Jordan-Israeli relations

Jawad Anani. (Photo: Jordan News)
Jawad Anani. (Photo: Jordan News)
Is there a genuine change in the current Israeli government’s attitude towards Jordan that is markedly different from the previous one under Benjamin Netanyahu? Not even the most optimistic Israeli analyst daresay that Naftali Bennett can maintain more neighborly relations. His record is that of a staunch hardliner, and he has often been quoted calling for the “repulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank” and for them to be sent to Jordan where the “alternative homeland for Palestinians is”.اضافة اعلان

I had a chance to be on hot panel with him on BBC’s program “Global Issues,” and he looked grumpier than a ferocious beast.

However, news leaks from Israel had revealed that he had a secret meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah in Amman before the King’s trip to the US. It was also revealed that Bennett would be traveling to the US to meet with President Joe Biden.

The King and the prime minister will both be in Washington DC at the same time. There is speculation that the two could be meeting bilaterally, and both could also hold a joint session with the US President.

Other developments that both Jordanian and Israeli media have divulged are even more surprising. Netanyahu, angered by the King’s resistance to all his schemes in the so-called “Deal of the Century” and the annexation of West Bank territory had been denying Jordan wider access to the West Bank’s markets and even denying Jordan its agreed to share of water from the Jordan River as per the Peace Agreement of 1994.

After Bennett’s secret visit to Amman and his proclaimed meeting with King Abdullah was leaked, all of the issues kept on tap by previous Israeli governments were allowed to run their course, as were other things which indicate not only more relaxed relations but greater prospects of cooperation.

Israel will not only give Jordan the an 50 million cubic meters of water, but will even sell Jordan an extra 50 million, which Jordan ardently needs during this hot summer and after a meager rainy season.

Jordan, whose population almost doubled in the last 10 years to 11 million, needs water to meet spiraling demand. The price at which the water will be sold was not revealed by either side. But it seems that water will be a new cross-border good traded between Jordan and Israel.

Jordan has always been discontent with the provisions of the 1997 Paris Protocol signed between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. The list included in that protocol virtually denied Jordan any access to the West Bank market. In contrast, Jordan allows large quantities of Palestinian goods to be exported to Jordan, or via Jordan to other countries. So in a way, the West Bank’s surplus with Jordan partly finances the West Bank’s trade deficit with Israel.  

Such an asymmetric relation could not be sustained. The declared meeting between Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi and Israel’s alternative Prime Minster and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed both water and trade issues. Both would help the Jordanian economy.

Yet, Israel can do more. Jordan has excess electricity and Israel, which is making a bundle off its gas sales to Jordan, should buy electricity from Jordan during its peak hours. That would help Jordan meet the high cost of electricity generation.

All of these economic confidence-building measures are useful, provided both countries make tangible progress on the Palestinians’ right to have their own lands, integrity, and independent state. Let us see what the winds will bring.

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