Hope for Middle East détente Israel is selling record amounts of water to Jordan - and reaching out to Palestinians
Israel and Jordan surprisingly come closer again with a spectacular water deal. Now the peace process with the Palestinians could even take off.
The new government in Israel is considered a difficult construct, as it is based on an eight-party coalition of very different political directions. However, just three weeks after taking office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Foreign Minister Jair Lapid can show a remarkable negotiating success, which could even have a positive effect on the hostile Israeli-Palestinian relations.
On Thursday, Israel and Jordan announced an agreement on the supply of water: the Jewish state undertook to supply the kingdom with a record 50 million cubic meters of water. This news is likely to attract attention in the Arab world; the Al Jazeera station based in Doha, Qatar, for example, reports in great detail on the deal - also because an export agreement for the Israeli-occupied West Bank was also concluded in the course of the negotiations.
The kingdom Jordan With its ten million inhabitants, it is one of the most arid countries in the world. Israel is not exactly rich in precipitation and freshwater either - but the Israelis are leaders in the technology of seawater desalination. Lapid and his Jordanian counterpart Aiman Safadi met for the negotiations.
Israel needs Jordan as a stable partner
Jordan has traditionally been seen as the anchor of stability in the region and is an ally of the United States. The country is also closely interwoven with the fate of the Palestinians: More than two million people in Jordan are Palestinian refugees or descend from them.
There has been a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel since 1994. Cooperation on water resources played an important role from the start. So far, Israel has delivered 30 million cubic meters of water to Jordan annually as part of this peace agreement, reports Al Jazeera, citing information from a high Jordanian official in Israel. At the meeting of the two foreign ministers, which took place in Jordan just across the border, Lapid named Jordan an "important partner" for Israel. Jerusalem wants to strengthen relations with Amman again, said Lapid, adding: "We want to expand economic cooperation for the benefit of our two countries".
Improved relations between the two countries would be a step forward in the region and could also restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The most recent bloody Gaza-Israel conflict in May and the violent protests of Palestinians in Israel are freshly remembered across the region. Relations with Jordan had deteriorated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Amman also had differences of opinion with the former American President Donald Trump, who was considered an important ally of Netanyahu, about the division of territory in the politically fragile region.
US President Joe Biden will soon be welcoming the Jordanian royal family
But now the United States also has a new president. In a week and a half, the Democrat Joe Biden will receive Jordan's King Abdullah II, Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein in the White House. The visit to Washington on July 19 should "demonstrate Jordan's leading role in promoting peace and stability in the region," the White House announced this week.
An agreement on trade between Jordan and the West Bank should also provide relaxation and a bit of optimism. Because in the course of the water agreement, both sides also reached an export agreement: Jordan will raise its upper limit for potential exports to the West Bank from about 160 million dollars to 700 million dollars per year, it says.
The talks were also about a path to a "just and comprehensive peace" between Israel and the Palestinians, as a Jordanian envoy told Al Jazeera.
Both sides must now determine the details of the agreement, and there will also be talks between representatives of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.