DThe door to the "Island of Peace" is locked. A quarter of a century after the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, soldiers finally closed the iron gate on the weekend. Here Israeli peasants came to their fields, which lie since 1994 on the Jordanian side of the Jordan valley. To ensure that the peace treaty did not fail, the then Jordanian King Hussein was prepared to lease the two properties to Israel for 25 years. But a year ago, Hussein's son Abdullah II demanded the land back. In a speech, Abdullah announced on Sunday that the Hashemite kingdom has again "complete sovereignty over every inch" in Buqura (Hebrew: Naharjaim) and Ghamr (Zofar).
Naharjaim, also called the island of peace, lies at the confluence of Jordan and Yarmuk below the Sea of Galilee, Zofar south of the Dead Sea in the Arava Desert. On Saturday hundreds of Israelis had once again bid farewell to the areas that were long considered a symbol of understanding with their Arab neighbors. Jordan was the second and to date the last Arab neighbor to Egypt, signing a peace agreement with Israel. At the border it was quiet – except for a tragic incident in Naharjaim. In 1997, a mentally disturbed Jordanian soldier shot seven Israeli students at the lookout point. The Jordanian King Hussein then went to all parents to personally convey their condolences and to save the peace.
Bad relations with Israel
Hopes were high when King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin signed their signatures in the Arava Desert north of Eilat on October 26, 1994. At the same time, the peace process with the Palestinians had started. But the peace has never really brought the two neighboring countries closer to each other, he has remained cold. In recent years, the alienation that was particularly noticeable on the 25th anniversary grew: neither in Jerusalem nor in Amman was officially remembered. Previously, incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in the election campaign that he would annex the Palestinian side of the Jordan Valley. There are always quarrels about Jerusalem. The peace treaty acknowledges that the Jordanian king is guardian of the Islamic and Christian sites in the city. He keeps watch over the fact that the Israeli government and radical settlers are not changing anything.
For the Jordanians, peace with Israel is inextricably linked to the Palestine conflict. Since there is no solution, for most also no good neighborhood is possible. In Jordan, there are therefore increasing demands to terminate the agreement, which Parliament approved in 1994 without the annexes on the leasing of enclaves. This demand was made especially by the Muslim Brotherhood, who are close to the Palestinian Hamas; they are the strongest and most organized political force in the Hashemite Kingdom. Even among the population, most of them of Palestinian origin, peace was unpopular from the beginning. With the termination of the lease, Abdullah has now been able to reduce at least some of the anger that is suffering from a severe economic crisis and complaining of austerity measures.
Relations with Israel had deteriorated further in the autumn. The arrest of two Jordanians of Palestinian origin had created new tensions on the Israeli border until last week. Jordan recalled its Ambassador from Tel Aviv in response to consultations. Last week, the two Jordanians were able to return home. Only since last year, both countries have again ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Amman. Jordan expelled the Israeli ambassador in 2017 after an Israeli guard at the embassy in Amman shot dead a Jordanian artisan.