Jordan Delays Hundreds of Israeli Tourists' Visit to Border Enclave for Hours

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An Israeli soldier patrols the border area between Israel and Jordan at Naharayim, as seen from the Israeli side, October 22, 2018.
An Israeli soldier patrols the border area between Israel and Jordan at Naharayim, as seen from the Israeli side, October 22, 2018. Credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Jordanian liaison officers delayed buses of Israeli tourists from entering the “Island of Peace” park in the Naharayim border enclave on Saturday, despite their having coordinated their planned arrival ahead of time.

The buses were allowed in only after a few hours. The Jordan Valley Regional Council told Haaretz that it was only the second time they have had issues over permitting Israelis to visit the site.

>>Read more: At the Island of Peace, dreams of warm ties between Israel and Jordan hit the rocks

Jordan Valley Council chief Idan Greenbaum said in response: “Jordan finds our good neighborly relations to be helpful no less than do our farmers and tourists.” He added that such instances don't help advance a solution to problems that have arisen lately in relations with Jordan.

In October Jordanian King Abdullah said he intended to restore Jordanian sovereignty over Naharayim, in the northern Jordan Valley just south of the Sea of Galilee, and the Tzofar enclave in the southern Arava region, both of which had been yielded to Israel under the two countries' 1994 peace treaty.

The island at Naharayim has been a tourist site used by kibbutz farmers in the area.

In 1997, a Jordanian soldier shot and killed seven Israeli middle schoolgirls visiting the site. Last week a memorial was held for the girls, attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Opposition leader Sheli Yacimovich, the Jordanian consul and other public figures.

Israel leased Naharayim and Tzofar for 25 years under two appendixes to the 1994 treaty, which expire at the end of this year. But Jordanian lawmakers have put pressure on Abdullah not to renew these leases, and a petition to that effect was signed by 87 Jordanian lawmakers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said in response that Israel and Jordan would negotiate the possibility of extending the existing arrangement. He said “the Jordanians do not honor any charter calling for Israel’s destruction. The Israeli-Jordanian treaty is marking a 25th anniversary. There is no doubt, in an overall view, that the treaty is an important asset for both countries.”

Netanyahu said that both the treaty with Jordan and Egypt “stand out as central anchors of regional stability.”

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