The fragile treaty between the two former enemies was not even three years old when a Jordanian soldier went on a shooting rampage and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls visiting a park in a border area known as the Island of Peace.
On Sunday, almost 20 years after that March 13, 1997, attack, the Jordanian authorities released the soldier, Ahmed Daqamseh, a former corporal, after he effectively completed his term.
Amid the grief and outrage over what became known as the Island of Peace massacre, King Hussein, then the ruler of Jordan, managed to salvage the spirit of reconciliation and provide some balm.
The king paid a rare visit to Israel and made condolence calls to each of the bereaved families. Kneeling to speak with them as they sat on the floor in their homes as part of the Jewish mourning custom of shiva, he apologised and said: “Your daughter is like my daughter. Your loss is my loss.”
The Island of Peace, about 12 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, was formally returned to Jordan when it made peace with Israel in fall 1994, but was then leased back to an Israeli kibbutz. Daqamseh fired on the girls, who were on a class outing, from a border post in Jordanian territory.
After the attack, a Jordanian medical team gave Mr. Daqamseh a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder; a military court sentenced him to life in prison. Life sentences are not open-ended in Jordan, and can essentially be commuted after 20 years.
Daqamseh, now in his 40s, emerged from prison with patches of grey hair and sunken eyes. He was defiant and showed no remorse.
In his first statement to the news media from his home, he said, “There is no country named Israel,” adding that any normalisation of ties with Israel and the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be resolved by means of a two-state solution were both “lies.”
Monday, March 13, 2017