Ministers: ‘Absurd’ to Give More Water to Jordan After Lease Debacle

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Island of Peace in Naharaim, northern Israel, on the border with Jordan. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

With Jordan saying that it will not even enter in negotiations with Israel on the extension of leases for several parcels of land along the border in the Arava and on Naharayim on the Jordan River, ministers on Tuesday said it would be “absurd” to go ahead with plans that had been made to increase the allocation of Kinneret water to Jordan.

The plans to increase the flow of water to Jordan, as well as to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and Gaza, have been in formation for months, with government officials calling it a “humanitarian need for our neighbors.” Israel is already giving Jordan more water than required by the peace treaty between the two countries; the agreement requires Israel to stream 45 million cubic meters of water annually to Jordan, and in recent years that has grown to 55 million cubic meters.

This year, the Jordanians asked for a further increase, to compensate for a drought that the country has experienced, as well as to satisfy increased demand from the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria in the country. Israel had agreed to that request, but Yediot Acharonot quoted ministers as saying that given Jordan’s behavior in the lease affair, Israel did not owe the kingdom any favors.

Jordanian sources quoted by the newspaper said that it was actually water that set off the diplomatic crisis. Israel and Jordan had agreed in 2015 to establish the Med-Dead Canal project, which would entail building a canal across Israel to bring water to the Dead Sea area, where a desalination plant was to be built, with the water to be shared by Israel and Jordan. Water would also be pumped from the Mediterranean, to bolster the Dead Sea itself, which has been shrinking due to a lesser flow of water from the Jordan River, the result of drought and diversion of water from the Kinneret.

Israel, the Jordanian source said, has been dragging its feet on the project, and Israeli sources confirmed this, saying that they were “embarrassed” to discuss the matter with the Jordanians because of Israel’s failure to live up to the agreement.