Jordan officially said it won’t renew the 25-year old agreement that granted Israel private land use in Jordan’s al Baqura and Ghamr amid friction between the two countries.
In two large stretches of Jordan, al Baqura and Ghamr, Israeli farmers and tourists had visa-free access for 25 years under a deal between the countries. Jordan officially declared the end of the arrangement on Sunday, following the expiration of the lease.
Why did Jordan allow Israel to use the land in the first place?
Israel and Jordan were officially in a state of war for 46 years until the countries agreed on a peace treaty in 1994 in an attempt to normalise relations.
Ghamr and al Baqura became part of Jordan in 1946 but Israel captured the lands during the Arab-Israeli war: al Baqura in the northern Jordan Valley in 1950 and Ghamr, near Aqaba in southern Jordan, in 1967.
The 1994 peace agreement recognised the two areas, al Baqura and Ghamr, as under Jordanian sovereignty but it also gave special provisions to Israel for its farmers to work the land and for tourists to visit the area.
Why did Jordan refuse to renew the lease?
The decision comes after Jordan’s King Abdullah II last year notified Israel that he had decided not to renew the landmark peace treaty when it was set to expire in 2019. According to the agreement, the special arrangement would continue after expiration unless both parties state otherwise one year before the lease expires.
“We are practising our full sovereignty on our land,” he said in his 2018 speech. “Our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians.”
The king’s decision last year came amid public pressure to end the lease, as demonstrators marched demanding the end of the agreement, in the capital of Jordan, Amman.
This year, too, King Abdullah reiterated the same grounds for the decision, saying Jordan would impose full sovereignty on every inch of Ghamr and al Baqura.
With the 1994 treaty, Israel also recognised the special role for Jordan at Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, but the relations between the countries have been fraught in recent years due to a lack of progress between Palestine and Israel and the disputes over the status of Jerusalem.
The relations were strained recently when Israel detained two Jordanian citizens, Hiba Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri, without trial for what it called “light suspicion of security violations”. In response, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations on October 30. Two Jordanians were released following Jordan’s ambassador move.
One Israeli citizen was also detained in Jordan for questioning.
The treaty with Israel is widely unpopular in Jordan, where more than two million Palestinian refugees live. Many Jordanians see the agreement as giving a green light to Israeli occupation.