Jordan announced on Sunday that it will not renew annexes in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel that gave Israel continued control of the Jordanian territories of al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr.
The so-called Wadi Araba agreement normalized relations between the two countries, despite there being no restoration of Palestinian rights or an end to Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Al-Baqoura, an area in northwest Jordan where the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers meet, and al-Ghamr, an area south of the Dead Sea, were leased to Israel for 25 years.
The two areas, amounting to just a few square miles, are farmed or used by Israelis.
The treaty recognized however that the areas would remain “under Jordan’s sovereignty with Israeli private land ownership rights and property interests.”
The lease ends in October 2019 and under the terms of the treaty would renew automatically “unless one year prior notice of termination is given by either party, in which case, at the request of either party, consultations shall be entered into.”
Met with resistance
King Abdullah of Jordan announced the decision on Twitter.
“Al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr have always been our top priority,” he tweeted.
“Our decision to terminate the al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr provisions from the peace treaty stems from our vigilance to do all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel will negotiate renewing the agreement with Jordan.
He added that Israel’s peace deals with Jordan and Egypt are “anchors of regional stability.”
Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi insisted however that Amman would not renegotiate the annexes.
Ariel called Jordan’s decision a “provocation,” according to media reports.
“I urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to explain to the king that Jordan needs Israel more than Israel needs Jordan,” Ariel said.
The minister warned that the supply of water to the Jordanian capital Amman could be cut from four days per week to just two.
An unnamed Jordanian official pushed back against the threats.
“The agreements governing water affairs between the two countries are intact. We didn’t receive any official communication from the Israeli side on the matter of water sharing, nor are we concerned with any threat,” the senior official told The Jordan Times newspaper.
Other right-wing figures in Israel are also encouraging the Netanyahu government to “punish” Jordan by reducing its water supply.
Support from Jordanian public
Citizens staged protests in Jordan’s capital Amman in the days leading up to the king’s decision not to renew the annexes.
In this video, protesters demand that Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz cancel the annexes and reclaim al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr:
Jordan’s decision not to renew the leases has been broadly welcomed by the Jordanian public and politicians, but the peace treaty with Israel itself remains deeply unpopular and there have been constant calls, including from lawmakers, to cancel it altogether.
That is not likely, however, as Jordan’s external support from the United States and other powers depends on it maintaining its ties with Israel.
Not renewing the annexes over small territories may be a way for Jordanian authorities to appease public opinion at a relatively small cost.
However, the decision may encourage Jordanian campaigners who are pressing the government to cancel its unpopular deal to purchase billions of dollars of gas from Israel.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.