Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010.
(photo credit: JASON REED/REUTERS)
In a surprise move, Jordan announced on Sunday that it will not renew its lease allowing Israel to use land at Naharayim (Baqura) near the Kinneret nor part of Zofar (al Ghamar), some 120 km north of Eilat.
Under the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement
, these two areas “will fall under Jordanian sovereignty with Israeli private land use rights. These rights include unimpeded freedom of entry to, exit from and movement within the area. These areas are not subject to customs or immigration legislation. These rights will remain in force for 25 years and will be renewed automatically for the same period unless either country wishes to terminate the arrangement, in which case consultations will be taken.”
Both areas are used by Israel for agricultural purposes.
According to the agreement, the annex governing the two areas will “be renewed automatically for the same periods, unless one year prior notice of termination is given by either Party, in which case, at the request of either Party, consultations shall be entered into."
October 25 marks that one year deadline. Naharayim includes the Island of Peace, the site where in 1997 a terrorist killed seven Israeli girls from Beth Shemesh on a school outing. The terrorist, Ahmad Daqamseh, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and released last year.
The Jordanian monarch made this announcement during a meeting with political dignitaries at al-Husseniya Palace in Amman, the Jordanian news agency Petra reported.
“Baqura and Ghamr are Jordanian territory and will remain Jordanian, and we will exercise full sovereignty over our land,” the agency quoted King Abdullah II as saying. The issue of the two areas, he said, “has been our top priority for a long time.”
The king said that Jordan’s priorities “in such difficult regional circumstances are protecting our interests and doing everything necessary for Jordan and the Jordanians.”
Petra said the dignitaries “appreciated the important decision to terminate the two annexes, which is considered a national decision that serves Jordan’s higher interests.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would enter into negotiations with Jordan over the matter.
While Netanyahu made no mention of this, there are numerous other agreements that contain benefits to Jordan – such as allowing planes going to and from the country from Europe and other points west to overfly Israel on the way to and from Jordan – that could be used as leverage to convince Amman to change its mind.
Speaking of the Jordanian announcement at a memorial service on the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the treaty with Jordan, Netanyahu said that “there is no doubt that from a comprehensive perspective, the entire agreement is an important asset, important and valuable to both countries.”
Already in March, the Jordan Times reported that Amman was mulling terminating the treaty annexes, with Foreign Minister Ayman saying in parliament in response to a question about the issue that “the government is currently examining its decision regarding the nature of use of the Baqura and Ghumar areas in a way that serves the higher national interests,” Safadi said.
According to the report, ending the Israeli lease of the Baqoura and Ghumar areas has been a pressing demand of MPs, political parties and activists.
Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz congratulated Jordanians on the move and said the king’s decision was final.
The Jordanian Parliament also praised the king’s decision and said it came in response to the demands and wishes of the Jordanian people.
Jordanian lawmaker Saleh al-Armouti called on Jordanians to take to the streets to celebrate the king’s decision not to renew the annexes of the peace treaty with Israel. “Baqura and Ghamr are Jordanian territories, and the decision means that the Zionist enemy will no longer be entitled to these areas,” he said.
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