Israeli leader bans MP from squaring up to Jordanian rival

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to step in on Wednesday to prevent tensions with Jordan spiralling into a brawl between two lawmakers who agreed to meet on the border.

Oren Hazan, from Netanyahu's Likud party, had accepted a challenge from Jordanian MP Yahya al-Saud to meet near the main crossing between the two countries on Wednesday morning, with fears of a fistfight.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement they had called Hazan "to order him not to go to the Allenby Crossing."

Hazan told military radio he approached the border but did not cross on Netanyahu's orders.

"The Israeli MP is a coward, he retreated," Saud said according to a video published by Jordanian media.

Saud had travelled to the border in anticipation of the meeting and said he was "doing this for Jordanian people to express our anger."

Jordan is one of only two Arab states to have signed a formal peace treaty with Israel, but the neighbours have been involved in weeks of spats over new security measures installed at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

While Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital, Jordan claims authority over Al-Aqsa and the new checkpoints, introduced after an attack at the site, provoked huge protests.

On July 23 Hazan tweeted that Israel protected Jordan's "asses" and the country needed "reeducation," apparently sparking a rebuke on Twitter.

Both MPs have long histories of controversy.

Hazan was suspended in 2015 from his position as deputy speaker of Israel's parliament after a televised report accused him of involvement in pimping and drugs.

He was also suspended for one month from any parliamentary activity in December 2015 after "insulting" behaviour towards a colleague with a disability.

In May he was heavily criticised after taking a selfie with US President Donald Trump as he landed in Israel.

In response Hazan told Israeli media he was often referred to as the "Israeli Trump."

Saud meanwhile has physically fought with a number of parliamentary colleagues in recent years.