Why Is Jordan Taking Back the “Isle of Peace?”
In 1994, when Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty, a few parcels of land in Israeli control were transferred to Jordan and then promptly leased back to Israel so that the Israeli farmers who had been tending the land there could continue to do so. Dubbed the “Isle of Peace,” this land has remained in Israeli control ever since. But in an announcement on Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced that he will be exerting Jordanian sovereignty over the land. More at YNET.
The government to government ties between Jerusalem and Amman are strong, with both sides recognizing that while the other might not always do what they want, both their interests are supremely served by peace and cooperation. Where there is a problem is at the people to people level, or, more precisely, at the Jordanian people. In very general terms, it’s fair to say that the 1994 peace agreement did not filter down to Jordanian masses. The Jordanians might already be drinking Israeli water, are scheduled to be heating their homes with Israeli natural gas in 2020, and benefit in numerous ways from security cooperation with Israel, but, for the most part, they don’t like Israel. And this is something that King Abdullah II has to take into account.
Jordan is home to nearly 2.2 million Palestinians whom UNRWA has registered as refugees, about a fifth of the kingdom’s population. Additionally, an economic crisis that struck the kingdom over the past year may also have pushed Abdullah not to renew this portion of the treaty, in an effort to appease hardliners and prevent a potential coup, veteran regional analyst Ehud Yaari told Hadashot news on Sunday night.
Three things to learn from the decision by Jordan to get back its small piece of land:
1. 25 years is a very short time. Barely a blink on the regional radar (this is an important reminder for those still hoping for the ten-year hiatus in Iranian production of nuclear material).
2. A lease is not a sustainable solution for land in a nationalist region. That is unless we all understand that it’s temporary (and that time flies).
3. Agreement with “nice” Arab rulers (the Jordanian King) are no different than agreements with less nice Arab rulers. They both have domestic politics and state interests that trump niceties.