The commercial value of Jordan’s anger with Israel
Clearly, the Jordanian monarch and his government is furious with its Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem. Following the riots on the Temple Mount in the Holy City and then the shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli security guard, the Israeli PM welcomed home the same guard as a hero. This act was seen as the proverbial last straw of insult.
Jordan has since published the ID of the serviceman on the internet. More sanctions are threatened. At a time when Israel’s relations with Turkey are again looking fragile, this instability with an Arab regime, which is theoretically friendly, is plain unwanted.
However, all is not so simple. Once you peel away the rhetoric, the Jordanians know that they have as much to lose by sanctioning Israel as they have done with Qatar. The reasons are many. And these start with the fact that that the 1994 peace agreement between the two sides launched a series of commercial and social ties that are extremely valuable to the Hashemite Kingdom.
Current bilateral trade is worth over US$500 million, and that is just the official figure.
- The creation of the free trade zone near Tiberias will provide thousands of jobs directly, and also create much extra trade in both directions.
- By 2013, there were already around 900 Jordanian lorries a month using the port of Haifa.
- At the beginning of this summer, Israel finally started to export gas to Jordan. This US$10 billion deal secures for Jordan an alternative source of power, considering that the current options of Egyptian and Qatari suppliers are politically and diplomatically unstable.
- Jordan is scheduled to invest over a billion dollars of its own money in the ambitious Dead Sea-to-Eilat pipeline. This is designed to bring desalinated water to peripheral regions, thus benefitting Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians alike.
- And then there are those socio-economic stories that rarely hit the headlines. To give just one example: Most of the Israeli agricultural settlements straggling the southern Negev border with Jordan provide agricultural training for the or neighbours. A generation or more of Jordanian Bedouin have benefitted from this trade of skills.
For sure, Israel’s government has acted in a crass and arrogant manner in regard to the feelings of the average Jordanian. And all this hopefully to secure a few extra votes for Bibi’s party. That said, for all the public and assumedly genuine rage of Kind Abdullah, Israel and Jordan will probably find a way to patch things up. They are almost too entwined to separate.