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11 July 2019

Jordan, Palestine moving closer

By: Daoud Kuttab
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“This is Duaa from Radio Nisaa FM in Ramllah, tell us what is happening in Jordan.”
“This is Rawan from Radio Al Balad in Amman, tell us what is happening in Palestine.”

The above is the opening exchange of a weekly slot on Palestinian and Jordanian radio shows. The exchange is informative, funny and warm. The two women talked about politics, daily life issues and what is trending on social media in each other’s community.

The morning radio programme exchange is just one of many signs about the Jordanian-Palestinian re rapprochement that has been going on for some time as Palestinians seek a trusted neighbour outside the Israeli occupation.

Jordanian and Palestinian politics have been totally in sync with each other as illustrated this week with the high-level official visit to Jordan by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and a number of Cabinet ministers. The visit has already ushered agreements on the increase in Jordanian electricity distribution from the current 26 megawatts to 80 megawatts. This will mean that Palestinians, not only in Jericho, but also nearby Al Eizariya, Abu Dis and East Jerusalem, will be lit by electricity coming from Jordan.

Palestinian health ministry officials were happy to sign with the King Hussein Cancer Centre an agreement that is hoped would produce a marked increase in medical transfers from Palestine to Jordan, rather than the dependency on Israeli hospitals, where the annual medical bill was over $100 million. Agreements also included the training of Palestinian doctors and medical staff in Jordan so as to be able to lift the medical services provided in Palestine.

In agriculture, the two sides agreed on a comprehensive plan, including the creation of a joint company to help improve the marketing and sales of Palestinian and Jordanian products.

On the commercial level, an expansion in the volume of products that will be exchanged also include a customs agreement that allows for door-to-door delivery instead of the current back-to-back costly distribution. Palestinians also reached an agreement that will allow the import of Iraqi oil at reduced rates to the Jordanian oil refinery, leading to supply Palestine with gasoline and other oil products at much-reduced prices, thus moving Palestine towards energy independence from Israel.

These agreements reflect a new level of cooperation that is aimed at easing pressures on Palestinians and starting a clear economic shift from near total dependence on Israel to creating alternative economic answers to pressing problems, especially due to the worsening relations between the Palestinian government and Israel. The Israeli occupiers have forced the Palestinian government to go into emergency mode due to the unilateral cut in tax and customs remittances collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian government as part of the Paris Economic Protocol that was reached in 1994 shortly after the signing of the declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation at the White House in 1993.

If Palestinians can import more and more items without having to go through Israeli ports, this would weaken the ability of Israel to constantly use the monthly remittances issue as a pressure mechanism on the Palestinian government.

The relationship between Palestinians and Jordanians have been growing positively for some years. Jordan’s consistent support of the two-state solution and its unreserved support to the protection of Muslim and Christian holy sites has also done a lot to further nurture Jordanian-Palestinian relations.

Shtayyeh has publicly talked about the need for a new economic strategy that can help Palestinians break away from the Israeli occupation’s stranglehold. This new relationship is built on trust and cooperation, and if it continues at its current trajectory, it can be a successful relationship that benefits both Palestinians and Jordanians. It will strengthen the Palestinian steadfastness while also providing Jordanian companies with a new and nearby market for their products. Alliances and cooperation are also more successful when they are built on trust and on the basis of a win-win formula.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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