Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East

Special Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East
The two nations have become a ‘role model’ for regional cooperation and coordination, a former Jordanian minister said. (Twitter: @Spa_Eng)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East

Saudi-Jordanian cooperation ‘a role model’ for the entire Middle East
  • Common history, geography, and politics unite Saudis and Jordanians, who say their country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital
  • Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest trade partner, and Jordan receives billions in remittances, investments, and direct aid from them annually

AMMAN: Saudi Arabia’s longstanding relationship with Jordan is a tale of the two kingdoms becoming a “role model” for regional and pan-Arab cooperation, that is expected to be strengthened with several new initiatives on the political and economic fronts, according to experts.

Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s upcoming visit to Jordan, observers point to the long, shared history, similar culture and values of both peoples, which have had an impact on diplomatic relations.

“Diplomacy is not the right word to describe the Amman-Riyadh relations. It’s history, geography, politics, and common interests,” said Samih Maaitah, former Jordan minister of media affairs.



In remarks to Arab News, Maaitah explained that the two nations have become a “role model” for regional cooperation and coordination, thanks to a “number of facts, including primarily the similar political and ruling system.”

Maaitah, a prolific writer, explained that the two countries have long adopted a similar political approach to regional and international issues, including on Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This includes tackling terrorism, and “nowadays, illicit drug trafficking (from Syria).”

“Since a stable Jordan is in the very interest of Saudi Arabia, a strong Saudi Arabia is at the heart of Jordan’s interests. A constant Amman-Riyadh strategic partnership is a top priority and cannot be compromised or sacrificed. The leaders of both countries are fully aware of that, and they are acting accordingly.”

Amer Sabaileh, a Jordanian strategic analyst and university professor, echoed Maaitah’s remarks, hailing the progress of ties and calling for stronger political cooperation and coordination.

Sabaileh told Arab News that Jordan must take on a role in “Saudi Arabia’s new vision (2030) and its leaders’ ambitious plan for the entire region.”

“Saudi Arabia has a progressive and ambitious strategic vision for the entire Middle East region, and Jordan is urgently required to capitalize on the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Amman.”

“Constant Jordanian-Saudi cooperation and coordination serves the interests of the entire region,” he added.



Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest economic partner, with investments of more than $13 billion. Trade between the two nations reached $5 billion in 2021.

According to the World Bank, Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest donor, having given its neighbor direct financial assistance of $3 billion, or around 8 percent of Jordan’s GDP.

In April this year, Saudi Arabia sent $50 million in direct funding to Jordan, the fourth installment out of five that Riyadh pledged to the country. According to the Saudi Press Agency, this assistance was part of a 2018 agreement between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE to provide a $2.5 billion economic aid package to Jordan.

The Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, recently signed an agreement with Jordan to invest $400 million in a healthcare facility in the country.

The project has been described as the “culmination” of Saudi investment in Jordan.



March 22, 1945 Saudi Arabia and Jordan co-found the Arab League in Cairo with four other members to coordinate policy, arrange studies and committees to matters of common concern.

June 3, 1999 Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz talks with Joran’s King Abdullah II on latest developments in the Middle East peace process.

May 10, 2011 Jordan makes bid to join Gulf Cooperation Council.

March 27, 2017 King Salman arrived in Amman for summit meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. 15 agreements and $1 billion marking a new economic era between the two nations.

October 29, 2019 King Abdullah II participates at the Future Investment Initiative 2019 conference in Riyadh.

March 8, 2021 Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrives in Riyadh where they reviewed relations and joint cooperation to further develop promising opportunities.

January 26, 2022 Saudi Arabia and Jordan cooperate in NEOM to establish projects and partnerships that could potentially benefit both sides across crucial and strategic sectors, especially the energy and water desalination sectors on the Red Sea.

During the signing ceremony, Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh emphasized that the leaders of the two nations had a deep-rooted relationship, and urged greater cooperation on all fronts.

Supporting this view, Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi said that the Kingdom was eager to enhance its relations with Jordan.

SJIF Chairman Hisham Attar explained that the fund’s main objective is to contribute to economic growth in Jordan through long-term investments in key strategic sectors, reflecting the vision of the two countries’ leaders.

He also highlighted the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 and the strategy of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to further promote economic integration. The SJIF was seeking to become the most impactful investor in Jordan.

The SJIF and the Jordanian government, represented by the Jordan Investment Fund, signed a memorandum of understanding on June 16 that would enable the SJIF to explore investments in the National Railway Network Project.

This project entails the construction of a 418-kilometer railway line connecting the Aqaba Container Terminal with the Madouna land port in southern Amman for the shipment of containers, phosphate, grain, and automobiles, according to an SJIF statement.

