A decision by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to reclaim territory leased to Israel for a quarter of a century was spurred by domestic pressures and the Arab nation’s struggling economy, experts said.
The move announced at the weekend risks sparking a crisis between the neighbouring countries which signed an historic peace treaty in 1994, they warned.
King Abdullah said his country had notified Israel that it wants to take back two border areas: Baqura in the northern province of Irbid and Ghumar in the southern province of Aqaba.
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would like to open negotiations with Jordan to keep the current arrangement in place.
The Hashemite kingdom said it was willing to engage in talks but insisted on its right to reclaim the land.
Israel occupied Jordanian territories including Ghumar in the Six-Day War of 1967 and seized Baqura when its forces infiltrated the kingdom in 1950.
During peace talks, Jordan agreed to lease the lands to Israel for a 25-year renewable period under annexes of the treaty that lay down a one-year notice period, with the kingdom retaining sovereignty.
King Abdullah’s announcement on Sunday came days before the end of this notice period.
“The king had two choices: either risking a crisis with Israel, or risking protests and a worsening of the internal situation,” said Oraib Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman.
“Jordanians on the street are angry, especially over the economy, and they don’t need new crises or disappointments,” he said.