Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

On 26 October 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty at the Arava border crossing, north of Aqaba. By doing so, Jordan was the second Arab country to conclude formal peace with Israel (after Egypt in 1979).

This treaty is the result of several developments:

The abandonment on 31 July 1988, during the Palestinian Intifada, of king Hussein’s claim to rule the West Bank;

The Conference for Peace in the Middle East which started on 30 October 1991 in Madrid and the bilateral peace negotiations between Jordan and Israel in the framework of this Conference;

The signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) on 13 September 1994 between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). The DOP was negotiated outside the Madrid framework and gave the opportunity to Jordan to also negotiate alone with Israel (without considering an Arab consensus as a necessity).

On September 14, 1994, one day after the formal signing of the DOP in Washington, Jordan and Israel agreed on a Common Agenda which cleared the way for a peace treaty between them, which was signed on October 26.

Under this peace treaty, Jordan recovered its nominal sovereignty over all its territories occupied by Israel such as the Baqura Area and the Al-Ghamr Area, an area of 344 km² occupied by Israel between 1968 and 1970. But in fact the land remained in Israeli hands: the Israelis living in the mentioned areas obtained the right to use it for 25 years. Jordan also obtained the recognition by Israel of a « special historical role » for Jordan in Jerusalem. (King Hussein’s 1998 decision to disengage legally and administratively from the West Bank in favour of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation did not include the Islamic Awqaf (properties) and the Holy Sites in Jerusalem).

Further articles in the treaty provided for the establishment of diplomatic relations, open borders, the recovery of water rights and economic cooperation. The delicate question of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 – the majority of Jordan’s population are Palestinians – was postponed until the final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO. The question of the return of Palestinian « displaced persons » – Palestinians of the West Bank who fled to Jordan during the Six Day War of 1967 – was referred to a quadripartite commission (Israel, PLO, Jordan and Egypt).

In accordance with their peace treaty, Jordan and Israel exchanged ambassadors in November 1994. Border post were opened and thousands of Israeli tourists visited Jordan. The national Jordanian airline obtained the exceptional right to cross the Israeli airspace for flights coming from Europe; this makes the journey one hour shorter than for other airlines flying to Amman.

Several additional treaties (on transportation and civil aviation, science and culture, communications…) were signed. There was no progress on the subject of the return of « displaced persons ».

After the particularly dry winter 1998-99, some serious difficulties appeared in March 1999 following the Israeli decision to cut the amount of water it pledged to transfer to Jordan. Jordan is nevertheless determined to receive the 20 million m³ of water which Israel is committed to supply.

Since the outburst of the new intifada in October 2000 and since Ariel Sharon’s election as Prime minister, Israeli-Jordanian relations have very much cooled down. This is due to the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to the deep angst related to the fact that Ariel Sharon still sees Jordan as a « Palestinian state » whose Palestinian majority (refugees) should constitute the leaders. This vision of the conflict does not please the PLO leaders either.