Israeli farmers to quit Jordanian lands as 25-year lease expires

Israeli tourists visit the Naharayim peace park, at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim, also known as Baqura in Jordan, east of the Jordan River, which shows a view of the Jordan river. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Israeli farmers to quit Jordanian lands as 25-year lease expires

  • Jordan had agreed to lease the lands to Israel for a 25-year renewable period, with kingdom retaining sovereignty

JERUSALEM: A deal dating from Israel’s historic 1994 peace treaty with Jordan allowing Israeli farmers to lease two sites along their common border runs out Sunday but the tenants say that nobody has told them what happens the day after.

In the peace negotiations, Jordan agreed to lease the lands to Israel for a 25-year renewable period, with the Hashemite kingdom retaining sovereignty.

One of the sites is Naharayim, a spit of land where the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers meet, which is called Baqura in Arabic.

The other location, deep in the Negev desert south of the Dead Sea, is known in Hebrew as Tzofar and in Arabic as Ghumar.

Notification

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

Now with the deadline only hours away, Idan Grinbaum, head of the Israeli regional council for the Jordan Valley, says Jordanian officials have told him that as of Saturday night, the Naharayim site will be out of bounds.

“As of this time no Israeli official has met with us or issued a letter on the topic,” he said in a statement to AFP.

Grinbaum said that since Abdullah’s October declaration “there were enough opportunities to change the decree but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

The change would affect members of two agricultural communities who have been working the lands at hand for 70 years, “and feel that Israel has abandoned them,” he said.

“It’s very unfortunate that this is how we’re departing from the Island of Peace,” he said of Naharayim.

Asked by AFP for details, the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent the reply, “the agreement will expire on November 10th,” without elaborating.

1994 treaty

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.

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 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the Jordanian ambassador would return shortly.

Private television station Channel 13 reported on Thursday that Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, had met on 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.


Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

Updated 12 August 2020

Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

  • The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention

CAIRO: The fate of at least 35 Egyptian fishermen hangs in the balance after they were arrested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Nov. 2 last year.  

The families of the fishermen have appealed to the Egyptian government to step up their efforts to secure their freedom as Cairo has been working on their release since November.

Little is known about the fate of the fishermen in Libya other than their location, after it was leaked to Egyptian authorities that they were held in the Turmina Prison, which is affiliated with the GNA.

The head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh, Ahmed Nassar, said they had not been able to communicate with the fishermen since last November and after their disappearance they came to learn that the GNA authorities had detained them.

The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention. Nassar said that the fishermen were not fishing in Libyan territory without a permit.

Nassar explained that the fishermen were working on Libyan boats. Alongside them were a number of colleagues working on boats that belong to the Al-Wefaq government. They were not approached by anyone unlike their detained colleagues who were arrested and sent to prison without being charged with any crime.

The Fishermen’s Syndicate chief said that people had called on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the government, and the consular section had also been contacted about the matter.

Many of the detained fishermen come from Kafr El-Sheikh, while others come from Abu Qir in the governorate of Alexandria.

The fishermen had been supporting families of up to eight members.

Egyptian authorities say they are exerting great efforts to bring the fishermen back safely, while the fishermen’s families continue to demand safety and justice for the men.