Jordan says it won't renew peace treaty land deal with Israel

Frederick Owens
October 22, 2018

Under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty with Israel, Jordan has to decide whether or not to renew an agreement that placed thousands of dunums in Baqoura, in the north-western corner of the Kingdom, and Ghumar, south of the Dead Sea, at the disposal of Israeli farmers.

Jordan's decision to downgrade its peace treaty with Israel came as a complete surprise to Jerusalem, as it means the handing over of territories to the Jordanians.

In a meeting with Jordanian political figures at the royal palace, King Abdullah announced his decision to terminate an agreement in the kingdom's 1994 peace treaty that allowed the Israeli government and farmers to annex Jordanian lands of Baqoura and Ghamr near the border.

The parts Jordan wants to revoke relate to two parcels of land Jordan leased to Israel for 25 years.

He welcomed the king's decision, hailing it as "a positive step that restores dignity to the Jordanian citizen and sovereignty over his land".

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan sign the Washington Agreement on the White House Lawn as U.S. President Bill Clinton watches.

Sufyan al-Tell, a former United Nations environmental official and outspoken critic of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, told Al Jazeera the king's announcement is "timely and reflects the will of the people of Jordan".

With the validity of the treaty's annex ending on October 25, debate over the land, the treaty and the government's decision resurfaced after 25 years.

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But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to open negotiations to keep the current arrangement in place.

Under an annex to the peace agreement, Israel uses about 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan in the Wadi Araba desert where cash crops are exported to European and USA markets.

Baqura, in the northern Jordan Valley, was captured by Israel in 1950.

Anis Qassem, a Palestinian expert on worldwide law, said that legally the "right to use the lands of Baqura and Ghumar was given to Israel and gave it de facto sovereignty while Jordan has superficial sovereignty".

"We will enter into negotiations with [Jordan] to option an extension of the existing lease agreement", Israeli media quoted him as saying. He dismissed the possibility that Jordan might pull out of other parts of the broader peace treaty. The armistice after the 1948 war stated that the land was in Jordanian territory, and not what is now modern-day Israel.

Under Jordan's constitutional monarchy, only King Abdullah has the power to eventually rescind the peace deal with Israel. However, Israel-Jordan relations have been strained in recent years, particularly due to Amman's stance on the issue of Jerusalem.

Relations thawed after Israel replaced its ambassador to Amman and Netanyahu met with Abdullah last summer to stress the importance of economic and security co-operation between the two countries.

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