“We hold the Israeli government responsible for the lives of our citizens whose health conditions have severely deteriorated in illegal arbitrary detention,” Mr. Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, wrote. “We will take all necessary legal & diplomatic measures to ensure their safe return home. Administrative detention is illegal.”
Israeli activists in a Monday protest over the arrest of Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian citizen, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank more than two months ago. She has not been charged with a crime. (Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Oct. 30, 2019
JERUSALEM — Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations and detained an Israeli citizen who it says crossed the border illegally amid a sharpening dispute over Israel’s weekslong detention of two Jordanian citizens on suspicion of vague security violations.
The spike in tensions comes days after the 25th anniversary of the signing of the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, which neither side commemorated officially, an indication of the testy state of diplomatic relations between Israel and its Arab neighbor to the east.
Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, announced on Twitter late Tuesday that the ambassador, who left for Jordan on Wednesday, was being recalled for consultations “as a first step” after the Israeli government had refused to heed what he called Jordan’s legitimate demands for releasing its two citizens, Hiba Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri.
Ms. Labadi was detained on Aug. 20 and Mr. Miri on Sept. 12 at the border crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to a lawyer representing them, and are being held in administrative detention without charges.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said in a statement that they had been detained for investigation “in light of suspicion of their involvement in severe security violations.”
The lawyer, Raslan Mahajna, said in an interview on Wednesday that Ms. Labadi was suspected of belonging to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization, of having met Hezbollah contacts in Lebanon and of planning to recruit people.
He said she had denied all the allegations and that no proof had been presented after 32 days of what he described as “harsh and intensive” interrogations, which included being tied to a chair for long periods.
Mr. Mahajna said her administrative detention order was based on secret evidence.
Ms. Labadi, 32, has been on a hunger strike for the past month, only taking water, and has been treated in the hospital, according to Mr. Mahajna. He said Mr. Miri, 27, who is suspected of membership in the political wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic militant group, had suffered in the past from cancer.
“We hold Israeli government responsible for the lives of our citizens whose health conditions have severely deteriorated in illegal arbitrary detention,” Mr. Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, wrote. “We will take all necessary legal & diplomatic measures to ensure their safe return home. Administrative detention is illegal.”
Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, center, who was recalled for consultations by Jordan, during a ceremony in Jerusalem last year. (Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock)
Administrative detention is meant as a preventive tool to protect national security, not a punitive measure, according to the Israeli authorities; but the practice, widely used against Palestinians, has led to protests in the past. Administrative detention orders can be issued for a maximum of six months, but can be renewed indefinitely, sometimes for years.
Jawad Boulos, another lawyer involved in the case, said in an interview that Ms. Labadi had been interrogated up until Sept. 24, after which her criminal arrest was changed to an administrative detention order that is valid for another five months. An appeal by her lawyers has yet to be decided on.
Ms. Labadi’s case has drawn more attention than that of Mr. Miri. Her supporters, who have set up a Facebook group as part of their campaign for her release, say she was arrested while crossing from Jordan with her mother and other relatives to attend a relative’s wedding in the West Bank.
Both she and Mr. Miri were born in Jordan but hold Palestinian identity cards because their mothers are from the West Bank. Mr. Mahajna said they did not know each other.
Little is known about the Israeli citizen being held in Jordan, other than that he crossed the border fence on Tuesday somewhere north of the Dead Sea. The Israeli news media reported that he had been wanted for questioning in Israel and fled to Jordan.
The Israeli military said in a statement that the Israeli had been detained for questioning by the Jordanian security forces. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said only that it was checking the reports with the Jordanian authorities.
In another sign of the underlying friction between the two countries, Israel is preparing to hand over full control to Jordan in the coming days of two tracts of land along the border that fall within Jordanian territory, after Jordan refused to renew a special arrangement that gave Israel free access.
Jews historically had private land use rights in the two areas and were given access for 25 years under the terms of the peace agreement. Under internal pressure, King Abdullah II of Jordan gave a year’s notice last October that the arrangement would not be renewed.
Though the Israeli-Jordanian peace has proved firm and lasting, and includes tight cooperation on security, the treaty has not been popular with ordinary Jordanians, many of whom have Palestinian origins.
Ties between the countries have been strained by the long impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and by disputes with the Israelis over the handling of security at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a hotly contested holy site over which Jordan has official custodianship.