All Israel News Staff | August 22, 2021
In a new sign of improved relations, Jordan and Israel signed an agricultural cooperation agreement last week ahead of the Jewish shmita, the sabbatical year when Jewish-owned agricultural lands in Israel are supposed to rest in order to receive kosher certification. The Israeli and Jordanian Agriculture ministers, Oded Forer and Rasan al-Majali, met on the Allenby Bridge on the border of the two countries, together with their respective ambassadors, to sign the agreement.
Under the agreement, the Jewish state will import Jordanian agricultural products. Forer and al-Majali also discussed cooperation on agricultural innovation and technological advances and in fighting fires in both countries. A spokesperson for the Israeli minister said that the ministerial meeting “emphasizes the importance of the ties between Israel and Jordan to strengthen neighborly relations and promote cooperation, and the importance of the agricultural field as a way to advance relations between the countries and the nations.”
Relations between Jordan and Israel became increasingly strained during former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure. In March, Netanyahu reportedly tried to bar Jordanian planes from entering Israeli airspace as payback for Jordan delaying his scheduled flight to the United Arab Emirates. As a result, Netanyahu missed his meeting with the Emirati crown prince. However, Netanyahu’s order was never carried out, thereby avoiding a deepening of the diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman.
In an effort to improve relations with Amman, in July new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett approved the sale of an additional 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan, a water-stressed country largely comprised of desert land. Since Jordan is considered one of America’s most important allies in the Arab world, the Bennett government outreach to Jordan could be an effort to boost ties with the Biden administration.
In a July interview with CNN, King Abdullah said he was “encouraged” by the meeting with Israel’s new leadership. Last month, Abdullah became the first Arab leader to be invited to the White House. President Joe Biden and the Jordanian king discussed Middle Eastern issues and both stressed the need to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Unlike other Arab countries that largely pay lip service to the Palestinian Arab cause, Jordan has a real stake in the conflict because Palestinians constitute a majority in Jordan. Due to this vulnerable position, the Hashemite royals in Jordan have always insisted that a two-state solution to the conflict not be implemented at their expense and that a Palestinian state not be established in Jordan.
Since the new Israeli government took office in June, bilateral relations have improved considerably between the Jewish state and Jordan. Both Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
The newly-signed agricultural agreement with Jordan will likely boost Bennett politically ahead of his scheduled meeting with Biden in Washington this week.