Israel defends program to bring in Jordanian hotel workers

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2016 12:34 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Monday defended a program that brings Jordanian day workers into its tourism industry against criticism in Jordan from those who oppose normalizing ties with the Jewish State.

The Tourism Ministry called the program, which has allowed hundreds of Jordanians to work in hotels in the southern city of Eilat, a "win-win situation" for Jordanians seeking employment and for Israeli hoteliers with a shortage of employees. The ministry said the Jordanians enjoy the same employment and social benefits as their Israeli counterparts.

Besides the economic benefit, the project was being touted in Israel as a sign of warming ties with one of only two Arab nations to have made peace with Israel. But Jordanians opposed to normalization of relations have lashed out at the arrangement in the press and floated conspiracy theories online about the workers being recruited by Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Israel and Jordan signed a peace accord in 1994 and have close security cooperation. But many Jordanians still oppose normal ties with Israel and are angered by its policies toward the Palestinians. A large percentage of Jordanians are of Palestinian descent and reject Israel's occupation of the West Bank, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

Israel's government approved the tourism project in 2014, allowing up to 1,500 Jordanians to enter Israel to work in cleaning, dishwashing and room service in the Eilat hotels. The workers from neighboring Aqaba return home at the end of the work day through the Arava border crossing.

The Jordanian government, which is discreet about its cooperation with Israel, said Jordanians are free to work wherever they want according to laws and regulations. The government said it is the individual decision of each Jordanian whether they choose to work in Israel under the project.