Tenders have been published for the construction of a new bridge across the Jordan River that will connect Israel and Jordan, the Ministry for Regional Cooperation announced Sunday.
The bridge is a key part the Jordan Gateway project — a joint industrial and business area spanning the river that is a natural border between the two countries.
Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation MK Ayoub Kara welcomed the development and said he hoped the industrial zone would promote improved ties between the nations.
Relations between the neighboring countries have become increasingly frayed against the backdrop of violent clashes on the Temple Mount in the Old city of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount compound has been at the epicenter of a surge in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and wider Palestinian-Israeli violence. Under a longstanding arrangement, Jordan maintains custodial rights over the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem through an organization called the Waqf.
“The Jordan Gate project is one of the most important in the relations between Israel-Jordan and will greatly contribute to improving the relations between the two peoples,” Kara said.
“I am happy that the tenders are published specifically at this period, as it is proof that the peace between Israel and Jordan is stronger than any extremists who are trying to drive a wedge between the countries and damage our joint attempts to bring a better future to the peoples of the area.”
Tenders were published by the Emek Hamayanot Regional council as the bridge will be located in its territory on the Israeli side near Tirat Tzvi, south of Beit She’an.
There are currently two bridges used to cross the river between Israel and Jordan, the Jordan River Crossing located near Beit She’an at the northern end of the Jordan Valley, and the Allenby Bridge that crosses from Jericho.
The Jordan Gateway project envisions a joint industrial area hosting Jordanian and Israeli factories, as well as a base for transferring goods from Jordan to Israeli ports.
The project is expected to demand an investment from Israel of about NIS 200 million ($51m) of which NIS 55 million ($14m) will be spent on the bridge.
An Israeli ministerial committee approved the project in November 2013 and the Jordanian approval came in April 2015.
A recent meeting of the joint Israeli-Jordanian Committee for Security and Transport gave the go-ahead for the bridge.
According to the plan, only authorized personnel and visitors will be allowed to enter the park, in which Israeli law will apply to the Israeli side and Jordanian law to the Jordanian side. A new governmental body called the Jordan Gateway Authority will be created to oversee activity on the Israeli side of the park.
Times of Israel contributed to this report.