25 Years Since Israel-Jordan Peace, Security Cooperation Flourishes but People Kept Apart

Along Israel’s border with Jordan, not far from Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, a desolate site is symbolic of the peace agreement that the two countries signed 25 years ago this month. The empty Jordan Gateway Bridge was due to serve a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial zone, an idea that goes back to 1994, but the project has been stalled, just like relations between the two countries’ populations.

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The bridge was built and then dedicated this February under the direction of Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, but among the myriad problems that still need to be addressed is one minor one: an access road to the bridge itself. Israeli ministries have been at odds over which of them should fund the 60 million shekel ($17 million) highway – a relative paltry sum for a country where billions of shekels in supplemental funds are approved for aerial defense, but it still requires cabinet approval.

But for nearly the past six months, since the first round of Knesset elections in April, Israel has been governed by a transitional government, and no cabinet resolution has been passed for the money. The way the case of the bridge has unfolded is an indication of a familiar problem. Attention and funding are generally forthcoming when it comes to wars and defense, but less so when it comes to peace.

And the issues with the Jordan Gateway Bridge are nothing compared to the disappointment in the Jordanian capital regarding other promises tied to the peace agreement that have not come to fruition, including a joint airport and the plans for a canal between the Red Sea and Dead Sea.

Despite Israeli promises over the years to provide water to Jordan, water shortages in the kingdom have worsened, undermining Jordanian officials’ confidence in their Israeli counterparts. Jordanian frustration over the conduct of a string of Israeli governments when it comes to joint civilian projects, along with strong opposition to the agreement from the Jordanian public, was also reflected in a recent statement by Jordanian King Abdullah II. He declared that this year, he would exercise the clause in the peace treaty that will restore two border enclaves, at Tzofar and Naharayim, to Jordanian control.