The Jordanian parliament’s lower house unanimously voted to expel the Israeli ambassador from Jordan in retaliation for Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich stating there is “no such thing as the Palestinian people” while standing near a map of biblical Israel.
While Jordanian King Abdullah II is unlikely to approve the vote for the Israeli ambassador’s dismissal from the country, it is the first time the Jordanian legislature approved such a vote.
The Jordanian parliament’s vote followed a speech by Smotrich at a private memorial event in Paris on Sunday, where he said there is “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people [nation].”
“I’m Palestinian,” Smotrich said, telling the audience that his grandmother was born in Metula, a small 19th-century Jewish town in northern Israel, and that his grandfather was a 13th-generation Jewish Jerusalemite. He described his grandparents as “real Palestinians.”
Smotrich spoke standing behind a podium with a map of “Greater Israel,” which refers to the territory God promised to Abraham and includes modern Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, the Kingdom of Jordan, Lebanon, and parts of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Smotrich also denied the existence of the Palestinians as a separate people, claiming that they are Arabs that do not have a separate history as an independent people.
Recent actions by Israeli right-wing politicians Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir have caused tensions between Israel and its Arab partners.
The Jordanian parliament called Smotrich’s comments “racist” with some parliament members saying his behavior shows “Israeli arrogance and disrespect of international treaties and conventions.”
Jordanian media showed images of parliament member Ismail Al-Mashaqbeh placing an Israeli flag on the ground and walking on it in a sign of disrespect.
The parliamentary vote took place in front of a picture showing the territory of Israel as part of a larger Jordanian entity.
Following Smotrich’s speech, the Israeli Foreign Ministry was quick to affirm Israel’s “commitment to the peace agreement” of 1994 and assured Jordan that Israel “recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom.”
(<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.</p>— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) <a href="https://twitter.com/IsraelMFA/status/1638265851425050624?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 21, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>)
Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who writes for Al Monitor, tweeted a picture of the map, saying, “A map for a map.” He also said the map showed “Palestine from the river to the seat [sic] united with Jordan.”
The Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921 by then-Emir Abdullah I, with the emirate becoming a British protectorate until Jordan’s independence in 1946 and establishment as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
After attacking the nascent modern State of Israel following its Declaration of Independence in 1948, Jordan took control of the territories of Judea and Samaria, which it called “the West Bank of Jordan.” Following another trans-Arab war against Israel in 1967, which Jordan joined upon Egypt’s claims of imminent victory, Israel won back the Jordan-occupied territories.
The Kingdom of Jordan has had a troubled history with Palestinians living within its borders, to whom it has not granted citizenship. Jordan has engaged in violent crackdowns against Palestinian groups within the country, the most famous being the 1971 “Black September” event, in which some 3,000 Palestinians were killed and around 20,000 fled the country. Jordan has also revoked the citizenship of Palestinians accused of crimes or of fomenting dissent against the government.
As recently as the 1980s, the former King Hussein insisted that a future Palestinian state should be part of a confederation with Jordan, and not an independent state.
Jordan has a significant Palestinian population, with more than 2 million people of a Palestinian descent living in the country, and Jordan’s current king, Abdullah II, is married to Rania al-Yassin, who has a Palestinian background.
Jordan often presents a politically antagonistic front towards Israel, due to the popular support for the Palestinian cause among it population. However, the Jordanian monarchy has softened some of the nation’s anti-Israel behaviors, especially following the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.