diplomatic immunity. The guard and Israeli embassy staff were allowed to leave Jordan, but Jordanian King Abdullah has demanded that Israel put the guard on trial.
At the same time, the Israeli-Jordanian relationship has also been strained after metal detectors were installed in the area in Jerusalem known as the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, one of the holiest places in the world for both Muslims and Jews.
The move sparked protests and deadly violence throughout the region, including large demonstrations in Jordan, reported Vox’s Sarah Wildman. At least three Palestinians, including two teenagers, were killed during massive protests, and at least 200 more were wounded.
Netanyahu spoke by phone with Jordanian King Abdullah in an attempt to smooth things over. The king underscored the importance of removing the metal detectors. In the end, the metal detectors were removed.
So while the fistfight between the two lawmakers might be funny, the tensions between Israel and Jordan are anything but.