Jordan will purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel and increase its exports to the West Bank from $160 million a year to around $700 million, the two countries announced Thursday.
The agreements, concluded during a meeting between the countries' foreign ministers at the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank, signaled improved relations between Jordan and Israel's new government following years of strained ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Jordanian Ayman Safadi's agreement to increase Jordanian exports to the West Bank was in line with the Paris Protocol, an economic agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Jordan said technical teams will iron out the details in the coming days, and that talks on implementing the export ceiling will be held among Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials.
“The Kingdom of Jordan is a neighbor and important partner of the State of Israel,” Lapid said after the meeting. “The Foreign Ministry will continue to hold talks to preserve and strengthen relations. We will expand economic cooperation for the benefit of the two countries.”
Upon taking office, Lapid said that one of his main goals was improving relations with Jordan. In recent years, even as the two countries maintained close security ties, their diplomatic relationship has deteriorated significantly against the backdrop of Israel's actions in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Safadi called for renewed efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for Israel to halt “illegal” measures that undermine such efforts.
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He stressed the importance of maintaining the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem that is under Jordanian custodianship. He also said it would be a “war crime” to evict Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. Both issues fueled tensions that helped ignite an 11-day war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas in May.
Jordan, which has a Palestinian majority and whose public opinion is hostile to Israel, has aggressively criticized Israel for its handling of the Temple Mount, its evictions and home demolitions in East Jerusalem and its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip during May’s war.
“Jordan wants to stabilize its government, and to a large extent, that comes at the expense of its relations with Israel,” an Israeli diplomatic source told Haaretz.
In March, a planned visit to the Temple Mount by Jordan’s crown prince was canceled due to a dispute over security arrangements. Jordan retaliated by impeding a planned flight to the United Arab Emirates by then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, ultimately forcing Netanyahu to cancel the trip. The Israeli prime minister then retaliated by ordering Israel’s airspace closed to Jordanian flights, though Israel’s aviation authorities delayed implementing the order until it was eventually retracted, so no flights were actually affected.
Another reason for the tension was Israel’s withdrawal from a project to build a canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea that was supposed to alleviate Jordan’s severe water shortage.
“The project is economically unfeasible, but Israel is currently exploring a variety of alternative solutions to ease Jordan’s distress,” a diplomatic source said, adding that Lapid’s agreement to sell the extra 50 million cubic meters was a signal of this intent to help.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.