Israel’s botched attempt to kill a radical Muslim leader in Jordan has deeply damaged the two countries’ delicate friendship to the point that King Hussein was said to have considered severing diplomatic ties.
Two Israeli secret agents were caught injecting poison into Khalid Mashaal, an important Hamas strategist, on Sept. 25. After the 12-day crisis ended in an elaborate prisoner swap, both Jordanians and Israelis close to the drama said Tuesday that their countries’ warm ties had chilled.
Hussein, the only Arab leader who in the past tried to defend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was said to be so livid that he had refused to speak to Netanyahu and instead sought President Clinton’s help with Israel.
Officials who dealt with the king during the crisis said that as Mashaal lay close to death, unable to breath and convulsed with vomiting, Hussein telephoned Clinton with evidence implicating the Israeli agency, Mossad.
Clinton then called Netanyahu, who grudgingly disclosed the antidote that saved Mashaal’s life, the officials said on condition of anonymity.