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Please Remove the Price Tag

By Michael Freund
2/20/2005, 12:00 AM

Jordan today decided to return its ambassador to Israel after an absence of over four years.

But the new envoy, Dr. Maaruf al-Bakhit, had scarcely descended from the plane and collected his bags at Ben-Gurion Airport before the Jordanians announced that they now expect to receive something in return from Israel for this “gesture”.

In an interview with Israel Radio this morning, Jordanian government spokesman Asma Khader said that Amman insists that Israel now agree to release Jordanian prisoners and allow Jordanian troops to train the Palestinian security forces.

While it is certainly good news that Jordan’s embassy in Israel will now be manned by a senior diplomat again for the first time since November 2000, it would be a grave error on Israel’s part to “reward” the Jordanians for taking this long overdue step.

After all, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty on October 26, 1994 to normalize relations between the two countries. Part and parcel of any normal bilateral relationship is the exchange of ambassadors. The fact that Jordan has now chosen to return its representative to Tel Aviv is not an act of mercy or benevolence on the part of Amman – it is a basic element in fulfilling the peace treaty between the two countries.

To yield to Jordan’s demand for some “payback” on this matter will only invite further such mischief down the road. Indeed, it will lead other countries, such as Egypt, which has yet to return its ambassador to Israel, to up the ante and seek their own diplomatic or political gains as well at Israel’s expense.

Price_tag The Government, then, should make it clear to the Jordanians that while Israel welcomes Dr. al-Bakhit to its shores, his arrival should not come with a price tag attached.