Water scarcity brings Israel and Jordan closer

Under the pressure of the climate emergency, cooperation between Israel and Jordan in the management of water resources could experience an unprecedented improvement thanks to technological progress and the warming of relations between the two neighbors, according to climate experts from the Nations. united (IPCC).

The climate is changing faster than previously feared, putting pressure on water supplies at a time when demand has never been greater, experts said in a report released in August.

Extreme droughts

Warnings of impending “water wars”, especially in the Middle East, have often been exaggerated, said Erika Weinthal, professor of environmental policy at Duke University in the United States. “Water is a resource that allows adversaries to find the means to cooperate,” she explains, even if political tensions can weigh heavily like those around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jordan is one of the most water-deficit countries in the world, suffering from extreme droughts, and water cooperation with Israel predates the 1994 peace agreement between the two countries.

The water issue rose to prominence in 1921, when Pinhas Rutenberg, a Russian Jewish engineer who had settled in Palestine, convinced the British authorities and the Hashemite kings to approve the construction of a hydropower plant. where the Yarmouk River flows into the Jordan. It continued after the creation of Israel in 1948, for decades when Israel and Jordan were officially at war.

Benjamin Netanyahu accused of neglecting Jordan

But their water cooperation, as well as bilateral relations in general, have suffered in recent years under the reign of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused by his critics of having neglected Jordan while he was working. normalization of relations with Iran’s enemies in the Gulf. Signs of a warming appeared, however, with the arrival in June of the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. An agreement was reached in early July on the sale of 50 million m3 of water per year by Israel to the Hashemite Kingdom in addition to the 55 million m3 already provided each year free of charge to Jordan.

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New technologies have made it possible to reduce the cost of treating salt water, allowing Israel – a world leader in desalination – to sell more of this resource to its neighbor, especially fresh water from Lake Galilee, without compromising demand. interior, underlines Gidéon Bromberg, Israeli director of the NGO EcoPeace Middle East. As desalination has become a profitable activity, many investors are showing interest, he said, in Israel, Jordan but also in the United Arab Emirates, a country which has recently normalized its relations with Israel.

Reducing emissions in Israel

Israel, lacking space for the construction of solar energy production and storage units, will be able in exchange to obtain green electricity from Jordan, hoping to honor its commitments in terms of transition to clean energies. A signatory to the Paris climate agreements, Israel adopted in July an ambitious plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 85% by 2050. Under the July agreement, Amman will also be able to increase its exports to its destination. from neighboring Palestinian territory in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.

To tackle the shortage, Jordan also recently announced the construction of a desalination plant that will come into operation within five years, in the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. “Jordan is now the second country in the world where water resources are the most precarious, according to some estimates,” wrote the American think tank The Century Foundation in a report in December estimating that “the needs will be greater than the resources by more than 26% by 2025. “

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