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Israel to let 700 Jordanians work at Eilat hotels after diplomatic spat

Government ministers also vote to slightly ease restrictions on entry through land border crossings with Egypt, Jordan

An Israeli flag fluters as the Red Sea resort city of Eilat and Jordan's Red Sea resort city of Aqaba are seen in the background, on April 17, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
An Israeli flag fluters as the Red Sea resort city of Eilat and Jordan's Red Sea resort city of Aqaba are seen in the background, on April 17, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

A day after a public spat with Amman, government ministers on Friday approved granting entry to 700 Jordanians to work in Eilat’s hotel industry, as Israel slightly eased restrictions on land border crossings.

The workers will have to undergo a coronavirus test upon crossing into Israel and then enter quarantine, according to a joint statement from the Health Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, which did not give a date for their entry.

The decision to allow the Jordanian laborers to work in the Red Sea resort town came a day after a spat between Israel and Jordan led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone his planned trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Netanyahu’s office said “difficulties” over a planned overflight stemmed from the cancellation of a scheduled visit on Wednesday by Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Jordan’s Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah addresses the United Nations General Assembly, at the United Nations headquarters, September 21, 2017. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the Israelis had wanted to unilaterally set restrictions on the royal visit and appeared to blame the spat on Israel’s upcoming elections, in remarks apparently aimed at Netanyahu.

But Israel disputed Safadi’s account, with officials quoted by the Kan public broadcaster saying the prince’s security delegation that arrived at the border was both larger and more heavily armed than had been agreed. The report said that when Israeli authorities insisted the Jordanians keep to the terms of the agreement, Hussein canceled the visit.

Along with allowing the Jordanians to work in Eilat, Friday’s statement said diplomats will be able to use the Jordan River crossing, further north, and cross between Israel and Egypt using the Taba border, also near Eilat. The crossings were closed in late January as part of sweeping restrictions on travel that virtually shuttered Ben Gurion Airport.

Eilat’s economy is heavily dependent on visitors from Israel and abroad and has been hard hit by the pandemic.

Illustrative: The Taba crossing on the Israeli-Egyptian border, near Eilat. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

As part of a gradual lifting of restrictions Israel is gradually reopening hotels, along with restaurants, bars, cafés and some other businesses, but only to those who have been fully vaccinated and obtained the so-called “green pass” to prove it.

It has so far given the recommended two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to just over four million of its roughly nine million population.

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