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

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

The industrial plan appears to signal a dramatic improvement in bilateral relations between Israel and Jordan after years of strained diplomatic relations.

The joint industrial complex will be connected by an existing border bridge, allowing Jordanians and Israelis to cooperate on joint industrial projects.

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

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

The Israeli prime minister further hailed the joint industrial park as being mutually beneficial for both countries and for the entire Middle East.

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

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a history of complex ties with Israel. 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 on the Jewish state nascent. Jordan and Israel eventually developed secret ties. However, for many years Amman was unwilling to formalize its ties with Jerusalem, fearing internal 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 have soured sharply with personal animosity between Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan. In 2017, an Israeli security officer at the Israeli embassy in Jordan killed two Jordanian nationals in a clash that led to a further deterioration in bilateral relations.

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

“There was a serious disconnect with Jordan for years because my predecessor posted on Instagram a post about the guard who accidentally killed a Jordanian. For an Instagram post, we severed ties with Jordan for years,” Bennett said.

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

During an interview on CNN in July 2021, the Jordanian king said he was encouraged by the new Israeli leadership under Bennett and Lapid.

“More importantly, from my perspective, is to get Israelis and Palestinians to re-engage. And I’ve come away from those meetings feeling very encouraged, and I think we’ve seen, over the past two weeks, not only a better understanding between Israel and Jordan, but the voices coming from Israel and Palestine that we need to move forward and reset that relationship,” King Abdullah told CNN. In November 2021, Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates signed a massive water-solar deal in Dubai.

The latest Israeli-Jordanian industrial cooperation will also likely bolster the burgeoning Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords.

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

These four Arab states maintain 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 bolster the burgeoning regional cooperation between more of the Sunni Arab world and Israel.

This article originally appeared on ALL NEWS FROM ISRAEL and is republished with permission.

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