December 30, 2018 / 5:29 PM / 7 months ago

Israel protests after Jordanian spokeswoman steps on its flag

JERUSALEM/AMMAN (Reuters) - Israel protested to Jordan on Sunday after the spokeswoman for the government in Amman was photographed stepping on the Israeli flag during a meeting with trade unionists.

Jumana Ghunaimat, Jordan’s minister for media affairs and communications and the government spokeswoman, on Thursday walked over an Israeli flag painted on the floor of the headquarters of Jordan’s professional unions in Amman.

She was on her way to attend a meeting between Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz and union representatives. Razzaz, however, entered the building through a rear door, avoiding having to walk over the flag.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday deploring the flag “desecration”, and said it had summoned acting Jordanian ambassador Mohammed Hmaid for a reprimand and that the Israeli embassy in Amman had also issued a “sharp protest”.

The flag was painted on the floor of the building several years ago to encourage passers by to tread on it, a mark of disrespect, unions said at the time.

Despite the neighbours’ 1994 peace deal and commercial and security ties, many Jordanians resent Israel and identify with the Palestinian struggle against it.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Qatarneh confirmed in a statement issued via state media that the Israeli embassy in Amman had asked for clarifications over the incident and that Israel had called in the Jordanian charge d’affaires in Tel Aviv to “discuss” the matter.

Qatarneh said that Jordan respects its peace treaty with Israel and that Ghunaimat had entered a private building by its main entrance to attend an official meeting.

The flag had been painted at a time when the unions were controlled by Jordan’s mainly Islamist opposition, fierce ideological foes of Israel. They have since lost influence and Jordan’s professional unions are mostly now run by nationalist and secular parties that avoid party activism.

Still, some union members were unhappy that union leaders had allowed Razzaz to avoid the flag.

“The unions took a cowardly stance by allowing the prime minister to enter from a back door and his aides no doubt told him of the presence of the flag at the entrance,” Masira Malaas, a leading union activist, said.

Writing by Dan Williams and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Susan Fenton

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