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November 12, 2019 No.
8362

Jordanian Regime, Press: Restoration Of Jordanian Rule Over Border Enclaves Leased To Israel For Past 25 Years Is A Resounding Diplomatic Victory Over Israel

Under the Jordan-Israel peace treaty of 1994, two Jordanian enclaves along the border – Al-Baqoura (known as "Island of Peace" in English and "Naharayim" in Hebrew) in the north and Al-Ghamar ("Tzofar" in Hebrew) in the south – remained under Jordanian sovereignty but were leased to Israel for 25 years, enabling Israeli farmers to continue to farm there. The lease was to be renewed unless one of the sides informed the other a year in advance that it wished to end the arrangement.

On October 21, 2018, Jordan's King Abdullah announced, via Twitter, that he had decided not to renew the lease. He wrote: "Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar were always a major priority for us, and our decision is not to renew the annexes in the peace treaty [pertaining to] Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar, out of our commitment to do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians."[1] At the same time, Jordan's foreign minister sent a memorandum to his Israeli counterpart, informing him of the decision.[2] 

King Abdullah's tweet (Source: Twitter.com/KingAbdullahII, October 21, 2018)

The decision took effect on November 10, 2019, and at the opening of the fourth session of the Jordanian parliament the king announced "the expiration of the peace treaty annexes on Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar and the imposition of our full sovereignty over every inch of those lands."[3]

The following day, November 11, 2019, the king visited the Al-Baqoura area,[4] accompanied by his son Crown Prince Hussein, and tweeted, "Jordanian sovereignty over its land is above all consideration."[5]


King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein at Al-Baqoura area (Source: Al-Ghad, Jordan, November 12, 2019.)

Jordanian Senate speaker Faisal Al-Fayez called the reclaiming of the enclaves a "victory for Jordan's diplomatic will, represented by King Abdullah II, which confirms Jordan's sovereignty over all its lands..." He added that the king's move was "an impressive and firm response to all those who question our national positions and our ability to defend our rights, our principles and the supreme interests of our country."[6]

A Jordanian Foreign Ministry source explained that Jordan had "exercised its legal right, recognized in the [peace] treaty, not to renew the annexes," and clarified that it would not renew them in the future either. On the issue of the lands farmed by Israeli farmers in the enclaves, he added: "The peace treaty recognized the private ownership of 820 dunams in Al-Baqoura. Jordan will allow any Israeli citizen who proves his ownership [of the land] to apply for a visa at the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv and enter the kingdom through the official border crossings. [The kingdom] will respect his ownership rights according to Jordanian law... As for the 4,235 dunams of Al-Ghamar, they are Jordanian state land that the treaty allowed Israel to use, and today the annexes [pertaining to them] have expired... In accordance with its legal commitments, the kingdom will allow Israel to harvest the crops it planted [in Al-Ghamar] before the annexes expired, but [only] in accordance with Jordanian law..."[7]

At a November 11 press conference convened by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi, the minister said that in reclaiming the lands, Jordan had made a national decision serving its interests and reflecting its honoring of legal obligations. He noted that Jordan had proposed purchasing from Israel the private land it owns in Al-Baqoura but that Israel had rejected the proposition. Stressing that the kingdom would respect the rights of Israel's private property in the reclaimed enclaves, he underlined that Jorden is committed to the peace agreement. Asked about the change of the venue of the press conference, originally set in the Al-Baqoura area but ultimately held at Foreign Ministry headquarters in Amman, Al-Safadi responded that the change was due solely to technical considerations.[8]

The reclaiming of the enclaves was joyfully received in Jordan, and was presented as a diplomatic victory over Israel and the harbinger of more of the same. Numerous articles in the Jordanian press praised the king and Jordan's diplomats for the achievement, and harshly criticized Israel, its citizens, and its policies. Inter alia, the articles said that the king's "historic decision" allowed Jordan to reclaim the enclaves that "had fallen prey to foreign settlers who arrived like ravens bearing evil tidings" and had for 25 years "sucked the goodness" out of Jordan's land and water for 25 years, and called the land's return to Jordan a defeat for Israel, "an arrogant occupying state" that "has become accustomed to thieving and usurping."


Jordanian flag over the Al-Baqoura enclave (Source: Al-Ghad, Jordan, November 11, 2019)

Below are translated excerpts from some of the Jordanian articles about the reclaiming of the enclaves.

Former Al-Rai Editor: There Is No Greater Joy Than Victory Over A Thieving Enemy

In his November 10, 2019 column in the government daily Al-Rai, titled "Tomorrow a New Page of Honor Will Be Written in our Jordanian History," the daily's former editor, Majid 'Asfour, wrote: "Ever since the King made the historic decision a year ago not to renew the annexes [to the peace treaty] pertaining to Israel's use of the lands of Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar, the Jordanians have been counting the days and eagerly anticipating the recovery of the land. Now, when tomorrow, Monday [November 11, 2019], is but a few hours away, our hearts yearn to see [the enclaves] even before our eyes [see them], and [our] feet wait to enter the land of Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar and reclaim the precious land after an absence of 25 years. During [these years,] these two areas longed for the bosom of the homeland, and [the homeland] too year the land and the water, which had fallen prey to foreign settlers who arrived like ravens bearing evil tidings.

"Tomorrow will be a true national day for Jordan, a day like no other day, [a day] which will have ramifications... Starting tomorrow, there will be no privileges for non-Jordanians on the land of Al-Baquora and Al-Ghamar, and there will be no presence of the Zionists who had sucked the goodness out of our land and its delicious water for a quarter century...

