TEL AVIV (May. 6)
The Israeli navy has denied that one of its vessels in the Gulf of Eilat fired April 28 on the Jordanian royal yacht while King Hussein was aboard.
But at the same time, Israel has responded to a formal U.S. protest by promising that such an incident will not happen again.
The navy said its vessel was on routine patrol along the line separating Israeli from Jordanian territorial waters.
According to standing orders, the boat tested its guns by firing them southward, out to sea, not in the direction of the yacht, the Israel Defense Force said.
The Hashemite kingdom lodged its complaint through a “third party,” apparently the United States.
The U.S. ambassador in Israel, William Brown, was instructed to “express our deep concern,” Richard Boucher, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, announced Friday in Washington.
“The Israelis assured us that they have issued instructions that such an incident is not repeated,” Boucher said.
Israeli sources here said the IDF asked the “third party” to convey its assurances to the king that there would be no firing in the vicinity of the royal yacht in the future.
The Jordanians claimed Hussein was visible on the bridge of the yacht at the time. They said he took command of the vessel and was forced to seek shelter in the adjacent Saudi Arabian territorial waters.
The IDF denied the yacht had been chased into Saudi waters.
Israeli sources suggested that the Jordanian ruler panicked when he heard the Israeli vessel fire its test shots.
Hussein, an avid water skier, often relaxes at the Jordanian port of Aqaba, a few miles from the Israeli resort town of Eilat. He is reportedly concerned that certain right-wing elements of Israel would like to dispose of him.
Their reasoning is said to be that with Hussein gone, his Hashemite dynasty might be overthrown by Palestinians, who would then declare Jordan a Palestinian state. Palestinians comprise more than half of Jordan’s population.
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)