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The happy ending of Baqoura and Ghumar episode: Is that it?

Oct 24,2018 - Last updated at Oct 24,2018

Jordanians were overjoyed by His Majesty King Abdullah’s decision to terminate annexes in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel, thus ending a "lease" of Jordanian lands in Baqoura and Ghumar to Israelis under a "special regime".

The move was another triumph in a series of diplomatic wins Jordan has recorded in its soft showdown with Israel, including a relieving end to the crisis that saw two Jordanians shot dead by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman in July 2017. Israel, after reluctance and an act of foolishness, had to apologise and pay millions in compensation to the families of the two men, along with a Jordanian judge shot by Israeli soldiers on the King Hussein Bridge as he was heading to visit relatives in the West Bank in 2014. 

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday that Amman had not received any request by the Israeli side for negotiations over the termination, but we know that this is coming. After all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be willing to compromise the interests, and voter support, of settlers who have been using the fertile lands (around 7,000 dunums in total) for almost a quarter of a century. 

To say that Jordanians were happy with the termination of the annexes does not tell the whole story. Many have been shocked to know the facts about the two areas, including that Baqoura has been literally owned by Jews for almost a century and there has been no "lease", but a special regime that ensured the Israeli farmers ownership rights in the area under Jordanian sovereignty.

President of the Professional Associations Council Ibrahim Tarawneh said in remarks to The Jordan Times this week that Jordanians had been "fooled into thinking it was a lease to be terminated after 25 years, but now we know that there is no lease, and that we were actually under what qualifies as Israeli occupation and exploitation all this time”. 

It was not until former premier and the peace treaty architect, Abdul Salam Majali, said in a recent TV interview that Jordan may have to buy back the land from its owners that proud citizens came face to face with a bitter reality.  

Jordanians also took pride in the fact that His Majesty responded to people's demands when he took the decision.  But even that did not stand after a prominent columnist known to be the "leaks man" published an op-ed with inside information, claiming that the King took the decision in May and ordered a thorough legal study of the decision, long before a grassroots campaign picked up momentum, supported by a parliamentary motion, demanding an end to the Baqoura and Ghumar deals. This is good, and expected, but there is no shame in saying that His Majesty responded to the pulse of the street. That is what he does all the time.  

Looking ahead, the least the public expects from officials is transparency over the consultations they will enter with the Israeli side. A couple of leaks to the media would do, whether good or bad news.


The writer is the deputy chief editor of The Jordan Times

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