Dozens of Israeli farmers are facing an uncertain future after being informed that the land that they have been working for decades will soon be handed back to Jordan.
The area in question comprises two parcels of agricultural land: Naharayim, known in Arabic as Baqoura, in the Jordan Valley, and Tzofar, or Ghumar, in the Arava region in southern Israel, which together span 1,000 dunams (247 acres). These enclaves also include the Island of Peace, a park located at the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers.
A special clause in the 1994 peace treaty between the countries allowed Israel to retain use of the land for 25 years, with the understanding that the lease will be renewed as a matter of routine. However, in October 2018, amid domestic unrest in Jordan, King Abdullah II announced plans to terminate the lease, and despite lengthy efforts by the Israeli government, negotiations to guarantee continued access to the areas were unsuccessful.
“I don’t think anyone has any idea what’s next and the fact that there is atransitional government in place is not helping the situation,” Oren Reuveni, the plantation manager at Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov Ihud in the country’s north, told Zman Yisrael, the Hebrew sister site of The Times of Israel.
In hindsight, Jordan’s decision not to extend the lease was predictable, he said, adding that for several years, local farmers have only been cultivating low-maintenance crops in Naharayim, so as to overcome what he called the erratic behavior of the Jordanian officers guarding the site.
There were more than a few times when Israeli farmers and their workers were denied access to the land at the random whim of a Jordanian officer, he noted.