Israel and Jordan Approve Joint Industrial Park
Israel advanced plans to establish a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial park across their border and connected by an already-existing bridge. Labeled the “Jordan Gateway”, it is located just above the northeastern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, close to the Israeli city of Beit She’an.
The project is a sign of improving ties between the countries following years of diplomatic malaise. Ties between Israel and Jordan deteriorated in recent years, particularly after an incident in the Israeli embassy in Amman, the Jordanian capital: an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians, one of whom had stabbed him with a screwdriver, while the other was apparently killed unintentionally. The situation was further exacerbated by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu publishing photographs of himself hugging the security guard.
According to an Israeli statement, the idea was first proposed in 1994 when the two countries normalized ties, but it was formally agreed upon in Amman during a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and King of Jordan Abdullah II.
The settlement for the project came, indeed, during a cabinet meeting on Sunday, during which Tel Aviv said “it will allow Israeli and Jordanian entrepreneurs and businesspeople to communicate directly” and “will produce joint initiatives in trade, technology, and local industry”, adding that the project “will be advanced, developed and operated in coordination and conjunction with the Kingdom of Jordan and with mutual agreement on the goals of the project and aspects of its operation”.
The proposal came from the Regional Cooperation Ministry, which promotes Israel’s ties to the Middle East, and the local Emek Hamaayanot regional council, which will house the Israeli side of the industrial park.
According to statements by the Israeli government, the project is estimated to cost about 200 million Israeli shekels ($59m). It will include Israeli and Jordanian factories on the Jordanian side, while a logistics wing will be built on the Israeli side for transferring goods out of Israeli ports on the Mediterranean Sea.
The zone will be run by the Israeli Airports Authority, which also manages Israel’s Taba land crossing with Egypt and other border crossings. It means it will fall under Israel’s transportation minister’s purview.
Lapid commented that “this is a breakthrough that will contribute greatly to developing and strengthening the region.”
While this will be the first-ever joint infrastructure project between the two bordering countries, several Arab states have been advancing economic and security agreements with Israel in recent years.
Despite opposition from Palestinians, in 2019 former U.S. President Donald Trump launched an economic plan between Israel, Palestine, and Arab states, while in May 2022, Israel signed a free-trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – its first big trade accord with an Arab country.