Jordanian MP Hints Ties with Israel Could Hinge on Fate of Jailed Woman
Hiba al-Labadi is well into a hunger strike following her arrest without charges in August
The 25th anniversary of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel came – and went – this weekend with no fanfare and much in the way of tensions. Several incidents led to this. The latest is the August arrest of Jordanian Hiba al-Labadi.
Labadi, 32 holds both Jordanian and Palestinian citizenship. She was arrested on August 20 while crossing the King Hussein Bridge (which the Israelis call the Allenby Bridge) on her way from Amman to the West Bank city of Nablus to attend a family wedding.
She is being held under what Israel calls administrative detention, a legal category that is open-ended and requires no charges to be brought. Indeed, she has yet to be told what she is being held for, and for over a month she has been on a hunger strike.
“Hiba’s health is deteriorating badly since the 24th of October,” Yousef Taher, Labadi’s West Bank uncle, told The Media Line.
“She has a severe sore throat due to a lack of fluids, and poor medical care is being provided at the prison. We are extremely worried and fear for Hiba’s life,” he said.
Taher says that while no formal charges have been brought, the Israelis insist his niece supports and has been in contact with anti-Israel elements.
“Hiba is like any other Palestinian girl who loves her country and expresses that via social media,” he said. “[But] that isn’t anything new. She has been traveling between Jordan and the West Bank for years without any problems despite her social media activity. If Israel had anything real and solid against Hiba, it would have revealed it a long time ago.”
Taher adds that “no one [from the family] has been allowed to visit Hiba, including her mother and sister, while her lawyer managed to see her [only] 23 days after the arrest.”
Ruslan Mhajleh, Labadi’s lawyer in Israel, told The Media Line that her jailers interrogated her for 32 consecutive days at more than one investigation center.
“The questioning was very harsh, where her hands and legs were tied to a chair for more than 20 hours each day,” Mhajleh said, adding that the reasons for her arrest and continued detention are based on “classified” information.
“I appealed the decision of the military court that approved the administrative detention of Hiba,” he said. “The head of the Israeli Military Court of Appeals then asked for a medical report regarding her current condition, in addition to a meeting with [representatives of] the intelligence services. We are doing everything we can to discuss the possibility of returning her to Jordan.”
Neither the Israeli Interior Ministry nor the Israel Prison Service would comment on the matter when reached by The Media Line, but Yehya al-Saoud, a Jordanian parliamentarian responsible for Palestinian affairs, confirmed that there were demands from lawmakers to return Labadi immediately to the kingdom.
“Jordan has made great diplomatic efforts in this regard, as Hiba’s health condition is very poor,” Saoud told The Media Line. “If anything happens to her, I will hold to account the Jordanian government, which in turn should hold the Israeli government accountable.”
Saoud stressed that the October 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was at stake, adding that many in Jordan reject it and want no diplomatic ties at all.
“I demand that the Jordanian government sever all relations with the Israeli side,” he said.
In 2017, Israel and Jordan sparred over a confrontation at the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman during which Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security guard, killed two Jordanians who allegedly attacked him. The incident became a major diplomatic crisis when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu feted Moyal upon his return − a move King Abdullah II described at the time as “unacceptable and provocative.”
The same year, tensions rose when Israel installed metal detectors at an entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the Aqsa Mosque in located, after three Arab citizens of Israel smuggled in homemade machine guns and then shot and killed two Israeli policemen.
Under the peace treaty, Israel recognizes Jordan as custodian of the Muslim holy places at the site. It later removed the metal detectors following the eruption of widespread and violent protests locally and throughout the Muslim world.
Most recently, Jordan has refused to renew the Israeli leases for al-Baqura, also known as the “Island of Peace,” in northern Jordan, and al-Ghamr in the south. The leases were part of the peace agreement.
Bassam al-Manaser, a former member of the Jordanian parliament, told The Media Line that Israel did not need Jordan as much as it used to, when it relied on Amman to open doors in the Arab world.
“Now, with Gulf-Israel relations improving and where the Gulf countries have no interest to empower Jordan in any way, the Jordanian role has become marginal for Israel,” Manaser said.
“If Israel cared about Jordan like it did before, it would have responded to the Jordanian government demands to return [Labadi] to Amman,” he stated.
Manaser also pointed to Netanyahu’s recent election promise to annex the West Bank areas of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, and to what he called Israel’s “constant violations” against Islamic holy places under Jordanian trusteeship.
“All of this has contributed” to the deterioration in the relationship between Israel and Jordan, he said.