Israeli Army Says Lease Extended on Jordan Enclave as King Abdullah Announces Its Termination

The lease agreement was extended to end of April, and the enclave was declared a closed military zone that only farmers are allowed to pass through after being identified

The entrance to the Tzofar enclave
Alex Levac

A lease agreement on a Jordanian enclave south of the Dead Sea was extended until next year under a number of new restrictions, the Israeli army said on Sunday, while Jordan's king said his country resumed full sovereignty over it.

The Tzofar enclave was handed over to Israel in the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, and was expected to be returned to the kingdom on Saturday, as was the case with the Naharyim enclave. However, farmers came in to work in the enclave as usual on Sunday.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48Haaretz

The Foreign Ministry said that the two enclaves would now be subject to Jordanian law and said that "Israel regrets the Jordanian decision to bring the special arrangements to an end." Jordan will continue to respect Israeli property rights in Naharyim and permit Israeli farmers to harvest produce planted in Tzofar before the agreement ended, the ministry said. 

The Israeli army said that as of this morning, the entrance to the enclave is a closed military zone that only farmers are allowed to pass through after being identified. Farmers are expected to enter the enclave using their passports, and entry is only allowed if they cultivate land on the site.

Israel farmers crossing into the Jordanian enclave of Tzofar, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

However, King Abdullah II announced on Sunday in a speech at the opening of the winter session of the Jordanian parliament the "restoration of full sovereignty of all the land of al-Baqura and al-Ghamr [Tzofar and Naharayim] and ending talks over the enclaves."

Saturday, 25 years after the peace treaty with Jordan was signed, Israeli control over the Naharayim enclave ended, and it was returned to Jordan. The final Israeli tour of the enclave took place Saturday, following failed diplomatic attempts to extend the clause of the treaty that gave Israel control of the enclave for 25 years.

At 4:30 P.M. the gate to the enclave was closed, and control was returned to Jordan.

A year ago, Jordan's King Abdullah II announced that he would not renew two clauses in the peace agreement with Israel, and would return the Naharayim Tzofar enclaves to Jordan. The Naharayim enclave area includes about 800 dunams (about 200 acres) of agricultural land, which have been worked by the Kibbutzim in the area for 70 years. In Moshav Tzofar, 35 farmers are cultivating land in the area (4,500 dunams), where they mainly grow peppers.

Last year, farmers in Tzofar expressed concern over the economic damage that they could suffer after returning the enclave to Jordan. The Central Arava Regional Council, to which Moshav Tzofar belongs, and the farmers whose territories are in the enclave, did not know beforehand that such a decision was expected from Jordan, and it was never discussed at the local level.

"It's a death sentence for the 35 farmers who work the land there," Tzofar's economic coordinator told Haaretz. "Later, that would be a death sentence for the entire moshav," he added.