The Island of an Uneasy Peace
For nearly 70 years Israeli farmers have worked the fields near the border of Jordan and Israel. The fields, Naharyim and Tzofarl, Jordan leases to Israel, “As part of the peace deal, Israeli farmers could continue to work their lands in cooperation with Jordanian authorities.” At Naharyim is the Island of Peace, a small piece of land formed by the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers, which became the scene of a bloody massacre March 13, 1997, as 7 Israeli schoolgirls were gunned down by Jordanian soldier, Ahmed Daqamseh. He was sentenced to 22 years in a Jordanian prison, and was released in 2017. After the massacre, Naharyim Island became known as Peace Island. Currently, it has become a symbol of division between the two countries.
As part of the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, the two nations negotiated a 25 year lease for Israeli farmers to work the lands. This lease would remain in effect until either country chose to end this arrangement, and would do so one year before the termination date. In October of 2018, Jordan said they would terminate the arrangement in October, 2019. King Abdullah, pressured by his own people to end the lease asserts, “Our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and Jordanians.” The area of land in question is just under one square mile, and the lease termination would affect 30 farmers and 250 acres of land.
The lease ends in October of this year, 25 years after the death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom King Abdullah’s father signed the peace treaty with Israel. With both parties facing challenges within their countries, Israel is going to the polls April 9, “The real issue is what Abdullah’s announcement means for deteriorating Jordanian-Israeli relations.” One encouraging note, the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, “presented his credentials at the Foreign Ministry, taking a step to restoring ties between the shaky allies.”
Hopefully, the leaders of the two countries will maintain the lease agreement for another twenty five years, or more, allowing the island to live up to its name- Peace Island.
Source: The Times of Israel; written by Melanie Lidman