Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced Sunday that he does not plan to renew parts of the country’s 24-year-old peace agreement with Israel, amid public pressure to rebuke the Israeli government following the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem and ongoing violence in Gaza.
In Israel, the announcement was received with surprise. Analysts said it was a populist move by the king aimed at opposition groups. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, appeared unruffled by the announcement. He said relations with Jordan were still strong.
The deal was reached in November 1994 between Abdullah’s father, King Hussein and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The parts Jordan wants to revoke relate to two parcels of land Jordan leased to Israel for 25 years. The lease on the two territories — known as Baqoura and Ghumar in Arabic and Naharayim and Zofar in Hebrew — ends in one year. Jordan had until Thursday to make clear to Israel it would not renew the arrangement.
“Baqoura and Ghumar are Jordanian lands and will remain Jordanian and we will exercise full sovereignty over our territory,” the king said, according to a royal court statement.
In Jordan, however, the decision to downgrade its arrangement with Israel sparked celebrations. There has been a push in recent months to cancel the lease agreement and demand that Israel return the land. Both areas are used for agricultural purposes.
Large-scale protests over the weekend urged the king to reclaim the Jordanian territory. After his announcement Sunday, Jordanians took to social media, with one person calling it a “historic and wise decision.”
Abdullah also tweeted: “Baqoura and Ghumar have always been at the top of our priorities and our decision to terminate the annexation of Baqoura and Ghumar from the peace treaty is based on our commitment to take all necessary decisions for Jordan and Jordanians.”
Flash floods unleashed by heavy rains swept away a group of middle school students and teachers visiting hot springs near the Dead Sea on Thursday, killing 18 and injuring 35 as the torrent carried some for several kilometers, Jordan said Thursday.
In Jordan, a dramatic rescue operation involving helicopters and divers continued into the night. Israel’s military said it dispatched a search and rescue team at the request of Jordan’s government.
The Israeli military joined in the search, sending several helicopters from the Israeli Air Force’s elite search-and-rescue Unit 669 across the border, the army said.
“At this time, the soldiers are assisting in the search and rescue efforts for the missing and are doing all they can, despite the weather conditions, to assist the survivors in the flood area,” the army said.
The Air Force said after midnight that the rescue mission had returned to Israel.
In addition to the military, the Israel Police dispatched a contingent of search-and-rescue and medical specialists, as did the civilian Megillot search-and-rescue unit. The specialists later returned to Israel, though they remained on alert.
Mind you, we offer humanitarian aid to Iran following earthquakes, and they are trying to wipe us off the planet, so this response to Jordan was never in doubt.