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Jordan, Palestinians Reviving Economic Relations
(L-R) Jordanian Industry Minister Yousef Al Shamali (Jordan Ministry of Industry and Trade), Palestinian National Economy Minister Khalid Al-Esseily (Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Jordan, Palestinians Reviving Economic Relations

Officials expect to sign nine joint economic agreements Thursday in the presence of the Palestinian and Jordanian prime ministers

(Amman) Jordanian Palestinian relations have been given a big boost indirectly by the Israeli policy of refusing to carry out any talks or negotiations. The Joint Jordanian-Palestinian Higher Committee is holding meetings in Ramallah that aim at being climaxed on Thursday with the visit by Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh. The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that nine joint agreements will be signed in the presence of the Palestinian and Jordanian prime ministers.

Khalid Al-Esseily, the Palestinian national economy minister, told The Media Line that if the Israelis allow it the relations with Jordan can top $1 billion a year. “We can easily reach more than $1 billion or even Jordan dinars if the Israelis agree to ease the movement of people and goods.” According to Esseily, Israel now allows the King Hussein Bridge to be open until 3 pm daily, five days a week. “The current situation creates backlogs as trucks wait in line and this delay is costly. We need the bridge to be open 24/7 for both people and goods and we need to shift from the costly back-to-back system to door-to-door transport.”

One of the stumbling blocks in developing the economic relations is the Paris Protocol signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1994, which lists the items that the Palestinian government is allowed to import on its own. Jordan and Palestine are seeking to widen this list in order to be able to create more equitable economic relations and to increase cross-border exchange.

Esseily suggests the possibility of reopening Damia Bridge, which lies north of the current King Hussein Bridge. “If we can get Damia Bridge open with the focus on commercial exchange this can help break the current log jam in which trucks wait for days to be able to cross the Israeli-controlled borders into the Palestinian areas.”

Esseily provided some examples of areas of economic improvement if the bridge crossing is eased. “We can easily buy $500 million worth of cement per year. At present we are purchasing cement from Israeli and Turkey to the tune of 400,000 tons a year.” Esseily also noted that Palestine would like to buy at least 180 megawatts of electricity from Jordan.

On the agricultural level, both Jordan and Palestine are planning to create a joint company that will help market produce around the world. Gaza produces fresh strawberries in the winter that bring good prices in Europe, sources tell The Media Line.

Jordanian exports to the Palestinian market reached only $152 million last year, a decrease of 6.3% from the previous year, while Palestinian exports to Jordan reached $50.5 last year, according to Wafa News.

In the first eight months alone, Jordan has exported $116 million to Palestine, an increase of 30% over the same period in the previous year.

Jordanian Industry Minister Yousef Alshamali said that there is work on creating at least eight joint projects in commercial and industrial areas all aimed at creating sustainable development.

The Media Line contacted the spokesman of the Israeli army and the spokesman of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories for reactions on the issue of the crossing points but no answer was received by publishing time.

Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the Palestinian National Council and a regular columnist in the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour, told The Media Line that with the absence of a political horizon by the Bennett administration Jordan had no choice but to seek ways to protect its national interests.

“The fact that the US and Israel are in agreement about the need to work on improving the lives of Palestinians has created an opening for Jordan,” Faraneh said. Jordan needs to invest in this opportunity to accomplish improvements with the aim of supporting Palestinian steadfastness. “The Jordanian strategic political/security goal in this is to protect Jordanian national security by keeping the Palestinians on their land and rejecting Israeli attempts to make the Palestinian issue into a Jordanian one,” he insists. “Jordan is for Jordanians and Palestine is for Palestinians.”

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