In June 2021, the SJIF announced a $15 million investment in leading Jordanian technology company OpenSooq, an e-commerce mobile app that enables consumer-to-consumer sales, as part of its capital growth investment strategy.

The fund said at the time that the investment sought to bolster the entrepreneurial environment in Jordan, that would support the development of local companies, and provide them an opportunity for regional expansion.

In March this year, a bilateral agreement that could be worth over $1 billion was signed by business leaders from Makkah and Amman.

Attending the signing ceremony between the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Amman counterpart, Jordan’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yousef Mahmoud Al-Shamali said: “There is a need to strengthen these relations to rise above $1 billion, especially since Amman is proud of Saudi products, and Saudi investments are the most important in Jordan.”

Jamal Shalabi, a political science professor at the Hashemite University of Jordan, explained that Saudi Arabia has shifted its economic cooperation with Jordan from “cash assistance to direct investment in services and infrastructure projects.”

“This is very smart and more sustainable and it has a direct impact on creating jobs and accelerating economic growth,” he said during a ceremony marking the centenary of the Jordanian state at the university in April.

According to official figures, around 430,000 Jordanians work in Saudi Arabia.

Remittances sent from Saudi Arabia to Jordan have increased by $16.4 million to $1.1 billion during the first four months of 2022, marking a 1.5 percent rise from the same period last year.

The Central Bank of Jordan’s data showed that these remittances totaled $3.4 billion at the end of 2021. Most of the remittances from Jordanian expatriates come from Gulf countries, and from Saudi Arabia in particular.

An opinion poll conducted by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies in March revealed that Jordanians see an “institutionalized relationship with Saudi Arabia” as a top priority for their country.

The poll also revealed that 37 percent of Jordanians view Saudi Arabia as their country’s largest economic and political supporter, and the “closest neighbor both culturally and traditionally.”


If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM
Updated 13 sec ago

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM

If Tunisia is not helped, Muslim Brotherhood may ‘create instability’: Italian FM
  • ‘We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,’ Antonio Tajani tells conference attended by Arab News
  • Rome striving to ensure Tunisia ‘doesn’t become a failed state,’ pushing for IMF loan

ROME: The international community runs the risk of “having the Muslim Brotherhood create instability” in Tunisia if the country is not promptly granted “substantial financial help,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said at a conference attended by Arab News.

“We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,” he added, saying Tunisia is on the verge of “economic collapse,” and negotiations for a loan of nearly $1.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund have “stalled” over President Kais Saied’s recent policies.

Elected in 2019, Kais dissolved Parliament in July 2021, reformed the country’s constitution to increase his presidential powers, and then held a referendum followed by parliamentary elections with a very low turnout.

At the beginning of this year he cracked down on dissent, arresting politicians, labor union members, judges and members of civil society.

The economic situation in Tunisia is dire, leading more and more people to try to reach Italy on small boats.

Tajani said Italy is “the most interested” in ensuring that “Tunisia solves its problems and doesn’t become a failed state.”

He added that the Italian government has been working hard to ensure that the IMF and the World Bank help Tunisia.

“But there’s a problem: The IMF, with the support of the US, says, ‘You first carry out reforms, and then we’ll give the money.’ On the other hand, the Tunisians say, ‘First the money and then the reforms’,” he said.

“This is why we propose that the IMF gives immediately a first tranche of money; the rest of the loan can be paid in line with the progress of reforms.”

Tajani said the international community “can’t afford to make the mistake of leaving Tunisia to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Stefania Craxi, president of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Italian Senate, told Arab News: “The Muslim Brotherhood will prosper if the grant doesn’t come and the economy keeps going down.”

She added: “It’s right for the IMF to ask for reforms, but they must grant the loan before the worst happens. That money must come now.”

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger
Updated 27 March 2023

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger

Iraq changes electoral law, sparking opposition anger
  • The law revives the electoral law of 2018 and sweeps away one of the gains of the mass protest movement which shook Iraq

