Jordanian FM denies reports agricultural land lease to Israel was extended

Official sources say that discussions are continuing, but in the meantime the lease in Tzofar has been extended for an additional agricultural season, meaning about half a year.

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010 (photo credit: JASON REED/REUTERS)
Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010
(photo credit: JASON REED/REUTERS)
Jordan confirmed on Wednesday that it will not extend its 25-year lease to Israel of two tracts of border territory that is due to expire on November 10.
The 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty allowed Israel to lease the two plots of land – at Moshav Tzofar 120 km. north of Eilat, and Naharayim south of Lake Kinneret at the juncture of the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers. The treaty stipulated that either side could terminate the lease after 25 years.
Jordan notified Israel last year that it planned not to renew the lease. The Jerusalem Post’s sister newspaper Maariv and Army Radio reported on Wednesday that efforts were under way to delay by at least half-a-year the transfer of the Moshav Tzofar property in the Arava Valley, cultivated by farmers from that community, so that they could go through one more harvest season.
Army Radio stated that the talks were under way with officials from the Foreign Ministry with the support of the National Security Council, and with the knowledge of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Eli Arazi from Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, which farms land in Naharayim, told Army Radio the situation with that tract of property was more complicated because the land there was owned by Jews and been farmed for 70 years. Naharayim also has park land with trails and a monument honoring the seven teenage girls who were killed there in 1997 by a Jordanian soldier.
King Abdullah II can’t change the ownership status, but he can prevent the farmers from entering the area, Arazi said. He was hopeful that the transfer would be delayed by a year, noting that it was difficult to move forward at this point because of the absence of a coalition government.
A protest will take place in Naharayim on Friday at 11 a.m. against returning the territory, he said, adding that Blue and White party head Benny Gantz has confirmed his attendance.
“We are inviting all of Israel to attend,” he said.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that even if there was a delay, at the end of the day the property would have to be transferred to Jordan. It is better, he said, to find alternative property for the farmers within the State of Israel.
Emek HaYarden Regional Council head Idan Greenbaum personally wrote to King Abdullah earlier this month and asked him to reconsider. Greenbaum told Army Radio that he had not yet received a response. He blamed the National Security Council and the absence of a government for the last 10 months for the failure to reach an agreement.
The Hashemite Kingdom has been firm noting that it continues to stand behind the peace treaty, just not the land leases.
Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufian Salman Al-Qudah told the Jordan News Agency that there would be “no renewal or extension.”