October 26, 1998
Today – October 26, 1998 – marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. The following is a background paper on the relations between the two countries, prepared specially for this occasion (and distributed also as a statement to the press) – for whatever use you may wish to make of it.
In practical terms, trade between Jordan and Israel began only in July 1996. Since that date, the figures indicate a steady growth in Jordanian-Israeli commerce. In 1996 Israel exported some 9 million dollars’ worth of goods to Jordan, while importing products valued at 5 million dollars. In 1997 the value of exports rose to about 20 million dollars, and imports from Jordan amounted to 12.5 million. This represents an increase, in one year, of some 130 percent.
Estimates for the first half of 1998 alone show exports and imports at more than 20 million dollars – a rise of about 60 percent over the same period last year. These figures, incidentally, do not include the transit trade between the two countries or joint projects such as the QIZ region in Irbid. Of course, they also do not include Jordan’s commerce with the Palestinian Authority.
It is in the nature of economic activity that it cannot be revealed in its full scope. Here, nevertheless, are some official figures, simply by way of illustration. According to data released by the Israel Customs Authority, about 15 Israeli textile firms are currently operating in Jordan, where they produce goods destined in the main for export to the USA. The monetary value of these operations in the first eight months of 1997 is estimated at over 4.5 million dollars. Today this figure is pegged at about one million dollars a month. This in addition to the figures for overall trade in services. Equally important is the number of Jordanians employed today in these textile firms – a number that stands today at some 2,500 persons.
An important part of the economic cooperation between Jordan and Israel is taking place in the Hassan Industrial Park in Irbid – the first area to be granted the status of duty-free export to the USA (QIZ). Cooperation in this region is mainly in the areas of textiles and the manufacture of jewelry and electronic equipment. About 2,500 Jordanians are employed in these industries. The success of the joint industrial park in Irbid has given rise to a decision reached by the Ministers of Industry and Trade of the two countries with regard to the expansion of this move to additional industrial parks in the border area between Jordan and Israel subject to approval by the United States.
Indeed, earlier this year another agreement was signed between Jordan and Israel for the establishment of a joint industrial park south of the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. In its first stage, this park is to cover an area of 200 acres on both sides of the River Jordan, with a connecting bridge, to be built specially for this purpose, linking the two segments of the park. This park, too, will enjoy the status of a free trade zone with the USA (QIZ).
International Cooperation and Agriculture
In October 1995 an agreement on cooperation in these areas was signed between Jordan and Israel. Under the terms of this agreement, MASHAV (the Sub-Department for International Cooperation in Israel’s Foreign Ministry) works together with several government ministries in Jordan (mainly the Ministries of Agriculture and of Health) and with a number of non-governmental organizations (such as the El-Hussein Association) for the promotion of economic and social development for the benefit of both peoples.
Within the framework of this cooperation, some 300 Jordanians have participated in various courses in Israel, chiefly in the fields of agriculture and health. The El-Hussein Association has been working with Israel’s Ministry of Health in the spheres of physiotherapy and rehabilitation of the handicapped. There have also been exchanges of experts between the Queen Alia Foundation and the Golda Meir Center in Haifa in the field of social development.
More than 15 agricultural experts from Israel have visited Jordan. Two delegations from the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture recently visited Israel. The two countries have established a joint enterprise for the marketing of agricultural produce, with a view to developing new markets for the agricultural produce being grown in the eastern Jordan River Valley with the help of Israeli technologies.
Jordan and Israel have also decided to develop five acres of land south of the Dead Sea for the growing of cherry tomatoes. The success of this project will lead to Stage Two, calling for the development of a much larger area – 75 acres – for the production of other quality produce. The Ministries of Agriculture of the two countries are planning, in the near future, to sign yet another cooperation agreement, this one for the raising of Awassi Sheep in Jordan.
On 18 January 1996 Jordan and Israel signed an agreement on cultural and scientific relations. This agreement paved the way for a wide variety of activities in these domains. Two Jordanian students are studying for their doctor’s degrees at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; one is studying for a doctor’s degree at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot; 8 Jordanian students have completed their studies for their Master’s degree in
Business Administration at the University of Tel Aviv; and a Jordanian scholar is working on a joint research project with an Israeli colleague at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan.
In addition to these, there have been numerous visits to Israel by Jordanian academicians and other joint research projects, some of them with American or European financing. Moreover, 80 Israeli Arabs studied last year at Jordanian universities.
An experimental project has been activated involving the use of Akaba Airport for flights from Europe bringing tourists to Eilat. The number of incoming flights in the past tourist season, under this arrangement, stands at three per week; with the completion of the new terminal on the Israeli side, this number will grow. Moreover, the number of flights between Amman and Ben-Gurion Airport were stepped up this year, and a new line has been put in, linking Amman with Haifa twice a week.
Under the terms of the peace treaty, Israel today provides Jordan with nearly 75 million cubic meters of water per year. Work is to begin soon on the erection of a dam deigned to divert water from the Yarmuk River: another aspect of the cooperation between Jordan and Israel in this domain.
In 1996, and again in 1997, some 125,000 Israeli tourists visited Jordan. The number of Jordanian tourists visiting Israel came to about 50,000 in 1996 – and to some 47,000 in 1997 (not counting family visits). There has been a satisfactory level of cooperation between the tourist agencies of the two countries, and between the agents themselves, in the matter of marketing package tours embracing Israel and Jordan.
There is agreement, too, between the two countries concerning cooperation with the approach of the year 2000 and the expected stream of tourists, during that period, to the Holy Land from all over the world.