Jordanian soldiers block Israeli tourists from Baqoura and Ghumar
On January 26th, Jordanian liaison officers delayed hundreds of Israeli tourists from entering the Baqoura/Naharayim site, while other sources reported that tourists were completely banned from entering the town. The incident followed Jordan’s announcement that was reported in October of 2018; of not renewing the lease in which grants Israeli farmers and military officers free access to Al-Baqoura which is a site adjacent to the Israeli-Jordanian Northern border.
King Abdullah has faced ongoing pressure from the Jordanian parliament not to renew the leases, and to return the territory to full Jordanian sovereignty. Eighty-seven lawmakers have also signed a petition on the matter.
The controversial issue of the Baqoura and Ghumar lands has been the focus of public opinion in Jordan and Israel. King Abdullah has faced ongoing pressure from the Jordanian parliament not to renew the leases, where eighty-seven lawmakers have signed a petition regarding the matter. Multiple protests during the past couple of months in Jordan were also reported against renewing the lease.
As part of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Israel recognized Baqoura and Ghumar under Jordan’s sovereignty with Israeli private land ownership rights. Providing Israeli landowners, the freedom of entry to and exit from the land without imposing taxes or charges with regards to the land and/or activities within the area. The treaty indicates Israel’s ownership of the lands in Baqoura and Ghumar under Jordanian sovereignty and will remain in force for 25 years. The treaty also indicates that the agreement will be renewed automatically for another 25 years unless one party gives a one-year prior notice to end it. And as the 25-year renewable lease was coming to an end in October of 2019, The Jordanian government announced its intention to end the lease on October 22nd 2018.
Jordan used its legal rights as stipulated in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and gave formal notice to the Israeli government of its intention not to renew the agreement over these two areas one year before the due date, according to the Jordan Bar Association President, Mazen Irsheidat in an interview with the Jordan Times. Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel threatened to reduce water supplies to Jordan from four to two days a week in response to King Abdullah's decision to cancel the land-annexing article in its peace deal with Israel.
It was reported that some Israeli officials stated that this decision is alarming and indicates the Jordan means to reduce diplomatic ties with Israel, while other Israeli officials believe this is a temporary decision on Jordan’s part to reduce the pressure it faces from the public for its ties with Israel. And while Jordan wants to implement its option to end the lease, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel would negotiate on the possibility to extend the agreement for 25 more years.