Swarms of pesky flies may hold the key to improving Jordanian- Israeli relations.Seeking to end the insect infestation that has plagued farmers in the lower Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area for many years, officials from Israel’s Tamar regional council have joined with their counterparts from Jordan’s South Ghor regional council to build a model farm intended to solve insect-related problems on both sides of the border.On Tuesday, Regional Cooperation Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara, South Ghor regional council chairman Salem Alkalifat and Tamar Regional Council Mayor Dov Litvinoff signed an agreement to bring together Israeli and Jordanian insect-control experts at a model farm in South Ghor.Involved in the project as well are EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Hashemite kingdom’s Jordan Valley Authority.The model farm, which is expected to be ready by June, will apply Israeli agricultural technology to solve the fly infestation. The ministry has invested NIS 500 million in the project, in addition to funding from the Tamar regional council.What’s so bad about the flies? Livinoff said that for decades the swarms have plagued residents of the cluster of settlements along the southwestern corner of the Dead Sea. While pesticides have reduced the effect on regional agriculture, the Tamar regional council realized the issue must be dealt with at its source – on the Jordanian side of the frontier, he said.
Gidon Bromberg of EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East emphasized the need for bilateral cooperation to resolve the shared problem. “Pollution doesn’t stop at a border; pests don’t stop at a checkpoint,” he said.Speaking to The Jerusalem Post before the signing, MK Kara said the fly agreement is just one of a number of “confidence building” efforts between the two countries that he is spearheading. He hoped the model farm will strengthen Israeli-Jordanian relations at the national level.Kara also discussed the construction of a new Israeli-Jordanian border post near Beit She’an, currently being called the “Shalom Crossing,” to replace the current Jordan River bridge and immigration post. The bilateral project is awaiting approval from Jordan, he said.Efforts to strengthen ties between Israel and Jordan are critical, the Druse MK noted, since both countries share common extremist enemies, including Islamic State, Hezbollah and Iran. “Our enemy is their enemy,” he said.Kara is hoping that solving the fly problem will encourage tourism, and improve agricultural and work opportunities between the two countries.He is spearheading efforts to bring day workers from Jordan to hotels in Eilat, and wants to extend the day visa project to include Israeli hotels on the Dead Sea, as well as regional farms. Kara told the 30 people at the signing “There is no need to bring [guest] workers from Thailand.”Litvinoff noted the benefit for Jordanian farm hands working in Israel, saying they could earn five times as much as they do in Jordan.