Is Eilat-Aqaba a bi-national city? Can economic opportunities overcome the barriers of politics and psychology?

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Abstract

Unlike other bi-national cities, Eilat and Aqaba constitute a special case in which the interaction between the two cities is dependent upon external factors, mainly of a political nature. Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan straddle each side of the Gulf of Aqaba. Both are similar from a functional aspect: they are port and tourism towns and both constitute a gateway to east Africa and the Far East. They are both situated in a desert region near a sea. The Oslo Accords and subsequently the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel, have opened up many possibilities for cooperation and joint development activity. A number of projects have been put forward, including a joint airport aimed at serving both cities, as well as the shared use of the seaports. Tour packages from Europe to both cities are another feature that holds a substantial economic potential, as do connecting roads and joint plans for the preservation of the unique landscape in this region. A border-crossing point between the two countries has been opened up and tens of thousands of tourists have flocked (mostly from Israel) to visit nearby Petra and Wadi Ram. Laborers from Jordan have begun to be seen in Eilat, working mostly in construction. The long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is still casting a heavy shadow on the great possibilities for cooperation. The signing of a peace treaty is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the bringing about of cooperation in the field. The enmity and the military activity between Israel and the Palestinians, especially during recent months since the outbreak the intifada for the second time, have resulted in a drastic decline in cooperation that started initially at a slow and hesitant pace following the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan (1994). The fact that about 60% of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin, causes the Jordanian government to maintain a cautious stance in promoting cooperation with Israel. Thus, the development of Eilat and Aqaba as a bi-national city is, to a great extent, dependent on the advancement of the peace process between Israel and all its Arab neighbors, and especially on the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-99
Number of pages15
JournalGeo Journal
Volume54
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2001

Keywords

  • Aqaba
  • Bi-national cooperation
  • Eilat
  • Gulf of Aqaba
  • Red Sea
  • Rift Valley
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development

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