In a speech marking the fourth session of Jordanian Parliament, the King’s announcement was met with roaring applause and a standing ovation from members of Parliament. Moments later, the television coverage of his address cut to images of Jordanian soldiers raising the national flag at Naharayim, near the Israeli border.
The 1994 agreement recognised that Jordan had sovereignty over the areas of Naharayim and Tzofar (known as Baqura and Ghamr in Arabic), but permitted Israel to lease the land for 25 years. Under the peace terms, the special regime would automatically renew unless either party notified the other a year before expiry that it wished to terminate the agreement.
It is widely understood that this lease was incorporated into the agreement as a symbol of peace and friendship. Last year, however, 87 Jordanian MPs signed a petition urging the end to the lease, and last October, King Abdullah II said Jordan had notified Israel that it wanted the areas back.
Following King Abdullah II’s announcement on Sunday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said farmers who own private property in Naharayim would require a visa and have to enter the country through official border properties to visit their land, instead of the former system in which they could enter the areas freely. The Ministry did not clarify whether Jordan intends to permit the Israeli farmers to continue to work their land and grow crops.
As part of a tacit agreement between Jordan and Israel’s Foreign Ministries, 31 Israeli farmers will be allowed to continue working in Tzofar until May 2020, to harvest the crops already planted this season.
The decision not to renew the lease is widely seen as a reflection of the strained relationship between Jordan and Israel in recent years, with issues including the status of Jerusalem and the lack of progress on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians causing tensions.