Jordan Implores Israel for More Kinneret Water

YERUSHALAYIM -
Sunset at the Kinneret. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Despite the soured relations between Israel and Jordan – soured by Amman’s October decision not to renew its border lease agreement with Israel – representatives from Jordan are in Israel, seeking to convince officials to allocate the kingdom more water from the Kinneret. While Israel faces its own water shortage, Jordanian officials meeting with officials of the Water and Energy Ministry said their situation was “grave,” and that Jordan desperately needed Israel to pump more water from the Kinneret.

In October, Jordan decided not to renew a 25-year lease agreement that gives Israel the right to use two parcels of land – about 1,000 acres of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan, along with Naharayim, also known as “the peace island.” The lease expired on October 25th, and Israel has a year to vacate the land. The lease was part of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which says that either party has the option not to renew the lease. A one-year notification must be given.

Newspapers in Amman praised the decision, and said that Netanyahu’s management of the Palestinian issue was reason enough not to renew the lease. Sources in Amman told the local Al Hayat newspaper that the government could have easily chosen to extend the lease but decided not to because of “Israel’s stubborn and arrogant behavior.”

Meanwhile, Jordan has several times in recent months asked for an increase in the water supplied by Israel, also part of the 1994 peace treaty. The move is strongly opposed by right-wing MKs and ministers, who say that 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.

According to Hadashot News, Jordan has also been seeking permission from Israel to drill for water in the border area. The decision to do so is in the hands of Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who has sharply criticized Jordan for its stance on the leases.