Jordan's King Tours Enclave Leased to Israel After End of Deal

Earlier this week, Abdullah announced the end of the 25-year deal, but Jordanian FM says Israeli farmers would be allowed to enter one of the enclaves to harvest their crops

King Abdullah II of Jordan standing to attention with army troops under a Jordanian national flag during a ceremony at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim on November 11, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Jordan's King Abdullah paid his first visit on Monday to an enclave fringing its northern border with Israel a day after the expiry of a 25-year special regime that allowed Israeli farmers access to the area, official sources said.

The Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman al-Safadi said on Monday that Jordan will allow Israeli farmers to enter the Tzofar enclave area to harvest the crops, for a two-month period.

According to al-Safadi, starting Sunday, anyone who wants to enter the territory that has been returned to Jordanian sovereignty must obtain an entry permit.

Israel sought to extend the term of the lease, but the Jordanian government refused to do so, and made a national decision serving its interests at the king's instructions, al-Safadi said.

On Sunday, Abdullah declared an end to the arrangement, seen by many Jordanians as a humiliation that perpetuated what they regarded as an Israeli occupation of Jordanian territory.

King Abdullah II of Jordan standing to attention with army troops under a Jordanian national flag during a ceremony at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim on November 11, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Under the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty, two territories straddling the border were recognized as under Jordanian sovereignty but with special provisions allowing Israeli farmers to work the land without visas.

Ealier on Sunday, the Israeli army said that the lease agreement was extended until next year under a number of new restrictions, contradicting  Jordan's king who said that his country resumed full sovereignty over it.

The Tzofar enclave was handed over to Israel in 1994, 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.

In 2018, Jordan said it did not want to renew the arrangement, in what was widely seen as a sign of increasingly strained bilateral relations.

Jordan is one of only two Arab states with a peace accord with Israel, and the neighbours have a long history of close security ties. But the treaty is unpopular in Jordan where there is strong support for Palestinians who seek the Israeli-occupied West Bank, bordering Jordan, for part of a future state.