At the request of the Jordanian royal house, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has approved selling Jordan an additional 50 million cubic meters per year, over five years, Ynet reported Friday. According to the report, at a meeting of the Joint Water Committee for Israel and Jordan, the Jordanians asked to purchase an additional amount beyond what they are already buying, due to their water shortage.
The Biden administration acted behind the scenes to encourage Israel to comply with Jordan’s request, to improve the atmosphere between the two neighbors.
As part of the 1994 peace agreements between the two countries, Israel undertook to supply Jordan up to 55 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret each year – regardless of the condition of the lake. This has contributed in a major way to the catastrophic loss of water in the Kinneret in drought years.
Every year the Jordanians ask Israel for an additional amount of water beyond their annual quota, and each year Israel agrees, no questions asked. Even in years when the Jordanian monarch bolsters his status with his Palestinian subjects by vilifying the Jewish State.
But in 2021, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his response as retaliation for Jordan’s preventing his flight to the Emirates from flying over its territory – which was supposed to be the highlight of his recent election campaign. So Bennett was only too happy to oblige. After all, what’s five billion liter water bottles between neighbors…
The Prime Minister approved the King’s request until the end of 2022 and instructed the National Security Agency to evaluate the request each additional year based on the condition of the Kinneret. The Water Authority informed the PM that the current state of the lake allows for granting the Jordanians’ request. Jordan will transfer the full payment to Israel for the water.
Bennett wishes to open a new page in Israel’s relations with Jordan, which were very tense in the final days of the Netanyahu administration.
Here’s a suggestion: on April 30, 2020, Jordan ended the 25-year lease on lands that were used by Israeli farmers as part of the peace deal. The move destroyed those farmers. Perhaps PM Bennett should condition selling the thirsty Jordanian more water on Jordan leasing Israel’s hungry farmers their lands. It’s what good neighbors do.