Israel and Jordan reached an agreement Thursday for the Jewish state to sell an unprecedented amount of water to the kingdom, while also significantly increasing Jordanian exports to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The agreements, concluded during a meeting between its foreign ministers, signaled a better relationship with the new Israeli government after years of close ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Cooperation in water resources has been a major issue between Israel and Jordan since a 1994 peace agreement, but relations between neighbors have deteriorated in recent years.
At a meeting held just inside the Jordanian border, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his counterpart Ayman Safadi approved Israel’s sale of 50 million cubic meters of water to its neighbor.
An Israeli official said it would effectively double supply for the year – measured between May 2021 and May 2022 – as about 50 million cubic meters were already sold or given to Jordan. A Jordanian official said Israel gives the kingdom 30 million cubic meters annually under its 1994 peace treaty
Statements by the two governments have confirmed the sale and say that the final details of the transaction will be concluded in the coming days.
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director for EcoPeace Middle East, a leading organization for regional water cooperation operating in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan – described water sales as “the largest quantity ever sold among two countries “.
“[It] it’s a real “watershed” event, Bromberg said.
“It represents an understanding of mutual interests and how the countries of the region need to cooperate to survive the tremendous challenges to water and national security that the climate crisis gifts. “
Jordan is one of the most water-deficient countries in the world and experts say the country, which has 10 million people, has been struggling with one of the most severe droughts in its history.
Israel, which also faces water pressures, is a world leader in desalination.
In Palestinian trade, both sides have confirmed that Jordan’s ceiling on potential exports to the West Bank, a territory occupied by Israel since 1967, will increase from about $ 160 million to $ 700 million a year.
Jordan’s other envoy said in a statement that he and Lapid also discussed a path toward “a just and complete peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The Kingdom of Jordan is a close neighbor and companion,” Lapid said. “We will extend economic cooperation for the good of both countries.”
Jordan said technical teams will pull out the details in the coming days, and that negotiations on the implementation of the export ceiling will be carried out between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials.
Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Thursday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Jordan secretly last week and met with King Abdullah II at his palace in Amman.
It was the first meeting between the king and an Israeli prime minister in more than five years.
Palestinian sources said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with King Abdullah after his meeting with Bennett, Haaretz said.
Bilateral relations are growing tense under Netanyahu, which he was prohibited from using Jordanian airspace earlier this year, dismantling what was to be his first trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Netanyahu was replaced last month by Bennett, whose coalition indicated that warming ties with Jordan is a foreign policy priority.
Israel and Jordan made peace in 1994 and maintain close security ties, but relations have been strained in recent years over Palestinian tensions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Israeli expansion of Jewish settlements in lands won by the war, and the lack of any progress in the dying long peace process.
Both Jordan and the Palestinians were firmly opposed the Middle East plan of the Trump administration, which would have allowed Israel to annex up to a third of the occupied West Bank. Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war, territories that the Palestinians want as part of their future state.
The announcements came days before Jordanian King Abdullah II was to visit the White House. The Biden administration has asked all parties to take measures that could help lay the groundwork for a resumption of possible peace negotiations.