October 26, 2004 marked a decade since the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. Israel views its relations with Jordan as strategically important and accordingly is working to promote their bilateral relations in a number of fields: the economy, commerce, agriculture, water, the environment, etc.
An ongoing dialogue also exists between the two states on political issues, at the highest levels. Israel views Jordan as an island of stability in the region and a significant partner in the efforts to achieve peace with its Middle East neighbors.
Following is a review of Israeli-Jordanian relations.
Economy and Commerce
Commercial ties are particularly important in promoting the relations between the two states and are a major factor in their success and expansion. Israeli-Jordanian bilateral relations have undergone an impressive and constant development since the signing of the peace treaty: mutual commerce has grown from $13 million in 1996 to at least $130 million in 2003 ($130 million according to figures released by the Israeli government, and $240 million according to the Jordanian government data).
Furthermore, Israel is the sixth largest importer of Jordanian goods. Jordanian exports to Israel in the first seven months of 2004 reached $130 million, an increase of 15% compared to a similar period last year, and have been constantly on the rise since the signing of the peace treaty, totaling $260 million since the beginning of commercial exchanges between the two states. Israeli exports to Jordan have enjoyed a similar success. In the first seven months of 2004, Israeli exports to Jordan jumped 40%, to about $78 million. Total Israeli exports to Jordan since the signing of the peace treaty stands at about $400 million.
One of the most prominent examples of the "fruits of peace" with Israel is the dramatic rise in Jordanian exports to the United States, which has become in recent years the Kingdom’s No. 1 market (constituting about 30% of total Jordanian exports). This is a direct result of the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) Agreement of 1996, which established industrial parks as part of the cooperation between Israel and Jordan and with the active support of the American government and Congress. The QIZ initiative enables Jordanian products with Israeli added value to be imported into the American market duty free. Another important benefit of QIZ is the employment provided by its factories to nearly 30 thousand people, most of them Jordanians. As a result of QIZ, Jordanian exports to the US increased from $13 million in 1999 to $660 million in 2003, and will approach $1 billion in 2004.
Another significant, positive development in the commercial relations between Israel and Jordan is the signing (in May 2004) of a new trade agreement. The new agreement is expected to result in an increase of bilateral trade and to prepare the ground for a joint Israeli-Jordanian-European agreement that will enable Jordanian products to be exported duty free into the European market as well.
Under the terms of the peace treaty, Israel today provides Jordan with nearly 75 million cubic meters of water per year. Israel and Jordan continue to adhere to their mutual commitments, in accordance with the peace treaty. This year, progress was also made towards an agreement between the two sides concerning the Red Sea-Dead Sea Peace Conduit, a project which should provide a solution to Jordan’s chronic water problems, as well as preserving the Dead Sea basin.
Israeli tourism to Jordan has been at a stable level since the signing of the peace treaty. One hundred and fifty thousand tourists cross the Israel-Jordan border every year, in both directions.
Cultural and Scientific Ties
In March 2004, Israel and Jordan laid the cornerstone for the Bridging the Rift (BTR) project. The initiative involves building a joint academic center on the Israel-Jordan border in the Arava Desert, and is sponsored by two prestigious American universities, Stanford and Cornell, with the participation of leading research centers in Israel and Jordan, specializing in life sciences.
Many Jordanians continue to participate in the diverse courses offered by the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV) in fields such as agriculture, education, economics, health, environment, rural development, etc. MASHAV initiated three important projects in Jordan: a sheep farm and dairy in southern Jordan, an apiary in the North, and an advanced intensive care unit in a major hospital in Amman. In October 1995 an agreement on cooperation in these areas was signed between Jordan and Israel. Under the terms of this agreement, the Israel Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV) works together with several government ministries in Jordan and with a number of non-governmental organizations for the promotion of economic and social development for the benefit of both peoples.