Jordanian officials Wednesday voiced growing irritation with Israel after vowing to withhold sending Amman's new ambassador to Tel Aviv as long as the Jewish state continues to crush the Palestinians.
Jordan announced its stand after Egypt, Israel's only other Arab partner in peace, recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest at Israel's air and sea strikes on the Palestinians late Monday.
"The (Jordanian) government on Tuesday decided to suspend the formalities of accreditation for its new ambassador to Israel who will not take up his post," Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib said.
The decision upheld one Jordan took in October after Palestinian-Israeli violence first erupted with the visit of a hardline Israeli opposition leader to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem.
"It will remain in force as long as Israel has not met two basic conditions: an end to its attacks against the Palestinian people and a demonstration of a true commitment to the peace process," he said.
"As long as Israel has not met these conditions, there will be no change in the Jordanian position," the minister said.
"The message to Israel is the same" as the one sent by Egypt, which protested Israel's "escalation" against the Palestinians, according to a senior Jordanian official.
But he conceded that "Egypt's recall of its ambassador had more effect, especially because of the country's importance on the Middle East scene.
"It would have perhaps been better for Jordan to send its new ambassador to Israel and recall him later. That would have had more effect," he added.
He added that the government's announcement in October to postpone sending the new ambassador did not have the desired effect at the popular level.
In a country where around half of the five million Jordanians are Palestinian, "balancing respect for international commitments and the desire to satisfy popular sentiment becomes an impossible task," he said.
"We must show our irritation toward Israel, without endangering the peace treaty or the faint hope of a resumption of the peace process," he added.
The senior official did not rule out that Jordan "might be forced eventually to expel the Israeli ambassador accredited in Amman, if the Jewish state continues to heighten tension in the region."
The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1994, after they signed a peace treaty, with Jordan becoming the second Arab country after Egypt in 1979 to make peace with the Jewish state.
Since the Palestinian unrest broke out large demonstrations have been staged in Jordan, including battles with the police, and an Israeli diplomat was shot and wounded Sunday in an attack here claimed by a pro-Palestinian Islamist group demanding Amman break diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
A statement released Tuesday by the government here after a meeting chaired exceptionally by King Abdullah II was particularly harsh on Israel and came down squarely on the side of the Palestinians.
It condemned the "ferocious" Israeli raids on Gaza on Monday and the "murder of innocents."
The raids killed one Palestinian and injured more than 100, besides damaging the residence of Jordan's diplomatic representative to the Palestinian territories.
Several Palestinians have since died in clashes in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The statement also voiced "Jordan's refusal to blame the Palestinian Authority for the explosion which occurred Monday in a territory under Israeli control and which was used as a pretext for attacking the Palestinian people."
Israel said the raids were a reprisal for an attack that killed two adults and wounded several children on a Jewish settler school bus -- AMMAN (AFP)
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