May 17, 2016 1:49 PM GMT
In a first, Israel lets Jordanian workers cross border for jobs
EILAT, Israel — This is what a little peace looks like in the Middle East. A room cleaner named Ahmad. A dishwasher named Mohammad. And a man with a vacuum in the lobby of an Israeli beach hotel.
Israel and Jordan signed their peace treaty in 1994 — that is a generation ago — but it has often been a cold peace, without real people moving back and forth, without workers, wages or bosses.
Now Jordan and Israel have launched a pilot project that is so small and simultaneously so ambitious that it tells the story.
For the past six months, very quietly, Israel has been allowing Jordanians to cross the border to its Red Sea resort to work minimum-wage jobs at hotels.
The first 700 of 1,500 have started.
So far, nothing bad has happened.
“The Jordanians need work, and we need workers,” said the head of the Eilat Hotel Association, Shabtai Shay.
Getting the Jordanians work permits to cross the border from Aqaba to Eilat took three years of negotiations with 10 Israeli ministries, he said.
“It was mission impossible,” Shay said.
On the Israeli side, there were concerns about security, vetting, the checkpoint, unions, the hours and how Israeli tourists would feel about being attended — even behind the scenes — by service workers who were Muslims from the Hashemite kingdom.
Jordan and Israel fought two wars, in 1948 and 1967. Their relations have been further strained by the fact that Jordan is filled with Palestinian refugees.
“I never thought I’d live to see the first Jordanian worker in our hotels,” Shay said...