Jordanian FM: We Will Not Negotiate Our Sovereignty With Israel

Amman has not received any request or demand from Israel to discuss the issue, Ayman Safadi says, adding that terms or demands would revolve around the expiration of the two annexes

Israeli soldiers patrol the border fence in Naharayim also known by Jordanians as Baqura in the Jordan valley in Northern Israel on October 22, 2018
AFP

Jordan will not negotiate its sovereignty over two annexes leased to Israel as part of the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday. Speaking to local reporters, Safadi added that Amman has not received any request or demand from Israel to discuss issue.

Should there be terms or demands, Safadi said, they would revolve around the expiration of the two annexes.

“We are a country with international standing. We acted by the letter of the law and we have the tools to protect our interests,” he said.

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Safadi noted the decision has brewed over a long period of time, and added that should pressure be applied to Jordan over the issue, Abdullah would know how to handle it and act according to the interests of the Jordanian people.

The decision to cancel the annexes was enthusiastically welcomed by the Jordanian publi, as well as by parliament and the government.

Sources in Jordan familiar with the details said that despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel planned to negotiate the matter with the Jordanian government, there is no chance that the government would reverse the decision.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Jordan's King Abdullah II
Kobi Gideon/GPO

“The shot has already been fired, and not by a minister or the prime minster but by the king himself, so the ramifications of reversing the decision or even the king doing so are far more serious than extending the lease,” a source said. “It would be better for the Israeli government to enter negotiations about transferring the territory to Jordanian sovereignty and not to try to extend the annexes or to exert any kind of pressure on the king or the government.”

According to these sources, at this point it isn’t clear if the move was coordinated with other countries, in particular the United States, so the Jordanian government is expecting pressure on this issue. “We know that the decision will provoke reactions from Israel and there may be pressure exerted with the help of the United States, but the Jordanian position is pretty clear and it will be impossible to change it, unless there is some proposal in the diplomatic or economic realm that will be so generous it will be impossible to refuse,” the source said. “But that won’t happen, based on the behavior of the Netanyahu government.”

There is a consensus in Jordan that the king’s decision, which stems mainly from domestic pressures and calls from the Jordanian public, could have been a lot more flexible if the Israeli government conducted itself differently, the sources said.

“There’s a very right-wing government, in which some ministers see Jordan as a Palestinian state,” said a source. “The undermining of the holy places in Jerusalem continues despite Jordanian custodianship of the holy sites, and don’t forget the shooting incident at the embassy [in July 2017] that caused a lot of anger in Jordan. All these reasons won’t allow the king or the government to make decisions that benefit Israel.”

Abdullah’s decision got wide play in the Jordanian media, which fully supported the decision, saying it was “historic” and met the expectations of the Jordanian people. The media reported numerous supportive responses from union leaders and top former military officers. Some of the officers compared Abdullah’s decision to one made by his father, King Hussein, in 1956 when he fired all the senior British officers in the Jordanian army and replaced them with Jordanian officers. It was also described as historic at the time, because it assured the independence of the Jordanian military. There were also supportive remarks from present and former parliamentarians and cabinet members.

The Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad noted that the king’s decision took Israel totally by surprise. Al-Hayat, which is published in London, quoted Jordanian sources as saying the announcement could have been more flexible, but that Jordan over the past few years had faced a unilateral policy by Israel’s right-wing government and offensive conduct toward the holy places in Jerusalem, which did not allow any true latitude.

Under the headline: “The king won for Jordanian sovereignty,” the Al Ra’I newspaper wrote that the decision proved the Jordanian kingdom honors agreements on the one hand, but also insists on its demands with regard to sovereignty.

“The king’s position came at the right time to thwart the plans of those who sought to clash with the opinion of the government and the palace on this issue,” the paper wrote. “The decision is consistent with the popular and political demands that have increased in recent months.”

The paper further claimed that the decision is even more important given Israeli policy on expanding settlements; it was important the decision be made in time under international law and that timely notification was given to the Israeli side.

Residents of Al-Bakura in the northern Jordan Valley noted the decision was important not just for political and diplomatic reasons, but also for economic reasons. Hassan Al-Fuaz, the mukhtar of the village, noted that the residents have been waiting for years to get the Naharayim enclave back; the land there is very fertile and could be used for both agriculture and tourism.

“The area will become an attraction for Jordanians and an opportunity for the residents’ economic prosperity. I hope it will happen soon,” Al-Fuaz told Al Ra’i.