‘Jordan Gate’ would not normalize Jordan-Israel ties — ex-Israeli envoy

‘Jordan Gate’ would not normalize Jordan-Israel ties — ex-Israeli envoy
(Photo: Jordan News)

AMMAN — The former Israeli ambassador and member of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Oded Eran, expressed doubt that accelerating a neglected project to build a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial zone straddling the banks of the Jordan River, recently announced by Israel, would improve the normalization of relations between the two countries.اضافة اعلان

“I am hesitant to say this signifies a normalizing of relations between Israelis and Jordanians,” Eran told The Circuit news site last week.

“However, if this project does finally come to a conclusion, it will be an important step, psychologically, because it has become a lingering symbol of the failure of the relations between Israel and Jordan.”

 “I think that in the Jordan-Israel context, this industrial park is very important and should not be underestimated,” said Eran, who served as the Israeli ambassador in Amman from 1997 to 2000, and was head of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations delegation in 1999–2000.

“General unemployment in Jordan stands at 25 percent, while for women and the younger generation it reaches 50 percent, so every additional place of employment is important, and in general, it is important for Jordan’s economy,” he explained.

“The trend toward normalization in Jordan is not encouraged or developed,” because of Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, said Eran, adding that there are even forces actively working “against Jordan joining the framework of the Abraham Accords”, the 2020 normalization agreement signed by Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain. Sudan and Morocco agreed to normalize ties with Israel later that year.

The former ambassador cautioned that the political and demographic situation in Jordan is tricky when it comes to Israel.

Relations between the two countries have long been tense, with Jordan watching anxiously whenever there is unrest at Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, which it formally oversees under the current status quo. Actions by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who proposed annexing the West Bank, and the launch of former US president Donald Trump’s peace plan, only served to increase the pressure.

According to The Circuit, the creation of a cross-border industrial park was initially outlined in the peace treaty Israel and Jordan signed in 1994.

Within three years, a Qualifying Industrial Zone was established in Irbid with the aim of taking advantage of Israel’s Free Trade Agreement with the US.

That concept soon transformed into the Jordan Gateway plan, or Jordan Gate, an economic zone where citizens of each country could move freely within a designated “bubble”.

It added that Jordan had set aside an area of roughly 12,000sq.m. for the project and today, on the Jordanian side, sits a handful of manufacturing plants employing around 500 workers.

On the Israeli side, which is slated to house a medical center and a high-tech park, the area remains empty, held up by internal bickering among various governmental bodies and security concerns.

In 2012, Israel renewed efforts to fulfill its side of the project, appointing the Ministry of Regional Cooperation to take charge of the plan and coordinate among all the official parties.

A bridge connecting the two banks of the river was completed in 2019, but still stands unused, waiting for an official authority to facilitate crossings.

Israel’s regional cooperation minister, Issawi Frej, told The Circuit that the Jordan Gateway was “part of the major progress that we have carried out in strengthening relations with Jordan in the past year”.

“We started with the agreement to export water in exchange for solar energy and now have this decision, which takes the vision of civil peace, not just between the countries but also between the peoples, an additional step further,” he said.

An official outline of Jordan Gateway, given to The Circuit, notes the benefits and political importance of this joint economic-civic venture to both Israel and Jordan, including providing Israel access to the wider Arab world and giving Jordan access to the West.

“Beyond the political importance of a joint economic-civic venture, the benefits to Jordan from the venture are access to advanced technology, methods, and knowledge, and approximately 10,000 jobs, as well as the possibility of marketing products that will be manufactured in the park to Israel and/or through the port of Haifa to Europe and the US,” the document read.

It added: “The benefits for the private sector in Israel include access for Israeli products to markets in the Arab world, production close to Israel at the costs of the Jordanian market and business cooperation with entrepreneurs and investors from Jordan and other Arab countries.”

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