Tourism Trumps Terror in the Gulf of Aqaba, Where Israel and Jordan Vie for Visits from US Warships
By BARBARA OPALL-ROME
EILAT, Israel — Old Glory waves alongside Harrier jump jets on the aft deck of the USS Kearsarge docked just a short distance below my rooftop apartment in the Red Sea port town of Eilat. On the other side of this flagship of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, hosting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit on an 8-month deployment in the region, the zoom on my Iphone can make out a squadron of MV-22 Ospreys and a few other rotary wing aircraft.
I tried to get a closer look by driving down to the dock, but security guards quickly waved me away. Turns out my rooftop vantage offers one of the best views not only of the first visit of a U.S. warship here in 14 years, but of the dynamics at play in the Gulf of Aqaba between Israel and Jordan, its precarious peace partner of nearly 19 years.
Across these inviting aquamarine waters, Israel and its Hashemite neighbor strive on multiple fronts to shield bilateral relations from the spillover of escalating regional tensions. Here, in the Gulf of Aqaba, tourism and commerce trumps the war on terror as the two nations vie for revenue from merchant vessels, travel agencies and the right to host the U.S. 5th Fleet for rest, relaxation, maintenance and repair services. More