Jordanian officials have expressed anger and frustration at Israel’s move to use its Ramon airport in southern Israel for Palestinian travel abroad, claiming it jeopardizes the kingdom’s economic interests, violates the sovereignty of Jordanian airspace and normalizes the plight of Palestinians.

Despite the meeting last month between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman and the spirit of cooperation he suggested, statements by Jordanian officials and reports from the Arab world indicated that relations between the two countries – which have been at peace since 1994 and share a significant land border – may be entering a tense phase.

Until recently, Palestinians wishing to fly abroad were required to travel to Jordan and board a flight there, or secure a hard-to-obtain Israeli entry permit to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport.

But in an effort to ease the huge crowd at the King Hussein Crossing – the West Bank’s only crossing with Jordan – Israel’s Airports Authority recently announced an initiative that allows Palestinians to fly to Turkey through Ramon Airport and board connecting flights there.

While the original plan for Turkish Airlines to operate the route was delayed, Israel’s Arkia Airlines stepped in to operate the first flight for Palestinians from Ramon Airport in Cyprus. on Monday.

The continued flights will potentially mean less Palestinian movement through Jordan and, subsequently, less income for the kingdom from tourism.

Palestinian residents of the West Bank are seen ready to board a flight at Ramon Airport on August 22, 2022. (Flash90)

Jordan’s economic interests

According to the Jordan Association of Tourism and Travel Agents, approximately 500,000 Palestinian travelers enter the country each year via the King Hussein Bridge, also known as the Allenby Bridge, for tourism or transit purposes.

Opening Ramon Airport to Palestinian travelers could reduce the number of Palestinians entering Jordan by 55-65 percent, according to Jordanian media.

This has been perceived by some Jordanian officials and analysts as against the spirit of cooperation and peace between the two countries.

London-based pan-Arab media Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on Thursday quoted a statement by Jordanian lawmaker Samih Al-Maaytah criticizing Monday’s flight to Cyprus carrying Palestinian passengers, charging that it will come at the expense of transit through Jordan.

Ramon Airport during the official opening ceremony, January 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

His statement was echoed by a member of Jordan’s Parliament, Khalil Attia, who recently said that Israel’s plan to allow West Bank residents to use Ramon Airport would harm Jordan’s domestic airlines, “which have long relied on the transfer of a large proportion of Palestinians to neighboring countries.

The move could also damage or delay existing strategic projects between Israel and its neighbor, such as exporting Israeli gas to Europe through the Arab Gas pipeline that runs through Jordan, according to analysts quoted Wednesday by Qatar’s state-run Al Jazeera news network. .

Passengers sit in a waiting room on the Jordanian side of the King Hussein Bridge (also known as the Allenby Bridge) that runs between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

Jordanian sovereignty

Those analysts were also quoted as saying that Ramon Airport violates Jordan’s sovereignty as it “affects the air navigation of King Hussein Airport in the city of Aqaba, southern Jordan, and enters Jordanian airspace during the landing and takeoff of Israeli and foreign aircraft.” entry. “

Speaking to Al Jazeera on the matter, former Jordanian information minister Muhammad al-Momani said that Israeli-Jordanian cooperation was based on the idea of ​​”operating King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba, rather than creating a [new] airport”, adding that two competing airports in the region will “affect the horizon of the peace process between the two countries”.

Jordan had opposed the establishment of Ramon Airport from the beginning, citing its proximity to King Hussein Airport. The Kingdom raised its concerns with the International Civil Aviation Organization in 2019.

Normalization of the Palestinian issue

According to reports, Jordan also considers Israel’s move regarding international Palestinian travel from within its territory an attempt to normalize the current situation of Palestinians and distance the prospect of a long-term solution.

A plane on the runway of King Hussein Airport serving the border city of Aqaba. (Screen recording: YouTube)

During the official inauguration of a power plant in the Jordan Valley aimed at increasing the supply of electricity to Palestinians in the West Bank, Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh on Wednesday reiterated his country’s support for the Palestinian cause.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said during the event that “neither Ramon airport nor any other airport is an alternative to the depth of our relations with Jordan in terms of transport and movement”, arguing that if Israel had really wanted to ease restrictions on the Palestinians. have reopened an international airport located between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The airport was closed to civilian traffic after the Second Intifada broke out in 2000.

On social media, Jordanian activists protested the first flight of Palestinians through Ramon Airport along with the hashtag “#normalization_palestine_betrayal”.

According to Al Jazeera, some Jordanian activists referred to the Palestinians’ use of Ramon airport as “betrayal and a stab in the back to Jordan for all the positions it took with the Palestinian people in defending their just cause.”

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