Hours before border lands go back to Jordan, Israeli farmers await final word
search
'Jordan says area will be off-limits; Israel says nothing'

Hours before border lands go back to Jordan, Israeli farmers await final word

Local leader says tenants haven’t been updated on what will happen after sites are returned to Hashemite kingdom on Sunday; hundreds of tourists visit Naharayim for farewell tours

  • Israeli tourists visit the Naharayim peace park on November 8, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    Israeli tourists visit the Naharayim peace park on November 8, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • Israeli tourists visit the Naharayim peace park on November 8, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    Israeli tourists visit the Naharayim peace park on November 8, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • A picture taken on November 8, 2019, shows an Israeli soldier closing a border gate on the Israeli side of the border at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
    A picture taken on November 8, 2019, shows an Israeli soldier closing a border gate on the Israeli side of the border at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
  • Naharayim on November 8, 2019 ( MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
    Naharayim on November 8, 2019 ( MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
  • The Jordan river can be seen in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    The Jordan river can be seen in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israelis visit Naharayim, October 19, 2019 (Courtesy of Naharayim)
    Israelis visit Naharayim, October 19, 2019 (Courtesy of Naharayim)
  • A 1930s hydroelectric power station at Naharayim on the Jordan River, January 29, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
    A 1930s hydroelectric power station at Naharayim on the Jordan River, January 29, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
  • The border between Israel and Jordan in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, or Baqura in Arabic, in northern Israel, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    The border between Israel and Jordan in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, or Baqura in Arabic, in northern Israel, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

A deal dating from Israel’s historic 1994 peace treaty with Jordan which allows Israeli farmers to lease two sites along their common border runs out Sunday, but the land’s tenants say that nobody has told them what happens next.

With the deal’s expiration only hours away, Idan Greenbaum, head of the Israeli regional council for the Jordan Valley, said Jordanian officials have informed him that as of Sunday the Naharayim site will be out of bounds. Israeli authorities, he told Army Radio on Friday, have told him nothing.

“As of this time, no Israeli official has chosen to update us,” he said.

Asked by AFP for details, the Israeli foreign ministry said “the agreement will expire on November 10th,” without elaborating.

Hundreds of Israelis visited Naharayim on Saturday for “farewell tours,” with demand so great that a new tour group was setting out every hour.

Israelis visit Naharayim, October 19, 2019 (Courtesy of Naharayim)

A special clause in the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan allowed Israel to retain use of Naharayim in the Jordan Valley, along with the Tzofar enclave in the southern Arava desert, for 25 years, with the understanding that the lease would be renewed as a matter of routine.

However, in October last year, Jordan’s King Abdullah said his country had notified Israel that it wants to take them back.

Last month, Israeli Foreign Ministry sources said that Jordan had agreed to an extension covering another farming season at Tzofar, lasting between five and seven months. However, Amman quickly denied the claim, saying there would be no extension of the lease on either site.

Naharayim, days before it is expected to be reclaimed by Jordan, October 19, 2019 (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Channel 13 reported Thursday that Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor, Meir Ben-Shabbat, had met Monday in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi who told him there would be no extension to the Naharayim and Tzofar leases.

Citing “senior sources” in Jordan, it said Safadi instead suggested that compensation be paid to the Israeli farmers for crops remaining at the sites after the handover.

Since the heady days of the 1994 treaty, which made Jordan only the second country after Egypt to make peace with Israel, relations with Amman have been strained.

Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.

The border between Israel and Jordan in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, or Baqura in Arabic, in northern Israel, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Naharayim, also known as the Isle of Peace, 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 an unprecedented trip to each of the victims’ homes in Israel to express his personal sorrow and the grief of his nation.

The Jordanian border crossing into the Island of Peace, January 29, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

In 2017, an Israeli embassy security guard in Amman killed two Jordanians. Three years earlier, an Israeli soldier at a border crossing killed a Jordanian judge he deemed a threat.

Just last month, Amman recalled its ambassador from Israel over the prolonged detention without trial in the Jewish state of two Jordanians. Israel has not commented on the reasons for their imprisonment, though Israeli media have said they were detained on suspicion of security-related offenses.

They were freed and returned to Jordan on Wednesday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the Jordanian ambassador would return shortly.

Officials in Israel have expressed concerns that the ending of the lease signaled a desire on Jordan’s part to effectively downgrade diplomatic ties, and many see it as a reflection of intense domestic pressure from a Jordanian public that still largely views Israel as an enemy.

But Jordan has said it was exercising its legal right in deciding not to renew the agreement and denied the move would affect the decades-old peace treaty, seeking to assuage fears in Jerusalem that ties could be downgraded.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments