Israel will return Baqoura and Ghumar annexes to Jordan after King Abdullah decided not to renew the agreement that placed the land under Israeli disposal for 25 years, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Friday.
The Minister indicated that the Israeli efforts to guarantee continued access to the areas were unsuccessful.
In an interview with Army Radio, Steinitiz said the lands belonged to Jordan, explaining that the areas “are part of Jordan but Israeli farmers could work them.”
Jordan announced last year it would not renew clauses in the 1994 peace treaty between the countries granting Israel 25 year leases on the agricultural lands, which are set to expire on October 26.
The Minister added that since Jordanian authorities asked for annulling the treaty and does not want to renew it, Israel will return the lands on the agreed date.
The Minister’s statement provoked strong condemnation and criticism, especially from farmers in the region.
Head of the Emek HaYarden regional council in northern Israel, Idan Greenbaum, slammed Steinitz over the comments.
He described the statement as “defeatist and irresponsible remark.”
He claimed that this land was Jewish and bought by the Jews in 1926 and no one else was allowed to enter it, “even if it was part of Jordan.”
Greenbaum called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government to negotiate with the Jordanian government to extend the lease again for a long time.
Baqoura is a 6000-dunams fertile agricultural and tourist distinctive land to the east of the Jordan River.
In 1950, Israel occupied the area, and in 1994, Jordan recovered it under the peace agreement between the two countries.
Whereas Ghumar is a 4-km region on the Jordanian border located within the Aqaba governorate, and was occupied by Israel during the June 1967 war.
The peace treaty between the two countries affirms Jordan's sovereignty over both areas.
Jordanian army currently supervises the two areas and Israeli farmers enter and exit them through Jordanian military points after obtaining security clearances.
Since the signing of the peace agreement, Jordan pledged to grant Israelis, without restricted fees, the liberty to use the land, and enter or exit in accordance with the law. It also agreed not to apply any discriminatory taxes or fees on land or activities within it.
However, nine months ago, King Abdullah announced that Jordan took a decision to terminate the annexes of Baqoura and Ghumar in the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.
“Baqoura and Ghumar have always been at the top of our priorities…our decision is to terminate the Baqoura and Ghumar annexes from the [1994 Jordan-Israel] peace treaty out of our keenness to take all decisions that would serve Jordan and Jordanians,” said the King.