Jordan Ends Land Lease with Israel

Jordan’s King Abdullah visits one of two small parcels of land which, until recently, was leased to Israel as part of the neighbors’ 1994 peace agreement. Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease was made at a time of brewing tensions between the peace partners. Jordanians blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for antagonizing the relationship, with action against Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque and the detention of Jordanian citizens, among others.
During Monday’s visit to Baqura, a 81-hectare enclave along the Jordan River in Jordan’s north, King Abdullah tweeted that “Jordan’s sovereignty over its territory is above all other considerations.” Jordan announced last year that it would not renew its peace treaty annexes with Israel on Baqura and al-Ghamr that gave Israeli farmers free access to the Jordan’s sovereign land. The decision is now in effect.

Jordanian political analyst Osama al-Sharif says the move is “absolutely within Jordan’s rights” under the deal. Still, he says the country’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, has underscored Jordan’s commitment to the peace treaty.
Israel’s foreign ministry expressed regret over the move, but says Jordan will allow farmers to harvest their remaining wheat and other crops.  Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel described the relations to Reuters as: “We are not on a honeymoon but rather in a period of ongoing arguments.”  He says the Israeli government, however, should have tried earlier to convince Jordan to extend the deal.

Al Sharif sees Israeli Prime Netanyahu as responsible for whittling away at Israel’s relationship with Jordan — only one of its two Arab peace partners.

“It’s not Jordan that has been trying to wriggle out of its commitments under the peace treaty,” said Al Sharif. “It’s Israel and the continuation of the building of settlements, Netanyahu’s threat to annex the Jordan Valley and most Israeli settlements in the West Bank, contrary to the Jordan’s position that demands the two-state solution. So, relations after 25 years are not at their best. It also underlines the fact that we have a very frigid peace between Jordan and Israel and the culprit in all of this has always been Benjamin Netanyahu.”

 “Not allowing Israel to continue to utilize the two pieces of land or doing Netanyahu any favors was not only logical, but became an urgent public demand,” among Jordanians, Jawad Anani, a lead negotiator for the 1994 peace treaty, told The Washington Post.

Many Jordanians blame Netanyahu for ruining peace chances between Israel and the Palestinians.  Al-Sharif says almost daily incursions at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, where Jordan has a special role as custodian, and other actions by Netanyahu’s government – that Palestinians see as provocative – have soured ties.