Jordan vows to respect Israeli private property rights in Naharayim enclave

Jordanian source says farmers will be allowed to harvest crops they planted in Tzofar before Sunday; Israel expresses regret over Amman’s decision to terminate annexes in accord

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein (R) arrive for the opening parliamentary session in the capital Amman on November 10, 2019, as Jordan reasserted its control over land enclaves on the border with Israel. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein (R) arrive for the opening parliamentary session in the capital Amman on November 10, 2019, as Jordan reasserted its control over land enclaves on the border with Israel. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Jordan will respect private property rights of Israelis in the northern Naharayim border enclave in accordance with the Hashemite Kingdom’s laws, an official source in the Jordanian Foreign Ministry told the state-run Petra news agency on Sunday.

The source made the statement on the same day that annexes in the landmark 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement — which had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers and their employees to work lands in Naharayim and the southern Tzofar enclave — were terminated.

For some 25 years, Jordan and Israel had implemented the annexes of the peace deal regarding Naharayim and Tzofar, which are sovereign Jordanian territories. In late 2018, however, Jordanian officials informed their Israeli counterparts of the kingdom’s intention to end them.

“Regarding Baqoura, the peace agreement recognized the private ownership of 820 dunams,” the unnamed source in the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said, referring to the Arabic name for Naharayim.

The Jordan river can be seen in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“Jordan will allow any Israeli citizen who proves his property ownership to receive an entry visa from the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv to enter the kingdom through its official border crossings,” the source added, stating that Amman “will respect the right of property ownership according to Jordanian laws.”

The source’s comments appear to indicate that Jordan will at least allow Israeli farmers who own private property in Naharayim to visit their land, if they pass through one of the kingdom’s major border crossings with Israel. However, they did not clarify whether Jordan intends to permit the Israeli farmers to continue to work their land and grow crops.

Anis al-Qassim, a Palestinian international law expert, said that Jordan will treat Israelis who own land in Naharayim like any other foreign investor in the country.

“The property is the Israeli’s right. He will benefit from it, but he cannot claim Israel’s sovereignty over his farm or land,” he told Al Mamlaka TV, a Jordanian state-funded channel, on Sunday. “Like any other foreigner purchasing a home or a farm in Jordan, the Jordanian laws apply to him.”

An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement echoed part of the Jordanian source’s remarks, stating that Jordan will “continue to respect the private property rights” of Israelis in Naharayim.

The statement also said Israel “regrets” Jordan’s decision to terminate the annexes pertaining to the enclaves.

Oren Reuveni, a 32-year-old farmer whose kibbutz owns land in Naharayim, said he was not informed whether there was still a way for him to access the small territory.

“I hope I will be able to continue to go to the land, even if that means I need to cross through a normal border crossing,” he said in a phone call. “But no one has informed me yet.”

Under the now-terminated annexes, farmers had been able to access their lands without passing through a major border crossing and obtaining a formal visa.

An agricultural vehicle in the Tzofar area in the Arava region on the Israel-Jordan border, leased to Israel by Jordan as part of the 1994 peace agreement, in February 2007. (Chaver83/Wikimedia Commons)

The source in the Jordanian Foreign Ministry added that Jordan would allow Israeli farmers to come and harvest crops in the southern Tzofar enclave that they had already planted before Sunday.

It added that the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv would grant the farmers entry visas until they finish collecting those crops.

On Sunday, Israeli farmers continued to work land in the enclave, according to a local official. “The farmers entered [the enclave] to work today as normal,” a spokesperson for the Arava Regional Council told The Times of Israel.

Jordanian King Abdullah II announced on Sunday in a speech in Amman his country’s “full sovereignty over every inch” of the two pieces of land.

He received a standing ovation.

Jordanian television also aired video of the Jordanian flag being raised over Naharayim.

Naharayim is the site of a deadly March 1997 attack in which a group of schoolgirls from Beit Shemesh were fired upon during an outing to the area. The girls and their unarmed teachers were standing on a hill above an abandoned lake in the enclave when a Jordanian soldier opened fire on them and killed seven of the schoolchildren.

Following the killings, the late king Hussein of Jordan made a trip to each of the victims’ homes in Israel to express his personal sorrow and his nation’s grief.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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