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Israel-Jordan Relations: Overview of Peace Negotiations

The bilateral talks between Israel and Jordan, initiated at the Madrid Conference, continued for almost two years in Washington until the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian Common Agenda on September 14, 1993. The Common Agenda constituted the blueprint for the peace treaty, comprising the following components: security, water, refugees and displaced persons, borders and territorial matters.

The first public meeting between King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin took place in Washington, on July 25, 1994. Out of this meeting emerged The Washington Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein, with President Clinton serving as a witness.

The major achievements of the Washington Declaration were a series of agreements and concrete steps symbolizing the new era:

  • The state of belligerency between Jordan and Israel was terminated.

  • Both states agreed to seek a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338

  • Israel will respect the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom over Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.

Concrete steps included the establishment of direct telephone links, joint electricity grids, new border crossings, free access to third country tourists, and cooperation between the police forces in combating crime, with special emphasis on drug smuggling. It was also decided to continue negotiations on bilateral economic cooperation and abolishing economic boycotts, as well as on the opening of an international air corridor between the two countries.

The first meeting in the region of the Israeli and Jordanian bilateral delegations took place on July 18-19, 1994 at Ein Avrona, located in the boundary area north of Aqaba and Eilat. The parties agreed to hold talks on a continuous basis, alternately on the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the border. These talks culminated in the signing of a Treaty of Peace between Israel and Jordan on October 26, 1994.

With the ratification of the peace treaty full diplomatic relations were established between Israel and Jordan on November 27, 1994. Since that time, relations between Israel and Jordan have been steadily progressing. The Jordanian parliament's action in August 1995 to rescind its adherence to the Arab boycott on Israel, as well as the regional economic conference in Amman in November 1995, served as significant positive indicators for the future.

The open border crossings between the two countries have facilitated the normalization of relations. Joint business ventures are being consistently initiated and the free movement of businessmen, by both land and air, has created an atmosphere of cooperation and open communication. Tourism between the two countries has been on the rise.

The basis for the implementation of the peace treaty with Jordan was set with the 15 bilateral agreements which have since been signed and ratified. These agreements cover the following areas: Environmental Protection, Commerce and Trade, Transportation, Air Transport, Water, Agriculture, Combating Crime and Illicit Drugs, Communications and Mail, Science and Culture, Education, Health, Borders, The Eilat-Aqaba Region, Tourism and Energy. These treaties are to serve as the foundation of the peaceful, normal relationship between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom.

These are some of the recent highlights of activity:

Commerce and Trade: Since trade began between Jordan and Israel in July 1996, 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. Estimates for the period January-September 1998 alone show exports and imports at more than 29 million dollars.

Economic Cooperation: 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. Thousands of Jordanians are employed in these industries, as well as in other industrial areas throughout the country. 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.

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, 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. 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.

Air Transport: A "pilot project" has been activated involving the use of Aqaba Airport for flights from Europe bringing tourists to Eilat. With the completion of the new terminal on the Israeli side, all international flights currently landing at Ovda and Eilat Airports will be transferred to the Aqaba-Eilat Peace Airport. Moreover, the number of flights between Amman and Ben-Gurion Airport have been stepped up this year to 14, and a new line has been put in, linking Amman with Haifa twice a week.

Tourism: 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 annually (not counting family visits). There has been an increase in the level of cooperation between the tourist agencies of the two countries in the matter of marketing package tours for 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 to the Holy Land from all over the world.

Water: 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 Yarmouk River: another aspect of the cooperation between Jordan and Israel in this domain.

Trilateral Israel-Jordan-U.S. Economic Committee

A Trilateral Israel-Jordan-U.S. Economic Committee was established at the October 1993 White House meeting between President Clinton, Crown Prince Hassan and Foreign Minister Peres to discuss economic cooperation and development. This forum first convened in Washington D.C. on November 30, 1993, and then periodically in the region. Sub-groups were established to discuss specific issues, such as: trade, finance and banking; Jordan Valley cooperative projects; and civil aviation. The outcome of these talks have been incorporated in the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan.

The convening of the fifth meeting of the Trilateral Economic Committee at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel in Jordan on July 20-21, 1994 was the occasion for the first public meeting of Israeli and Jordanian leaders in the region — Jordanian Prime Minister Majali and Israeli Foreign Minister Peres.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry