DEBKAfile Exclusive: Israeli farmers could continue to work the land in the enclaves reclaimed by Jordan by registering as Jordanian companies, under a compromise deal emerging from talks between Jerusalem and Amman on Monday, Oct. 22.
Our sources report that on Monday, Israel asked Jordan for explanations after King Abdullah’s abrupt decision to invoke the annexes in the 1994 peace treaty and so end Israel’s 25-year lease under Jordanian sovereignty of the Naharayim/Baqur enclave, known as the “Island of Peace, and the Zofar/Al Ghamr area in the southern Israeli Arava. The lease runs out in 2019.
In the course of these talks, a compromise proposal is reported by DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources to have gained approval from the king. The Israeli farmers working the land in the two enclaves could continue to do so if they registered ownership as Jordanian companies. They would be required to operate under Jordanian company regulations and pay taxes to the royal treasury.
The Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi’s TV statement on Monday night denying any Israeli request had been received for consultations on the issue was meant for local consumption. He made the point that Jordanian sovereignty over the two enclaves was not up for discussion. The compromise revealed here fully respects that sovereignty.
The “Island of Peace” is an artificial pocket of 1,000 dunams of land situated between the Rivers Jordan and Yarmuk. It has been farmed for decades by the veteran Kibbutz Ashdod Yaakov.
Zofar is an enclave of 4,500 dunams in the demilitarized border region of the Arava. The Zofar Moshav uses 2,000 dunams to grow vegetables, mostly in greenhouses. To enter Zofar, it is necessary to pass through Israeli and Jordanian checkpoints. On Sunday, DEBKAfile analyzed King Abdullah’s motives for curtailing the peace treaty with Israel.