Jordan has declared that it will not renew a treaty with Israel, that had lent some Jordanian land for the use of Israeli farmers. As part of the 1994-dated agreement, which will expire on Nov. 10, Israel was allowed to use some 405 hectares of agricultural lands on the southern border between the two countries. The area is considered as being subjected to a "special regime" where Israel recognizes Jordanian sovereignty.
Jordan has officially notified Israel that it will not renew the 25-year-long deal. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that his country was waiting for Israel to invoke a provision in the peace treaty to hold consultations after giving notice before the deadline. Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told the state-run Jordan News Agency (Petra) that, "Jordan had received the Israeli request but did not say when the discussions would begin."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's intention was to negotiate for an extension of the term. King Abdullah II, who generally remains silent over political issues, directly intervened in the issue, stating his kingdom's decisiveness. "We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar [the names of the towns]. Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar have always been on top of my priorities. Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians," he said.
The move will likely be welcomed by the Jordanian public as the people are generally unhappy with their country's relations with Israel. It may soothe the Islamist opposition, as those groups use the relations with Israel as their main arguments for lashing out at the government.
Moreover, by doing so, the king and the government may find an opportunity to change the agenda in the country, which is suffering from an economic crisis and has been a scene to mass protests in the last few months. At the beginning of last summer, thousands of protesters hit Jordan's streets, challenging the government's new economic measures supervised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Jordan is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and is surrounded by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian war, the instability in Iraq and Saudi Arabia's desert regions. The country has no natural resources and suffers from chronic drought. Production and manufacturing activities are very limited in the country, making it dependent on foreign aid and debt.
In recent years, the kingdom saw its economy worsen as the country sank into more debt, reaching up to $40 billion. The average Jordanians felt the heat of the worsening economy. Several new taxes were introduced; prices were constantly going up and the unemployment rate hit 18 percent. The increasing living costs made the capital Amman one of the most expensive cities in the Arab world.
However, on the Israeli part, the reversal of the treaty seems to be impossible, as farmers have been making their living through this area. Speaking to the Army Radio, an Israeli official said there was no possibility for such a step. Although the Israeli government has not reacted harshly yet, Jordan's decision will likely cause a crisis.
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