By Arab News
By Daoud Kuttab
A social media spat between dueling politicians is nothing new. Rarely, however, does it escalate to a bare-knuckle fistfight on the King Hussein Bridge over the Jordan River, prevented only by the intervention of two prime ministers.
Yesterday’s dispute between the maverick Jordanian MP Yehia Soud and Oren Hazan, a member of the Knesset, had Jordanians and Israelis transfixed as it grew from an exchange on Twitter to a potential exchange of blows.
The two combatants were on their way to the confrontation on the bridge when cooler heads intervened. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Hazan to turn back, and Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki asked his Interior Minister Ghaleb Zubi to order police to prevent the dispute from becoming violent.
It had all begun innocuously enough. Hazan took to social media to say that Jordanians had no right to complain about Israel’s release of the security guard who killed two Jordanians in an incident at the Israeli Embassy.
Israel supplied Jordan with water and protected the kingdom’s back “day and night,” Hazan said.
Such “provocation” was too much for Soud, head of the Palestinian committee in Jordan’s lower house of Parliament. “Let him meet me, if he is a man,” the MP tweeted.
Social media loved it. As the duel developed, the combatants prepared for what Jordanians called “mubataha,” or no-holds-barred wrestling. The two men fed the frenzy by showing themselves flexing their muscles as they prepared for confrontation. Each left their home cities for the Jordan valley border areas, and violence seemed inevitable until their bosses called a halt.
Hazan said later he was disappointed the encounter had not taken place. “As someone who always says yes to peace and no to violence and confrontation, I was on my way … to meet with my Jordanian colleague,” he said.
“On the way, I was asked by Prime Minister Netanyahu not to arrive and out of a sense of responsibility and leadership, I decided to respect his request.”
Soud said he had been “serious about going down to the bridge and busting this dirty man’s nose.”
Netanyahu stepped in because Israelis “can’t face up to Jordanians,” he said.
Jordanians took to social media to both mock and celebrate the confrontation. Some called it their first victory since the Battle of Al-Karameh in 1968.
Mahdi Adeiat urged the Jordanian government to declare Aug. 2 a national holiday, and Mohammad Rababa said this triumph should be listed on the honor roll of Arab victories over the Zionists.
Not all opinions were positive. Mohammad Ersan, host of a popular drive-time radio show in Amman, said: “Instead of this silly confrontation we should be looking at where we are in terms of education and what our ranking is in the world’s Top 100 universities.”