Day after Jordan reasserts its control over border enclaves

Katz: Israel wanted joint event to mark peace anniversary, but Jordan refused

Hashemite Kingdom shot down initiative due to ‘complicated’ domestic situation, foreign minister says at Knesset conference; no Jordanians attend

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Then-foreign minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-foreign minister Israel Katz at a Likud election campaign stop in Jerusalem, September 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel sought to stage a joint event to commemorate the current 25th anniversary of its peace agreement with Jordan, but Amman refused, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Monday.

“With all due diplomatic sensitivity, I have to say that Israel did want to have a ceremony [together with Jordan]. They said that the [Israeli] government forgot and did not ask to have an event. The government did not forget; it asked [the Jordanian authorities], but it did not happen,” Katz said.

The reason for the Hashemite Kingdom’s refusal to mark a quarter century of peace has to do with “the complicated reality within Jordan,” the foreign minister said, referring to the country’s large Palestinian population and the fact that ties with Israel remain deeply unpopular there.

Speaking at a conference on Israeli-Jordanian relations in the Knesset, Katz recalled that earlier this year, he had attended an event to mark 40 years of Israeli-Egyptian peace at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, which was attended by Cairo’s ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Incoming Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali speaks with President Rivlin in his Jerusalem residence, November 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Like several speakers before and after him on Monday, Katz lamented the fact that Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, was not present at the Knesset for the conference. In fact, not a single Jordanian attended the event.

MK Meirav Michaeli (Labor-Gesher), who hosted the conference, pointed out that it was the only event marking the peace with Jordan that took place under the auspices of a government institution.

“In this peace agreement good things happened, and harsh things happened. Basically, not enough was done,” she said. “This peace is a strategic asset to the State of Israel; it’s a is a central pillar of Israeli security.”

Israel and Jordan signed their “Treaty of Peace” in the Arava Valley on the Israeli side of the border on October 26, 1994. Jordan’s king Hussein and Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin ratified it 25 years ago, on November 10, 1994.

Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein meet on the Sea of Galilee to reconfirm the peace treaty, November 10, 1994 photo credit: GPO/Saar Yaakov)

Israeli officials continue to hail the so-called Wadi Araba Treaty as a pillar of regional stability and as a blueprint for future interest-based agreements with other Arab states. However, the government in Jerusalem has not officially organized any events to mark the anniversary; the Monday event was the initiative of an opposition lawmaker.

On Sunday, Amman terminated annexes to the peace treaty that had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers to continue to work lands in two enclaves — Naharayim and Tzofar — that were technically on Jordanian territory.

Speaking at the Knesset conference, which was attended by representatives of Israeli farmers from these enclaves, Katz said that the last word on the matter has yet not been spoken.

“It’s not like we hoisted the white flag right away,” he said, vowing that the government would continue its talks with Jordanian authorities to ensure that Israel’s property rights are respected there.

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 refrain from renewing them when they ran out after 25 years.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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