The law amending the "Petra Development Tourism Authority Authority Law", in southern Jordan, sparked widespread controversy in the corridors of the House of Representatives, which spread to the Jordanian street, amid fears of Israelis owning the city of Petra.
The draft law has been postponed for discussion for many years, and according to its proposed amendments, legal entities are allowed to own immovable property located in the region of the region, provided that the percentage of Jordanians owning it is more than 51%.
The House of Representatives rejected the proposed bill amendments by the Parliamentary Committee of Tourism and Antiquities, and it was decided to return it to the committee itself in order to study it and make appropriate amendments to it, setting legal barriers to foreign ownership in the Petra region.
The draft law concerns ownership in the Petra region of the Ma'an Governorate, which has a total area (755 sq km), outside the ancient city (Petra), which was classified in 2007 as one of the wonders of the world.
Parliamentary and popular concerns
Parliamentary and popular concerns arise from foreign ownership, especially of Israelis, of lands and properties in Petra, in light of the widespread Israeli interest in the ancient city and its proportions as an ancient Jewish heritage.
A member of the Parliamentary Tourism Committee, Representative Saud Abu Mahfouz, speaks of fears aloud, saying that the Israelis market Petra as part of their heritage and every day we find it on the lists of occupational tourism marketing.
The deputy adds to Al-Jazeera Net, that there is an Israeli plan to housing four million Jews in southern Jordan, which is recorded in their locations, and that what happened in the Petra Mosque (the Prophet Haroun) is a great example of this.
Abu Mahfouz believes that if it was necessary to sell or rent, let that be exclusively for the Jordanian without having a second nationality with him, because the effects are a sovereign issue and they are an ingredient of identity.
The Jordanian Ministry of Endowments closed the shrine of the Prophet Harun (Petra Mosque) in August last year, after video clips of Israeli tourists performing Talmudic rituals spread in the Petra region and inside the shrine of the Prophet Harun.
"The Israeli occupation has ambitions in Jordan, Petra, and the governments are trying to put in place the legislation that helps sell them to this brutal entity," MP Sadah al-Habashneh wrote on his Facebook page.
The number of Israeli tourists who visited Petra in 2019 was 34,000, according to government figures.
For his part, the head of the Parliamentary Tourism Committee, MP Hassan Al-Ajarmah, believes that the amendments were aimed at strengthening the tourism and heritage industry, and that the amendments stipulated the approval of the Council of Ministers to sell any property.
Al-Ajarmah assures Al-Jazeera Net that the draft law at the present time did not talk about the archaeological area but rather about the lands and properties of the region, and that the previous law did not talk about "foreign investment" but rather Arab investments.
The head of the Parliamentary Committee stated that the amendments had become in the hands of the committee and would re-examine it according to the Council’s vision and would place the required controls within a framework aimed at further stimulating tourism in the region.
And the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism considered, according to its Minister, Majd Shweikeh, that the objectives of the draft law are to diversify tourism products and expand hotels to extend the stay of tourists in the Petra region, amidst crowded hotels with tourists without any expansion since 2009.
The value of the revenues of the tourism sector as of last July was $ 3.2 billion, for a total of 2.9 million tourists, according to data issued by the Central Bank of Jordan.
With the increase in the parliamentary debate that has cast a shadow over the Jordanian street, there has been increasing talk about an official tendency to sell lands in the Petra Reserve, which called on the Jordanian government to respond to these "rumors," as described.
The government affirmed through the platform “Your Right to Know” that everything that is rumored about selling lands in Petra is completely false, and it contains a clear misleading of public opinion, distortion of facts, and discouragement of national efforts and accomplishments, while we are witnessing remarkable progress in the tourism sector reflected in numbers and indicators.