Jordan has said it will not renew the lease of 405 hectares of water-rich Jordanian land to Israeli farmers, agreed as part of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.
Israeli leaders reacted calmly to an announcement from King Abdullah II, following months of pressure on him to end the 25-year lease next year, saying it would seek to negotiate it. The move will affect 30 Israeli farms.
The land is in two areas – Naharayim, in the north of the Jordan valley, and Tzofar, an enclave in the southern Arava region. It includes a man-made ‘Island of Peace’ and a hydroelectric power plant.
Abdullah said: “We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar.” He said the decision was “based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians… Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the peace treaty was “an agreement of true peace,” adding: “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.”
The move was criticised by Eyal Blum, head of Central Arava Regional Council, who said it would hurt Israeli farmers, but Abdullah has been under mounting pressure at home, with mass protests in recent months due to the country’s economic strains.
Price rises, an unemployment rate of 20 percent and the burden of harbouring 1.4 million Syrian refugees have led to tension over Israel’s use of the land, exacerbated earlier this year when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanian citizens at the embassy in Amman, the capital.