Israeli farmers concerned about Jordan ending land lease

Israeli farmers concerned about Jordan ending land lease

Israeli farmers concerned about Jordan ending land lease

The lands in question were ceded to Jordan as part of the countries' 1994 peace treaty, but Amman agreed Israeli farmers could still access and work the plots as part of a 25-year-lease that had been widely expected in Israel to be renewed.

Baqura is a border area of six square kilometers (2.4 sq miles) in Jordan's northern Irbid province, while Ghumar covers four square kilometres in the southern Aqaba province.

Abdullah may also have been keen to distance himself from close ties to Israel, amid tense relations between the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. administration, seeking to clearly place himself on the side of the Palestinians. "He welcomed the decision of the king, "saluting" a positive step that restores the dignity to the citizen of jordan and the sovereignty on its lands". In an "era of regional turmoil", the King stressed, "our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians".

Two parcels of land granted to Israel in a 25-year lease - territories known as Baquora and Ghumar in Arabic and Naharayim and Zofar in Hebrew - will be returned to Jordan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not given up, saying Israel will negotiate the matter. Activists and politicians have been vocal against a renewal they say was humiliating and perpetuates Israeli "occupation" of Jordanian territory. "The Jordanians might already be drinking Israeli water, are scheduled to be heating their homes with Israeli natural gas in 2020, and benefit in numerous ways from security cooperation with Israel, but, for the most part, they don't like Israel".

The peace deal was reached between Abdullah's father, King Hussein, and Yitzhak Rabin, then Israeli prime minister.

"Netanyahu to explain to the king that Jordan needs Israel more than Israel needs Jordan", he added.

A political analyst in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Oraib al-Rantawi said: "The King saw the popular rejection against keeping this agreement with Israel, especially in the last few months where economic decline in the country has led to mass protests - and he wisely decided against it".

Protesters have also called for the cancellation of the peace treaty with Israel altogether and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from their country.

Abdullah's decision comes amid increasing domestic pressure. Jordanian activists and parliamentarians started a campaign past year to reclaim the land.

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