Israel fury over Jordan demo

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 17, 2011

Israel has reprimanded the chargé d'affaires at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv for remarks made by the new Jordanian Justice Minister in favour of releasing a soldier who murdered seven Israeli girls in 1997.

Jordan's King Abdullah replaced his cabinet two weeks ago, appointing Hussein Majali, a prominent lawyer, as the justice minister.

Fourteen years ago Mr Majali was the lawyer for Ahmed Dekamse, a Jordanian soldier who had opened fire on a group of Israeli school-children who were touring the island of Naharayim on the Jordanian border.

The case caused a huge shock in Israel, only a year after the two countries had signed their peace treaty and the late King Hussein made a special visit to Israel, to apologise before the girls' families, going down on his knees in their homes.

Dekamse was sentenced to life in prison.

Last week, Mr Majali joined a demonstration calling for the release of his former client, and said he was a "hero" and "the most famous Arab prisoner" and that "if he was an Israeli who had murdered Arabs, he would have a monument erected on his behalf."

Though Majali said he was appearing at the demonstration in his capacity as Dekamse's lawyer, the Israeli Foreign Ministry called in the chargé d'affaires at Jordan's embassy in Tel Aviv for a severe reprimand and called upon the government in Amman to distance itself from the minister's words.

While not issuing an official statement on the matter, senior Jordanian officials assured the Israeli government that only the king could pardon Dekamse - and that there was no intention of doing so.

● Thousands of people have demonstrated in Bahrain's capital Manama against King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Sunni Muslim establishment. Bahrain's ambassador to the US, Houda Nonoo, was the first Jewish ambassador for an Arab country when she was appointed in 2008. Just 37 Jews still live in Bahrain.

Last updated: 1:50pm, February 17 2011