Jordan Announces Decision to Terminate Peace-Treaty Land Lease to Israel In 2019
JNS.org – Jordan will not renew parts of a 1994 peace treaty that leases two areas on the Jordan River to Israel, saying Jordan aims to practice “full sovereignty on our land.” Israel’s neighboring nation could have been more flexible on the issue of renewing the leases, but chose not to.
In a statement on Sunday—a year in advance of the full termination of the lease and the anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom his father signed the agreement—Jordan’s King Abdullah announced that “our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests, and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians.”
Senior officials in the Jordanian government told Al-Hayat newspaper that due to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stalwart position on Jerusalem and other holy places, Jordan chose to reject a renewal of the leases.
The original peace agreement stipulates that the 25-year lease could be renewed by both parties after 25 years, but that both sides had the option to abandon the deal, subject to an announcement one year prior to termination, which is set to occur in 2019.
Abdullah did not state a reason for ending the lease to Israel, but analysts note that his popularity has dwindled in recent years, and that a public stand against Israel was met with excitement and patriotism in Jordan. Pressure included a letter signed by 80 Jordanian lawmakers demanding that he cancel the agreement.
The leases include the area of Naharayim in the north, where the Yarmouk River flows into the Jordan River and powers a hydroelectric plant near the Isle of Peace tourist spot, and Tzofar in the southern Arava desert, where a small Jewish community engages in farming, and stands to lose some 250 acres of land and 30 farms.
At a memorial for Rabin on Sunday, Netanyahu responded that the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty is “an agreement of true peace,” and that Israel would enter into negotiations with Jordan to renew the lease.
In 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of seventh- and eighth-grade girls from Beit Shemesh on a field trip to the Island of Peace, killing seven girls and injuring six. The soldier, Ahmed Daqamseh, was apprehended by Jordanian forces and sentenced to life in prison, but was released before he served even 20 years. He enjoys a hero’s status in some segments of Jordanian society.