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament voted Monday to restore electoral laws that were scrapped after 2019 anti-government demonstrations, sparking anger from independent lawmakers who see it benefiting larger parties.
The law, which parliament said in a statement was “adopted” without detailing the votes, revives the electoral law of 2018 and sweeps away one of the gains of the mass protest movement which shook Iraq.
After the protests, a new system favored the emergence of independent candidates, with some 70 independents winning seats in the 329-member parliament in the last legislative elections in 2021.
Parliament is dominated by the Coordination Framework, an alliance of powerful pro-Iran Shiite factions, from whose ranks Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani emerged.
The new law removes 83 electoral districts and creates 18 seats, one for each of Iraq’s provinces.
This “makes it easier for top party politicians to win seats,” analyst Sajad Jiyad said on Twitter.
Conversely, it will make it “harder for candidates in smaller parties and independents to compete” because they will be running at a provincial rather than a local level, he added.
During the debate, which ran from Sunday into the early hours of Monday, several angry independent lawmakers were expelled from the debating chamber, according to videos they filmed themselves.
The law also replaces a first past the post system with proportional representation.
Overall, the changes will benefit the larger parties and make it possible “for their candidates who didn’t get enough votes initially to win seats,” Jiyad added.
“Independent candidates will no longer have any hope of obtaining representation in parliament,” said Alaa Al-Rikabi, an independent lawmaker. “They will be crushed.”
But Coordination Framework lawmaker Bahaa Al-Dine Nouri welcomed the change, arguing that it will “distribute the seats according to the size of the parties.”
Nouri said this will “lead to the formation of a government within the time limits set by the constitution” to avoid the endless standoffs that followed the 2021 election.
The new law will apply to the next legislative elections, the date of which has not yet been set.
It will also apply to provincial elections slated for November 6, to be held in 15 of the 18 Iraqi provinces, excluding the three provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, regional elections will take place on November 18 under a separate electoral system.

Israeli government in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests

Israeli government in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests
Updated 27 March 2023

Israeli government in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests

Israeli government in chaos as judicial reform plans draw mass protests
  • Reports of Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition risked breaking apart
  • Head of Israel’s top trade union calls for an immediate ‘general strike’

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition plunged into chaos on Monday, after mass overnight protests over the sacking of his defense chief piled pressure on the government to halt its bitterly contested plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Netanyahu had been expected to make a televised statement on Monday morning announcing the plans had been suspended. But, amid reports that his nationalist-religious coalition risked breaking apart, Israeli TV stations said the statement was postponed.

Earlier, a source in his Likud party and another source closely involved in the legislation said Netanyahu would suspend the overhaul, which has ignited some of Israel’s biggest-ever demonstrations and drew an intervention by the head of state.

“For the sake of the unity of the people of Israel, for the sake of responsibility, I call on you to stop the legislative process immediately,” President Isaac Herzog said on Twitter.

The warning by Herzog, who is supposed to stand above politics and whose function is largely ceremonial, underlined the alarm that the divisions triggered by the proposals have caused.

It followed a dramatic night of protests in cities across Israel, with tens of thousands flooding streets following Netanyahu’s announcement that he had dismissed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

A day earlier, Gallant had made a televised appeal for the government to halt its flagship overhaul of the judicial system, warning that the deep split it had opened up in Israeli society was affecting the military and threatening national security.

During furious scenes in the Knesset early on Monday, opposition members of parliament attacked Simcha Rothman, the committee chairman who has shepherded the bill, with cries of “Shame! Shame!” and accusations comparing the bill to militant groups that want the destruction of Israel.

“This is a hostile takeover of the State of Israel. No need for Hamas, no need for Hezbollah,” one lawmaker was heard saying to Rothman as the constitution committee approved a key bill to go forward for ratification.

“The law is balanced and good for Israel,” Rothman said.

Three months after it took power, Gallant’s removal has plunged Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition into crisis as it also faces a deepening security emergency in the occupied West Bank.

In a sign of the tensions within the coalition, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads one of the hard-line pro-settler parties in the coalition, called for the overhaul to go ahead.

“We must not stop the judiciary reform and must not surrender to anarchy,” he tweeted.

The shekel, which has seen big swings over recent weeks as the political turbulence has played out, fell 0.7 percent in early trading before recovering some ground as expectations grew the legislation would be halted.

As opposition spread, the head of the Histadrut labor union, Arnon Bar-David, called for a general strike if the proposals were not halted.

“Bring back the country’s sanity. If you don’t announce in a news conference today that you changed your mind, we will go on strike.”

Israeli media reported that takeoffs from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport have been suspended.

The judicial overhaul, which would give the executive more control over appointing judges to the Supreme Court and allow the government to override court rulings on the basis of a simple parliamentary majority, has drawn mass protests for weeks.

While the government says the overhaul is needed to rein in activist judges and set a proper balance between the elected government and the judiciary, opponents see it as an undermining of legal checks and balances and a threat to Israel’s democracy.

Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges that he denies, has so far vowed to continue with the project and a central part of the overhaul package, a bill that would tighten political control over judicial appointments, is due to be voted on in parliament this week.

As well as drawing opposition from the business establishment, the project has caused alarm among Israel’s allies. The United States said it was deeply concerned by Sunday’s events and saw an urgent need for compromise, while repeating calls to safeguard democratic values.

