Middle East

Israeli PM prevents border 'punch-up' between firebrand MPs

Oren Hazan (right) standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) - (18 March 2015) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Netanyahu (L) intervened to stop Oren Hazan (R)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has intervened to prevent a possible fistfight between an outspoken MP and his Jordanian counterpart.

The pair had arranged to meet on the border between their countries after exchanging insults on social media. A violent clash was widely expected.

But at the last moment Mr Netanyahu ordered MP Oren Hazan to pull out.

Relations between the two neighbouring countries have been strained since a shooting at the end of July.

On 23 July, an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians near Israel's embassy in Jordan.

One was killed after he attacked the guard with a screwdriver. The second was inadvertently shot dead, Israel says. Jordan has called for the guard to be put on trial.

Mr Hazan - a member of Mr Netanyahu's right-of-centre Likud party - has been described by The Times of Israel as the country's "most unruly lawmaker" and "the enfant terrible of Israel's parliament".

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Media captionIn May, Mr Hazan demanded a selfie with Donald Trump despite Mr Netanyahu's efforts

He tweeted on the day of the shooting that Jordanians "who we keep supplied with water and whose butts we defend day and night" required "re-education".

His comments provoked a belligerent response from Jordanian lawmaker Yahya al-Saud, who also has a reputation as a firebrand.

"Let him meet me, if he is a man," Mr Saud said. He went on to call Mr Hazan a "loser" who "without the USA's protection would be defenceless".

The pair arranged to confront each other on Wednesday morning on a bridge crossing that separates the two countries.

But at the last minute, Mr Netanyahu ordered Mr Hazan to withdraw from the engagement. A statement from the prime minister's office did not explain why the order had been given.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Saud has accused his Israeli rival of cowardice

Mr Saud turned up at the bridge for the appointment, streaming it on Facebook Live, and later accused his rival of cowardice.

The cancelled duel showed that "cooler heads prevailed", The Times of Israel said.

"It could have gone down in a footnote of history as the Rumble on the Bridge," the paper commented, in a reference to the famous Rumble in the Jungle boxing clash in Kinshasa in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

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