Jordan Reclaims Land from Israel

By Morgan Stage

In 1994 Israel and Jordan officially signed a peace treaty, which ended the state of de facto war between the two countries that had existed since 1948.[1] In that treaty, Jordan agreed to allow Israel to lease two areas of land known as al-Ghumar and al-Baqura.[2] The lease was to run for 25 years with the option to renew the lease.[3] However, in October 2018 King Abdullah II announced that Jordan would be reclaiming the land leased to Israel in the peace treaty.[4] What will this mean for relations between Jordan and Israel?

While Jordan has calmed its relations with Israel, not everyone in the Middle East has.[5] As with many countries in the Middle East, Jordan and Israel’s history of conflict stems from claims to “the Holy Land.”[6] “The Holy Land” also called “The West Bank” is currently within Israel’s control and has been since 1967. [7] This area of land has been the center of conflict throughout the Middle East due to fact that the worlds three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all claim the land as sacred.[8]

About one-third of Jordanians are Palestinians.[9] Palestinians are the decedents of those Muslims who lived in Palestine[10] – a region including the West Bank.[11]  Palestinians living in Jordan believe they have a rightful claim to the land currently held by Israel.[12] In 1948, and again in 1967, many Palestinians living in the West Bank area were forced to move from their homes and become refugees in Jordan.[13] Though Jordan is ten times larger than the West Bank, the majority of the country is barren desert; therefore many Palestinians living in Jordan live in close proximity to the West Bank but are not allowed to go back to the land they were forced to leave.[14]

Israel took control of the West Bank at the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967 and has remained in control of the territory to this day.[15] The Six-Day War was a conflict between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.[16] The war broke out after years of political friction between these countries.[17]

The tension between these states began in 1948 over the founding of Israel.[18] Originally, the United Nations had ordered to create a joint Israeli and Palestinian state in part of the area now known as Israel; however, this quickly was deemed to be an unsuccessful as the Arab-Israeli War broke out in 1948.[19] The Israeli’s eventually won that war and established what is today the country of Israel.[20] The Palestinians, having lost the land to the Israelis failed to create their own nation-state.[21] Though the Israelis won, and established their own state of Israel this area did not include the West Bank, instead Jordan controlled the West Bank.[22]  The conflict between these states continued and 1967, as stated above, the Six-Day War began where Israel then took control of the West Bank.[23]

While the war may have concluded, Palestinian-Israeli relations remained tense; however, Jordan’s King Hussein renounced Jordan’s claim to the West Bank in 1987 despite Palestinian objection.[24]  The conflict between the Palestinians continued, but the country of Jordan began to smooth its relations with Israel, which eventually resulted in both countries signing a peace treaty in 1994.[25] In this treaty, Israel and Jordan laid out a plan for their role in achieving peace in the Middle East.[26]

In Annex I of the Treaty, the states established what the borders of each country would be, but left the determination of the West Bank untouched.[27] It is also in this section that Israel recognized Jordan’s sovereignty over the al-Ghumar and al-Baqura areas, but Jordan agreed to lease these areas of land to Israel.[28] “Under the terms of the peace treaty, the [lease] was to remain in force for 25 years and could be renewed automatically or terminated with one year’s notice by either party.”[29] The lease will expire in 2019, and the deadline to renew the lease was October 25, 2018.[30]

In mid-October 2018, King Abdullah II of Jordan announced his intention to terminate the lease with Israel and reclaim its property.[31] This is likely in reaction to Jordanians signing a petition calling for the King to terminate the lease.[32] The termination of the lease came as a surprise to Israel.[33] The al-Ghumar and al-Baqura areas are important to Israel’s farming operations as the soil is rich in nutrients.[34] Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly announced that he hopes to negotiate with King Abdullah II in hopes of continuing Israel’s use of the land.[35] While there has been no immediate conflict between these two countries[36], will be important to see how the relations between these two countries proceed as we move towards the termination of the lease next year.


[1] See Nicholas Frakes, World War 3: Jordan Demands Israel Return Land Leased Under 1994 Peace Treaty, Express (Oct. 22, 2018),

[2] Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Article 3, Oct. 26, 1994, Vol. 2042, I-35325 [hereinafter Peace Treaty].

[3] Frakes, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Middle East Focus: Jordan & Israel in World Literature Today 73, 74 (2005),

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] It is important to note that not all Palestinians are Muslim, but the Muslim Palestinians seek to create their own nation state. Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Six-Day War, History, (last updated Aug. 21, 2018).

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Israel-Palestine Peace Accord Signed, History, (last updated Aug. 21, 2018).

[25] Id.

[26] Peace Treaty, supra note 2 at Art. 1.

[27] Annex to Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Annex I, Sept. 19, 1996, Vol. 2042, I-35325

[28] Id.

[29] Isabel Kershner and Rana Sweis, Jordan Reclaims Lands Used by Israel Under Peace Treaty, N.Y. Times (Oct. 21, 2018)

[30] Frakes, supra note 3.

[31] Kershner and Sweis, supra note 28.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] See Frakes supra note 3.

[35] Id.

[36] Kershner and Sweis, supra note 28.