And as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest). (Joshua 3:15)
Israel’s nearly 25-year peace treaty with Jordan has been a remarkable oasis of stability in a region otherwise riven with conflict and bloodshed. However, following a mass demonstration in Jordan’s capital Amman on Friday, King Abdullah announced that he has decided not to extend a part in the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, which leases regions of the Arava desert and Naharayim to Israel.
Abdullah informed Israel on Sunday that Jordan would not renew two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, concerning territory leased to Israel for 25 years. A clause was written into the agreement that either party could decide not to extend the agreement with a year’s notice in advance. Israel ceded the annexes, but Jordan leased it back to Israel so that Israeli farmers could cultivate the land.
The territories in question are known in Arabic as al-Baqura and al-Ghamr, and Naharayim and Zofar in Hebrew.
“Baqoura and Ghumar were at the top of our priorities,” King Abdullah tweeted. “Our decision is to terminate the Baquoura and Ghamar annexes from the peace treaty out of our keenness to take all decisions that would serve Jordan and Jordanians.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “there is no doubt the agreement is an important asset,” in response to the King Abdallah’s intention to cancel the annex. Speaking at a memorial for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – whose close personal relationship with Abdullah’s father King Hussein smoothed the path to Israeli-Jordanian peace – Netanyahu added that the peace deals with Jordan and Egypt are “anchors of regional stability.”
King Abdullah has come under pressure from both the people – via those demonstrations that at least demanded Jordan reclaim sovereignty over the territories in question and in some cases entirely dismantle the peace treaty with Israel. Jordanian lawmakers have also put pressure on the king, with 87 parliamentarians calling for the leases to not be renewed and the territory to be returned to full Jordanian sovereignty.
Relations between Israel and Jordan have been strained over the past few years over issues such as the status of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, lack of progress with regards to Israeli-Palestinian talks and, more specifically, the shooting by an Israeli Embassy security guard in Amman of a Jordanian citizen after the Jordanian allegedly tried to stab him. A Jordanian bystander was also shot and killed in the incident.
The shooting, which took place in July 2017, sparked a diplomatic crisis between Jordan and Israel.
Jordan is also a water-poor country and has a deal in place with Israel, in which its neighbor provides much of its drinking and agricultural water. It is unclear whether the decision to rescind the annex could impact the current water deal in place.