Analysis: Jordan Ignores Israeli Bombshell Announcement on Joint Projects
Government, press remain mum on Jordan Gateway project
[Amman] The news in Jordan on Sunday was focused on a major modernization plan that aimed at improving public service. The plan laid out in the presence of King Abdullah II includes closing down ministries, merging ministries, and reworking the public sector to enable greater efficiency and accountability, and better governance.
The Jordanian press was also enamored with the decision by a 13-year-old female taekwondo athlete not to compete for the bronze medal at the Sofia Open in Bulgaria because she would be matched against an Israeli girl.
But for some strange reason, a major story that could have a long-term effect on Jordan was missing in action.
The Jordanian royal court, the Bisher Al Khasawneh government, and both the official and private media totally ignored a major Israeli announcement concerning Jordan that was made at the outset of the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who made a surprise visit to the Jordanian royal court four days ago, opened the Israeli cabinet session with a bombshell announcement.
The Jordan Gateway will enable Israelis and Jordanians to “conveniently” cross between the sides to work on joint projects. The proposal nearly 30 years in waiting was approved by the ministers at Sunday’s meeting.
Jordan has yet to confirm its participation in it although it has not denied it either. Of 77 stories published on the official Jordanian Petra News Agency site, no mention was made of an announcement made in Israel about a major Israeli-Jordanian industrial park that has been waiting for approval since the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
Why the Jordanian silence?
While King Abdullah has warmed up to the post-Netanyahu Israeli government, the Jordanian palace is reluctant to go against its own public, which is largely opposed to any joint projects with Israel.
In order to move on the project, the king needed the acquiescence of the Palestinian leadership. That is why he sent two of his royal military helicopters to pick up Mahmoud Abbas and his aides for a short meeting at the palace on July 24.
A Palestinian official who attended the meeting told The Media Line that Palestinians are opposed to any normalization activities as long as the political track between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is dormant. “We don’t want any part of the Negev Forum and all related projects while the occupation continues,” the senior Palestinian source said.
It is not clear whether the normalization projects that were referred to also include Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel. But judging by Amman’s silence, it is clear that the Jordan Gateway project has yet to receive full-throated approval. It is noteworthy that Jordan did not deny the news out of Israel but chose a third option and stayed silent, neither confirming and blessing nor criticizing and opposing the Israeli-announced plan.
What is most likely is that Jordan has given tacit approval with the hope that in time the issue can be finessed in a way that doesn’t cause any major internal political waves.
While the issue of investment is a top priority for Jordan, the political situation in the country is still fragile. Last week, when US Ambassador to Jordan Henry Wooster visited the southern city of Kerak and suggested that American funding would be helping to ease the economic situation, the statement was criticized in some circles as interference in Jordan’s internal affairs.
With the cold peace between Israel and Jordan, due to the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it might be a long time before the Jordan Gateway project comes to fruition.