Rushed daylight-saving decision puts Lebanon in two time zones

Rushed daylight-saving decision puts Lebanon in two time zones
Updated 27 March 2023

Rushed daylight-saving decision puts Lebanon in two time zones

Rushed daylight-saving decision puts Lebanon in two time zones
  • Government issued last-minute decision to delay the start of daylight saving time by a month
  • Some institutions implemented the change while others refused, causing confusion

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government’s last-minute decision to delay the start of daylight saving time by a month until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan resulted in mass confusion Sunday.
With some institutions implementing the change while others refused, many Lebanese have found themselves in the position of juggling work and school schedules in different time zones — in a country that is just 88 kilometers (55 miles) at its widest point.
In some cases, the debate took on a sectarian nature, with many Christian politicians and institutions, including the small nation’s largest church, the Maronite Church, rejecting the move.
The small Mediterranean country normally sets its clocks forward an hour on the last Sunday in March, which aligns with most European countries.
However, on Thursday, the government announced a decision by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to push the start of daylight saving to April 21.
No reason was given for the decision, but a video of a meeting between Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri leaked to local media showed Berri asking Mikati to postpone the implementation of daylight saving time to allow Muslims to break their Ramadan fast an hour earlier.
Mikati responds that he had made a similar proposal but goes on to say that implementing the change would be difficult as it would cause problems in airline flight schedules, to which Berri interjects, “What flights?”
After the postponement of daylight saving was announced, Lebanon’s state airline, Middle East Airlines, said the departure times of all flights scheduled to leave from the Beirut airport between Sunday and April 21 would be advanced by an hour.
The country’s two cellular telephone networks messaged people asking them to change the settings of their clocks to manual instead of automatic so the time would not change at midnight, although in many cases the time advanced anyway.
While public institutions, in theory, are bound by the government’s decision, many private institutions, including TV stations, schools and businesses, announced that they would ignore the decision and move to daylight saving on Sunday as previously scheduled.
Even some public agencies refused to comply. Education Minister Abbas Halabi said in a statement Sunday evening that the decision was not legally valid because it had not been taken in a meeting of the Cabinet. If the government meets and approves the decision, he wrote, “we will be the first to implement it” but until then, “daylight saving time remains approved and applied in the educational sector.”
Soha Yazbek, a professor at the American University of Beirut, is among many parents who have found themselves and their children now bound to different schedules.
“So now I drop my kids to school at 8 am but arrive to my work 42 km away at 7:30 am and then I leave work at 5 p.m. but I arrive home an hour later at 7 pm!!” Yazbek wrote on Twitter, adding for the benefit of her non-Lebanese friends, “I have not gone mad, I just live in Wonderland.”
Haruka Naito, a Japanese non-governmental organization worker living in Beirut, discovered she has to be in two places at the same time on Monday morning.
“I had an 8 a.m. appointment and a 9 a.m. class, which will now happen at the same time,” she said. The 8 a.m. appointment for her residency paperwork is with a government agency following the official time, while her 9 a.m. Arabic class is with an institute that is expected to make the switch to daylight saving.
The schism has led to jokes about “Muslim time” and “Christian time,” while different Internet search engines came up with different results early Sunday morning when queried about the current time in Lebanon.
While in many cases, the schism broke down along sectarian lines, some Muslims also objected to the change and pointed out that fasting is supposed to begin at dawn and end at sunset regardless of time zone.
Many saw the issue as a distraction from the country’s larger economic and political problems.
Lebanon is in the midst of the worst financial crisis in its modern history. Three quarters of the population lives in poverty and IMF officials recently warned the country could be headed for hyperinflation if no action is taken. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of President Michel Aoun ended in late October as the parliament has failed to elect a replacement since.

US says ‘strongly urges’ Israel leaders to find compromise

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
Updated 27 March 2023

US says ‘strongly urges’ Israel leaders to find compromise

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fires Defense Minister Yoav Gallant
  • ‘We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible’

WASHINGTON: The United States is deeply concerned by events in Israel and “strongly urges” leaders there to find compromise as soon as possible, a White House spokesperson said on Sunday after the firing of Israel’s defense minister triggered mass protests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday, a day after Gallant broke ranks with the government and urged a halt to a highly contested plan to overhaul the judicial system.
“We continue to strongly urge Israeli leaders to find a compromise as soon as possible. We believe that is the best path forward for Israel and all of its citizens,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
Some three months since taking office, Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition has been plunged into crisis over the bitter divisions exposed by its flagship judicial overhaul plans.
The overhaul package would tighten political control over judicial appointments, handing the executive wider freedom to name judges to the Supreme Court.
“As the president recently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship,” Watson said.
“Democratic societies are strengthened by checks and balances, and fundamental changes to a democratic system should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.”