Last year the government reached an agreement with Israel to release four Jordanian prisoners to their custody. This agreement stipulated that the men will remain in Jordanian jails for a maximum of 18 months, and could be released earlier if “Israel freed prisoners who have committed similar crimes”. So, when Israel released Samir Qintar, families and supporters of the prisoners called for their release on that basis. A sensible request. What happened next? Well, first the follow up committee of the prisoners’ families reported that the prisoners were told by the minister of foreign affairs and the Jordanian ambassador in Israel that they will not be released now or at the 18 month deadline initially announced. Later, the government spokesman, Nasser Joudeh, denied that the foreign minister and ambassador to Israel had met with the prisoners. He claimed that the ministry of foreign affairs had contacted Al Arab Al Yawm (the newspaper that had carried the initial report) and had asked for the paper to publish a recantation. In turn, Fahed Khitan, the editorial head of the paper said that they had tried to call the ministry and could not reach anybody in charge. He did say that the paper received a call from the ministry that “carried nothing but inappropriate language that did not rise to professional levels or journalistic or media standards”. Ouch. Anyway, Joudeh is now implying that the government is delaying the release of the prisoners because it does not want to jeopardize talks with Israel about releasing 19 more prisoners. Khitan today wrote an article suggesting that the original terms for the release of the prisoners may not have been written down or they require further consultations with Israel. This does not seem to make any sense. First, Israel did nothing to correct the record when it was announced that the maximum time the prisoners will be incarcerated in Jordan will be 18 months. Second, I find the idea that the agreement was not properly documented to be laughable. Third, with regard to the negotiations over the other 19 prisoners, I don’t see what difference it makes to Israel whether the prisoners are released today or next December. As long as Jordan is abiding by the original agreement, then why would negotiations over the other 19 be compromised? My feeling is that these prisoners are more of a problem for the Jordanian government than they are for Israel. One of them in particular, Sultan Ajlouni, seems to be particularly problematic. He is charismatic and seems to have a political career in his future. And he is east Jordanian. Of course, the more the government drags its heels on releasing him, the larger the stature he will gain. I’d like to see the government spokesman contort words to escape that reality.