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Israel green lights joint industrial park with Jordan, signaling improved bilateral ties

This latest Israeli-Jordanian industrial cooperation will likely strengthen wider Abraham Accords

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan, July 27, 2022 (Photo: Haim Tzach/GPO)

The Israeli government is advancing the “Jordan Gateway” plan, which envisions the establishment of a joint Jordanian-Israeli industrial park on the shared border. 

The industrial plan appears to signal dramatically improved bilateral relations between Israel and Jordan after years of strained diplomatic ties. 

The joint industrial complex will be connected by an existing border bridge, making it possible for both Jordanians and Israelis to cooperate on joint industrial projects. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the planned joint industrial park as a new chapter in Jordanian-Israeli ties during a Cabinet meeting on Sunday. 

“Twenty-eight years after we made peace with Jordan, we are taking the good neighborliness between the two countries one step further. This is a breakthrough that will greatly contribute to the development and strengthening of the region. The final details regarding this initiative were addressed last week during my visit with King Abdullah II in Amman,” Lapid said. 

The Israeli premier further hailed the joint industrial park as mutually beneficial for both countries and the wider Middle East. 

“This is an initiative that will increase employment in both countries, advance our economic and diplomatic relations, and enhance the peace and friendship between our two countries. I thank Transportation and Road Safety Minister Merav Michaeli for mobilizing all of the relevant officials for this process,” said Lapid. 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a history of complex ties with Israel. The late Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir secretly met with the current Jordanian king’s grandfather in Amman in 1948, urging him to resist pressure to join the pan-Arab attack against the fledgling Jewish state. Jordan and Israel eventually developed covert ties. However, for many years, Amman did not want to formalize its ties with Jerusalem, fearing domestic and regional Arab opposition. 

In 1994, Jordan became the second Arab state after Egypt to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. When Netanyahu was prime minister, Israel strengthened its relations with Egypt and eventually signed the historic Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

However, Jordanian-Israeli relations reportedly deteriorated sharply, with personal animosity between Netanyahu and the Jordan's King Abdullah II. In 2017, an Israeli security guard at the Israeli Embassy in Jordan killed two Jordanian nationals during a confrontation that led to a further deterioration in bilateral ties. 

During the Sunday cabinet meeting, alternate-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recalled the embassy incident by criticizing his predecessor Netanyahu for damaging Israel’s relations with Jordan by embracing the security guard. 

“There was a severe disconnect with Jordan for years because my predecessor put up a post on Instagram of the guard who accidentally killed a Jordanian. For a post on Instagram, we damaged ties with Jordan for years,” said Bennett. 

Meanwhile, Bennett and Lapid have worked hard to repair Israel’s diplomatic ties with Jordan.

The Jordanian king, during a CNN interview in July 2021, said he was encouraged by the new Israeli leadership under Bennett and Lapid. 

“More importantly, from my view, is getting the Israelis and Palestinians engaging again. And I came out of those meetings feeling very encouraged and I think we have seen, in the past couple of weeks, not only a better understanding between Israel and Jordan, but the voices coming out of both Israel and Palestine that we need to move forward and reset that relationship,” King Abdullah told CNN. In November 2021, Israel, Jordan and the UAE signed a massive water-solar deal in Dubai. 

The latest Israeli-Jordanian industrial cooperation will likely strengthen the wider burgeoning Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords. 

Jordan is also a partner in “The Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth,” a newly established regional Arab industrial cooperation platform which also includes Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain.

These four Arab states have full diplomatic relations with Israel and seek closer cooperation with the Jewish state and the West. By sharing more technological expertise with its neighbor Jordan, Jerusalem will simultaneously strengthen the emerging regional cooperation between more of the Sunni Arab world and Israel.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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