Approval for the construction a one million square-meter free-trade industrial zone at the border between Israel and Jordan, has been given by Israel's National Planning and Building Council, ostensibly launching the most ambitious bilateral private venture ever undertaken between the two countries.
Called Jordan Gate, the project is being built on both sides of the border, just north of the Israel town of Bet Shean. The industrial plants will be located on the Jordanian side of the border, where construction has already begun, while administration will be maintained on the Israeli side.
The project has been the center of controversy for since its inception, as environmental organizations claim the industrial estate is bisecting the Jordan River, thus altering the unique character of the site and preventing its planned development for tourism potential.
The World Bank is providing $36 million for the construction of the first 100,000 square meters of the project, which ultimately will cost about $300 million to build. Some $70 million of that amount will be provided by Israeli investors.
According to the Haaretz daily, once complete, the FTA will provide employment to some 15,000 Jordanians and 1,500 Israelis. Because of the free trade agreements that both countries have with the United States, it will receive a special exemption from U.S. custom duties.
Although the FTA is only supposed to include ecologically sound industries, it s construction was opposed by Israeli environmental groups, who protested the damage that will allegedly be done to what previously was a protected area. ― (MENA Report)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )