Minister: Increasing water supply to Jordan is 'absurd'
Following Jordan's decision to cancel the annex to the peace treaty with Israel, senior ministers say 'increasing water supply to Jordan while Israel is drying up is absurd'; Political sources: Israel also bears responsibility for this crisis—the writing was on the wall.
Senior Israeli ministers have complained that increasing water supply to Jordan, after the Hashemite Kingdom decided to cancel the appendices to the peace treaty with Israel, is an "absurd gesture," while other Israeli officials said the responsibility for the crisis between the countries in part lies with the Israeli government.
The writing was apparently on the wall. Two years ago, Jordanian Water Authority chief Saad Abu Hammour warned Israeli diplomats that his country would have no choice but to demand the territories of Naharayim and Tzofar back, senior officials involved in the relations between the two countries told Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Jordanians were furious that Israel did not honor an agreement signed on February 26, 2015, which launched the "Sea Canal" project. The project included the construction of a desalination plant in Aqaba, which will pump water to Jordan and Israel. Israel agreed to purchase 35-50 million cubes of desalinated water from the Jordanian facility, as well as construct a 200 km pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea for seawater transfer.
"Since then we have been stagnant and haven't made any progress," said one Israeli official. "They (the government) are doing what they want and constantly violate our agreements with Jordan. It is shameful and inappropriate. Because of the government's conduct, the Jordanians no longer trust us."
The crisis with Jordan escalated Monday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to renegotiate the lease of Naharayim and Tzofar enclaves stirred a great deal of anger in Amman.
"Jordan will take back its territories. If negotiations are to take place, they will only concern the manner in which lands will return to full Jordanian sovereignty within a year," Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi clarified, while adding that it was King Abdullah's decision to exercise the option to claim back the territories. "This decision is final, there will be no room for change," he said.
Meanwhile, senior Israeli ministers said Israel plans to increase the amount of water it pumps to Jordan (as well as the water supply to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza). Although they claimed this constitutes "humanitarian aid," they also made it clear that it is an "absurd gesture" given the recent strain in relations.
According to a senior minister, there is no justification to increasing the amount of water transferred to Jordan while Israeli farmers suffer, and the entire country is "drying up."
In accordance with the peace treaty and the subsequent understandings reached between the two countries, Israel initially supplied 45 million cubic meters of water per year to Jordan. In recent years, the water supply has increased to 55 million cubic meters a year.
At the present, because of Jordan's water shortage—partly due to millions of refugees fleeing from Syria—the Jordanians have asked to increase the water supply, especially during the summer, and Israel has agreed. According to the minister, in a move kept quiet, Israel is expected to transfer the additional water supply soon, at a particularly low price.
"The peace agreement includes the option of ending Israel's lease of Naharayim and Tzofar enclaves, and heavy pressure was exerted by the opposition in Jordan to exercise this option, and so, this is what happened. The official assessment is that Jordan's decision would have been made due to internal considerations, regardless of Israel's actions," political sources said Monday.