Israel’s military might and diplomatic power, not true amity between the peoples, are the basis for Jerusalem’s peace accords with its Arab neighbors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a conference marking 25 years since the peace agreement with Jordan was signed.
Asked why the peace with Jordan is so cold, and why his consecutive governments over the last decade have failed to improve ties with the neighboring country, Netanyahu replied that Israel’s peace treaties are all based on military deterrence and not on friendly people-to-people relations.
Like Cairo, Amman only agreed to sign peace agreements with Israel after it realized that it could not defeat the Jewish state and that it had more to gain from avoiding wars with Israel, he argued.
“There wasn’t a real reconciliation,” Netanyahu said of Jordan.
The main reason why the current state of bilateral relations is frosty has mainly to do with absence of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the prime minister maintained.
At the same time, Netanyahu stressed that it was important to preserve the peace treaty that was signed on October 26, 1994 by Jordan’s king Hussein and Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
“We have an outstanding interest in keeping the peace agreement due to the fact that we have our longest border with Jordan and given the short distance from the border to the Mediterranean Sea,” he declared.
“The importance of stability in Jordan, like the importance of the stability in Egypt and the stability of the peace agreements or the non-takeover by Islamist elements, is in our clear interest, vis-à-vis the regime in Egypt and the regime in Jordan.”
He went on: “On the one hand, there is no reason to attack us. We are strong; that is the basis. On the other hand, we are also strong enough to prevent their being taken over. I say, to my sorrow, this [the ability to prevent a takeover] is the basis [for our peace treaty] first of all.”
Israeli-Jordanian ties are based on “a sober and utilitarian consideration of both sides, for stability and security, the mutual interdependence of each one,” Netanyahu continued.
“We are in adjacent territories and they depend on our strength to prevent the takeover of various elements,” he said, declining to provide any details as to how Israel is helping the Jordanians prevent the takeover of their territories.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who addressed the event before Netanyahu joined, said Israel sought to stage a joint event to commemorate the current 25th anniversary of its peace agreement with Jordan, but Amman refused.
“With all due diplomatic sensitivity, I have to say that Israel did want to have a ceremony [together with Jordan]. They said that the [Israeli] government forgot and did not ask to have an event. The government did not forget; it asked [the Jordanian authorities], but it did not happen,” Katz said.
The reason for the Hashemite Kingdom’s refusal to mark a quarter century of peace has to do with “the complicated reality within Jordan,” the foreign minister said, referring to the country’s large Palestinian population and the fact that ties with Israel remain deeply unpopular there.
Jordanian King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein visited and prayed at the northern Naharayim enclave on Monday, a day after reclaiming the territory from Israel.
The Jordanian royals made the trip a day after annexes in the landmark 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement — which had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers and their employees to work lands in Naharayim and the southern Tzofar enclave — were terminated.
For some 25 years, Jordan and Israel had implemented the annexes of the peace deal regarding Naharayim and Tzofar, which are sovereign Jordanian territories. In late 2018, however, Jordanian officials informed their Israeli counterparts of the kingdom’s intention to end them.
Later on Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that Jordan had made an offer to Israel to purchase lands privately owned by Israelis in Naharayim, but said the Jewish state turned it down.
“During the consultations with Israel, we offered to buy the land, if they wish to sell it. They said they do not want to sell it. Therefore, there was no sale,” he told a press conference at the headquarters of the Jordanian Foreign Ministry in Amman.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry has said the Hashemite Kingdom will respect private property rights of Israelis in Naharayim.
According to the ministry, Israelis, who prove they own property in Naharayim, will be allowed to enter the enclave, but will be required to cross into Jordan through one of its major border crossings.
The ministry, however, has not clarified whether Israelis who own property there would be permitted to work their land.
Under the now-terminated annexes, farmers had been able to access their lands without passing through a major border crossing and obtaining a formal visa.
Two kibbutzim, Ashdot Ya’akov Meuhad and Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud, worked some 820 dunams on an island (present day Island of Peace) that was part of PEC land, occupied by Israel in 1950. The bulk of the 6,000 dunams, including the destroyed plant, remained in Jordanian hands and were placed under the Guardian of Enemy Property. In the 1994 Israel–Jordan peace treaty, Jordanian sovereignty over the 820 dunam area was confirmed, but Israelis retained private land ownership and special provisions allow free Israeli travel and protect Israeli property rights.
The Jordanian King Abdullah II said that as of Sunday, 10/11/2019, Israeli farmers will be banned from entering the Naharayim enclave.
Header image: farm fields spread across the Northern Jordan Valley near Naharayim