Dubai: One day after Jordan’s King Abdullah II said his country will not to renew parts of its landmark peace treaty with the Israeli regime, an Israeli minister threatened to cut off water to Jordan.
In a statement on Sunday, Abdullah had said he would be pulling out of two annexes from the 1994 peace agreement
that allowed Israel to lease two small areas, Al Baqoura and Al Ghumr, from the Jordanians for 25 years. The leases expire next year. For nearly a quarter of a century, Israeli farmers and tourists have enjoyed the fruits and picturesque attractions of the areas. After the king’s announcement on Sunday, Jordanians took to social media, calling it a “historic and wise decision.”
Abdullah also tweeted: “Baqoura and Ghumr have always been at the top of our priorities and our decision to terminate the annexation of Baqoura and Ghumr from the peace treaty is based on our commitment to take all necessary decisions for Jordan and Jordanians.”
Analysts in Amman say the Jordanian decision is a sovereign one that was provided for in the peace treaty signed between Jordan and Israel in October 1994. They described Israeli threats as part of the “typical Israeli” reaction of not honouring agreements.
"This is an agreement, and the period of 25 years is approaching [expiry]. Jordan has informed the Israeli side that it won’t extend lease of two border territories."
— Tariq Al Momani, | Al Rai Editor-In-Chief
“In the end, this is an agreement, and the period of 25 years is approaching (expiry),” said Tariq Al Momani, Editor-In-Chief of the mass circulated Arabic language Jordanian newspaper of Al Rai, referring to the peace treaty. “Jordan has already informed the Israeli side that it won’t extend the lease of two border territories,” he told Gulf News.
According to the peace agreement, Israel is allowed to renew “lease” on the two Jordanian lands of Al Baqoura and Al Ghumr near the border for a period of 25 years. The lease is renewed automatically unless one of the two sides gives the other a one-year notice to terminate the deal.
King Abdullah has stressed that the two border areas are “Jordanian land and will remain” part of Jordan. The deadline for renewing both leases of the deal is on Thursday.
The peace treaty with Israel is deeply unpopular in Jordan, where people claim that successive Israeli regimes have failed to live up to water-sharing agreements. Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories is also a source of anger among Jordanians.
Small protests have been held in Jordan in recent days over the fate of the two areas of land, and scores of legislators signed a petition to cancel the arrangement.
The decision came as an unwelcome surprise to Israelis, but was not likely to touch off any immediate diplomatic crisis. Nevertheless, it exposed underlying tensions in the region.
Israeli-Jordanian relations have also been strained by years of impasse in the Palestinian peace process.
"There is a need to renegotiate many articles of the (1994 peace) agreement. Jordan’s share of water should be increased, and [there should] not be threats to reduce it"
— Taher Al Udwan | Jordanian Information Minister
Last year a confrontation involving an Israeli guard at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman, which left two Jordanians dead, led to a months-long diplomatic standoff.
At the time, Jordan was infuriated over Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the entrances to the Aqsa Mosque Compound in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City. They were removed under pressure from Jordan, the custodian of the shrine. The two areas, analysts said, were both claimed by Jordan and Israel during the negotiations that led to the signing of the peace agreement. Jordan was the second Arab country to sign peace deal with Israel after Egypt, which concluded its agreement in 1979. Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement came a year after the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in Washington in 1993.
“Jordan has taken the decision in line with its interests, vision and conviction,” said Al Momani.
“The issue is not in informing the Israelis,” Jordanian Information Minister Taher Al Udwan told Gulf News. “The issue is how to negotiate (again) with the Israelis on regaining full Jordanian control over the two areas,” Udwan, who is also a columnist, added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying Tel Aviv “will enter negotiations with it on the possibility of extending the current arrangement,” describing the bilateral agreement as an “important asset”.
However, Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel threatened to cut off water to Jordan in response to Amman’s decision.
Israeli media quoted Ariel as saying water supplies to Amman would be reduced from four to two days a week if Jordan terminates the agreement.
King Abdullah stressed that the two border areas are “Jordanian land and will remain” part of Jordan. The deadline for renewing both leases of the deal is Thursday.
Jordan is “used” to such Israeli threats and dishonouring of agreements, said Al Momani. “We are expecting a fierce campaign [against Jordan] because they are used to adopting the policy of threats and annexation... We see the Israeli violations against the Palestinians every day,” he said.
Udwan also ridiculed the Israeli minister’s threats.
“Has Israel left (intact) anything from the Israeli-Jordanian agreement?...Israeli violations are endless,” he said.
Israel, he continued, has violated many parts of the peace agreement, namely the situation in occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordanian “special role” over the Muslim holy sites in the city.
“There is a need to renegotiate many articles of the (1994 peace) agreement. Jordan’s share of water should be increased, and [there should] not be threats to reduce it.”
What’s the agreement all about?
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has announced that he does not plan to renew parts of the country’s 24-year-old peace agreement with the Israeli regime. Here is what that agreement is all about
■ The agreement was reached in November 1994 between King Abdullah’s father, King Hussain, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
■ The lease of two areas of land to Israel was agreed in annexes to the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.
■ The areas are Baqura in the north and Ghamr in the south. The two areas combined cover a total of about 1,000 acres, cultivated by Israeli farmers.
■ The lease governing them was for 25 years and had been due for renewal.
■ King Abdullah said the areas have always been a “top priority” for Jordan and the decision was based on “our keenness to take whatever is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians”.
■ Large-scale protests in Jordan over the weekend urged the king to reclaim the Jordanian territory.
- With inputs from New York Times