Israel weighs sowing Jordanian ties with water canal project
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Israel has turned its attention to advancing a water project that would benefit Jordan following the neighboring countries announcement that it would not renew leases to the Jewish state for the border territories of Ghumar and Baqura, Haaretz reported Saturday.
The water project would establish a canal from the Red Sea to a desalination facility in Jordan, while the excess brine would be funneled back to the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking.
Jordan’s water supply is said to be edging on a crisis, as water is sometimes cut off for several days at a time.
Israel was hoping that advancing the water project that was cemented in a deal with Jordan in 2015 could mend relations and potentially make the Jordanians reconsider their termination of the leased territories.
While the termination of the lease does not violate or affect the countries’ peace treaty, the decision by Jordan suggests rising tensions between the Israel and Jordan, the only Arab country apart from Egypt to have a peace deal with the Jewish state.
Israel seized Baqura when its forces infiltrated the kingdom in 1950. It occupied Jordanian territories including Ghumar in the Six-Day War of 1967.
However, under their 1994 peace treaty, Jordan retained sovereignty over the areas but agreed to lease them to Israel for a renewable 25 years, with a one-year notice period for either party.
Last month, Jordan's King Abdullah II said his country had notified Israel that it wants to take back the two areas.
The decision could be related to Jordan’s exclusion on issues revolving around Jerusalem's holy Muslim sites at the Temple Mount as well as recent Palestinian negotiations, analysts say.
While it may help renew confidence in Israeli-Jordanian ties, the project remains unlikely to sway the royal kingdom of changing its mind on the land issue.
However, environmentalists are reportedly opposed to the water project because the rerouted water could alter the composition of the Dead Sea and lead to growth of certain algae as well as foul-smelling compounds that may put off tourists.
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