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.


Missile attack on Yemen MP home kills two including child

Updated 21 min 11 sec ago

Missile attack on Yemen MP home kills two including child

  • The MPs daughter-in-law and granddaughter were killed
  • Griffiths condemned the attack and called for a halt to the recent military escalation

DUBAI: A rebel missile attack on the home of a Yemeni lawmaker killed two of his relatives, authorities said Thursday, drawing condemnation from the UN after a recent strike in the area left 116 dead.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government — backed by an Arab coalition — has been battling the Iran-allied rebels since 2014, when they overran the capital Sanaa.
The attack on Wednesday night targeted the home of parliamentarian Mossad Hussein Al-Sawadi in Marib province, east of the capital, killing his daughter-in-law and 16-year-old granddaughter, according to the official Saba news agency.
“Sawadi was seriously injured along with three other members (of his family),” said Hussein Al-Huleissi, director of the criminal investigation department in Marib.
“The strike destroyed the home completely and caused panic in the residential neighborhood.”
United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths condemned the attack and called for a halt to the recent military escalation in Yemen, which comes after several months of relative peace.
“Targeting MPs and civilian areas is unacceptable and against international law,” he said in a tweet.
The attack came after a missile strike blamed on the Iran-backed Houthi militia killed 116 people including civilians at a mosque in a military camp in Marib on Saturday.
On Thursday, authorities in Marib said they dismantled two Houthi-linked “cells” that took part in planning the strike.
The attack on the mosque, one of the bloodiest single incidents since the war erupted, came a day after coalition-backed government forces launched a large-scale operation against the Houthis in the Nihm region, north of Sanaa.
Army spokesman Abdullah Al-Shandaki told AFP on Tuesday that 72 Houthis had been killed in the fighting.
Saba said the fighting had continued into Thursday, and medical sources reported dozens of dead and wounded on both sides.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between coalition-backed government troops and the Houthis broke out in the northern province of Jawf on Thursday.
Since 2015, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.