Jordan’s King Abdullah II has announced that he will not be renewing the 25-year lease clause in the 1994 bilateral peace treaty that allows Israel to use two small areas of territory along the border.
Since 1994 Israel has leased Naharayim in the north of the Jordan valley and the Tzofar enclave in the southern Arava region. Naharayim also includes the man-made ‘Island of Peace’ and a hydroelectric power plant. Most of the land is cultivated by Israeli farmers, some of whom were given private land ownership rights and special travel rights. The 25-year lease agreement was up for renewal in 2019.
King Abdullah II said that by refusing to renew the lease, Jordan was “practicing our full sovereignty on our land. Our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians,” he added.
The Jordanian monarchy has been under domestic political pressure to cancel the lease. Eighty parliamentarians recently signed a letter to the Government urging it not to renew the lease and to revoke Israeli ownership of Jordanian land.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that despite King Abdullah II’s announcement, the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty is “an agreement of true peace”. “We will enter into negotiations with Jordan to extend the existing agreement, but the entire agreement from a comprehensive perspective is important and dear to both countries,” he added.
The head of Central Arava Regional Council, Eyal Blum, warned that ending the lease would harm 30 Israeli farms who will lose 250 acres of land.
Yesterday Israel commemorated the 23rd Hebrew anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Israel-Jordan peace treaty with King Hussein, the father of Abdullah II.
Israeli officials are concerned that the decision signals a Jordanian move to reduce diplomatic relations with Israel. Political links were strained last year after an incident in which an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanian citizens in the Israeli embassy in Amman.