"There is nothing sweeter than land's return to its owners, other than the return of a child to the home of its family and the bosom of its mother after a forced separation. There is no greater joy than victory over an enemy accustomed to thieving and usurping without returning the stolen [property] to its owners – [an enemy] who finds it easier to give up its soul than to relinquish its control over a single piece of land. We know our enemy well, and we anticipated its efforts to torpedo our decision and to weaken our resolve to recover Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar by any means... But we stood firm and thwarted every attempt by the enemy and its deceptions. This strengthened our position and [transformed] our firm stance into a rock, against which the extremist Zionist aspirations to control Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar for another quarter century, or even another quarter of an hour, were dashed.

"The recovery of Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar is clear proof for us Jordanians and for the Arab nation that adherence to justice and support for a strong and united internal front are the factors ensuring victory despite the enemy's military superiority. This is because the balance of power depends not only on quantity of ammunition and number of troops, but on the peoples' strength and perseverance, and on their willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals."[9]

November 10, 2019 Al-Rai headline: "Today, Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar Embrace The Homeland"

Al-Ghad Editor: Today Amman Declares Victory Over Tel Aviv; This Is The Start Of More Victories Over Israel

In his November 10, 2019 column titled "Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar: A Clear Victory," Makram Al-Tarawneh, editor-in-chief of the Al-Ghad daily, wrote: "All the political and media efforts of the Israeli occupation's leaders [to pressure] Jordan to extend the lease on the Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamar [enclaves] met with resounding failure. This is proof of Jordan's ability to extract its rights [from Israel] and to protect them, no matter what its firm position may cost...

"For an entire year, Israel made many empty arguments and countless attempts to blackmail Jordan, but today the moment of has truth arrived and Amman declared the defeat of Tel Aviv and proclaimed its victory over this arrogant occupying state. What makes this victory even more magnificent is that it came amidst a change in the international diplomatic arena, led by the U.S., involving blatant pro-Israel bias [along with] disregard of the Palestinian issue and of the [efforts to] end the conflict and ensure the continuation of the peace agreements as a top priority. According to the American perception, which distorts the facts, Israel is no longer an element that destabilizes the region, for the [needle of the] compass has moved towards Iran, at the expense of the region's fateful issues.

"Jordan's achievement, and its steadfastness in the face of the stormy winds blowing from the west bank of the [Jordan] river [i.e. Israel] throughout the era of [Israel's] radical right-wing government, will surely pave the way to confronting Israel's arrogance in many [other] aspects of the [relations] between the two sides. [These aspects include] the issues of water, the Muslim holy places, and the [Palestinian] refugees. The victor in such an important battle as this [concerning the enclaves] can win other battles as well.

"Today Israel must realize that the adoption of provocative foreign policies and extremist positions vis-à-vis [other] countries with the aim of winning internal battles and improving the ruling party's position in partisan struggles so it can remain in power and... gain more votes from the radical right are measures that will no longer avail it. [This is] because its interest [now] lies in separating its [foreign and domestic] policies, and because developing its ties with Jordan requires renewing the trust destroyed by [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, who misses no opportunity to violate his commitments and the agreements signed between the two sides.

"The current situation demonstrates the resounding defeat of the policy of the Israeli right, which thought for a moment that it could perpetuate the Zionist dream to this very day. Conversely, Jordan scored a clear victory by sophisticated diplomatic means, by continuing to act prudently and patiently but with unwavering determination."[10]

 

Former Jordanian Minister: The 1994 Atmosphere Of Peace Is No More; Improvement Of Relations Depends On Israel

In his column in the Al-Ghad daily, on November 9, 2019, Muhammad Hussein Al-Momani, head of Al-Ghad's board of directors as well as former government spokesman, and former Jordanian minister of media affairs, wrote: "...The king's decision not to renew [the lease on the enclaves]... met with sweeping national approval, as did his directive to the relevant authorities to inform Israel, as specified in the annexes [to the peace treaty], that the lease on these Jordanian areas had expired. The Jordanians regarded this decision as [proof of] the King's determination to confront the behavior of Israel's right-wing government, which has never stopped harming Jordan's interests, both on the bilateral level and those pertaining to the permanent settlement in the peace process [with the Palestinians]...

"The positive atmosphere of peace that prevailed during the signing of the Wadi Araba [Jordan-Israel peace] treaty and the [treaty's] annexes concerning Al-Ghamar and Al-Baqoura was completely different from the atmosphere that prevails today. The extent of the mutual political [mis]trust... does not allow dialogue on such sensitive sovereignty-related issues.

"It will be possible to advance many issues related to bilateral cooperation between Jordan and Israel if Israel's next government wants to strengthen the ties and renew the trust, and if it understands that Jordan has existential and strategic interests and will not remain silent if Israel toys with them as part of its endless populistic elections game. If the next Israeli government is brave enough to realize that it is imperative to restore to the Palestinians the rights and justice of which they have been deprived, then both countries will be able to achieve security and stability, and even open up a broad horizon of prosperity and development."[11]

 

[1] Twitter.com/KingAbdullahII, October 21, 2018.

[2] Al-Rai (Jordan), October 22, 2018.

[3] Al-Rai (Jordan), November 11, 2019.

[4] Ammonnews.net, November 11, 2019.

[5] Twitter.com/KingAbdullahII, November 11, 2019.

[6] Al-Dustour (Jordan), November 10, 2019.

[7] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 11, 2019.

[8] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 12, 2019; Al-Rai (Jordan), November 12, 2019.

[9] Al-Rai (Jordan), November 10, 2019.

[10] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 11, 2019.

[11] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 9, 2019.