Jordan will not renew parts of a 1994 peace agreement with Israel, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has announced.
Two parcels of land granted to Israel in a 25-year lease — territories known as Baquora and Ghumar in Arabic and Naharayim and Zofar in Hebrew — will be returned to Jordan. The areas, totaling about 1,100 acres, are water-rich farmlands currently cultivated by Israeli farmers.
The king announced the plans on Sunday.
The deadline for renewal of the leases is Thursday, allowing for a 12-month notice that’s needed to prevent an automatic extension of the leases. Experts said Jordan’s move is a response to public demand to reprimand Israel for ongoing violence in Gaza and its welcome of a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the Washington Post reported.
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The 1994 deal was reached by King Hussein, Abdullah’s father, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It has remained unpopular with Jordanians, who feel Israel has not lived up to its water-sharing agreements on the territories and object to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
The Israeli government showed little flexibility in discussing a renewal of the lease, senior Jordanian officials said, resulting in an equally inflexible decision by Jordan’s king.
“This has always been our top priority,” King Abdullah said in a Twitter message. “Our decision to withdraw from the annexes to the peace agreement is based on our desire to take what is needed for Jordan and the Jordanians.”
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Those working on the lands in question opposed the return to Jordan.
“The agricultural areas in the Tzofar enclave are very significant in terms of security of the region, livelihood and agriculture in the central Arava. This means the collapse of 30 agricultural farms on an area of 1,400 dunams [350 acres],” said Eyal Blum of the Central Agava Regional Council. “I call upon Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to resolve this crisis immediately. Apart from the agricultural importance of the areas, they constitute a buffer between the inhabited areas in the Arava and the kingdom of Jordan.”
Israeli Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel said Sunday a reaction to Jordan’s decision is being prepared.
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The farmers will not remain alone,” Ariel said. “We will find the best solution for them.” Opposition parties in Israel blamed Netanyahu for the decision. Avi Gabbay of the Zionist Union party said it demonstrated that Netanyahu is not the statesman some claim him to be.”
“Yitzhak Rabin knew how to make peace,” opposition leader and Zionist Union member Tzipi Livni added. “Bibi [Netanyahu] mainly knows how to destroy peace.”