Jordan and Israel agree to water deal; more trade in the West Bank | Business and Economy News

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Israel and Jordan on Thursday reached a deal for the Jewish state to sell an unprecedented amount of water to the kingdom, while dramatically increasing Jordanian exports to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

The agreements, reached at a meeting between their foreign ministers, signaled an improvement in relations with Israel’s new government after years of strained relations under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Cooperation on water resources has been a central issue between Israel and Jordan since a 1994 peace accord, but relations between neighbors have deteriorated in recent years.

In a meeting held just inside the Jordanian border, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his counterpart Ayman Safadi approved Israel’s sale of 50 million cubic meters of water to its neighbor.

An Israeli official said this would effectively double the supply for the year – measured between May 2021 and May 2022 – because around 50 million cubic meters were already sold or given to Jordan. A Jordanian official said Israel is giving the kingdom 30 million cubic meters per year as part of its 1994 peace treaty.

Statements from both governments confirmed the sale and indicated that final details of the transaction would be finalized in the coming days.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, a leading organization on regional water cooperation that operates in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan – described the sale of water as “the greatest quantity ever. sold between the two countries ”.

“[It] is a real milestone, ”said Bromberg.

“It represents an understanding of mutual interests and how countries in the region must work together if we are to survive the enormous challenges to water and national security presented by the climate crisis.”

Jordan is one of the poorest water countries in the world and experts say the country, home to 10 million people, is struggling with one of the most severe droughts in its history.

Israel, which also faces water pressures, is a world leader in desalination.

Palestinian trade

Regarding Palestinian trade, both sides have confirmed that the ceiling for Jordan’s potential exports to the West Bank, a territory occupied by Israel since 1967, will drop from around $ 160 million to $ 700 million per year.

Jordan’s Supreme Envoy said in a statement that he and Lapid also discussed a path to “just and comprehensive peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The Kingdom of Jordan is an important neighbor and partner,” said Lapid. “We will expand economic cooperation for the good of both countries. “

Jordan said technical teams will work out details in the coming days and discussions on the implementation of the export cap will take place between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials.

Amman tour

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Thursday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly visited Jordan last week and met King Abdullah II at his Amman palace.

It would be the first meeting between the king and an Israeli prime minister in more than five years.

Palestinian sources said PA President Mahmoud Abbas met King Abdullah after his meeting with Bennett, Haaretz reported.

Bilateral relations have grown strained under Netanyahu, who was banned from using Jordanian airspace earlier this year, thwarting what was supposed to be his very first trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Netanyahu was replaced last month by Bennett, whose coalition has made warming relations with Jordan a foreign policy priority.

Israel and Jordan made peace in 1994 and maintain close security ties, but relations have been strained in recent years due to Palestinian tensions within the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements on lands won over by war and the lack of any progress in the long moribund peace process.

Jordan and the Palestinians were fiercely opposed to the Trump administration’s Middle East plan, which would have allowed Israel to annex up to a third of the occupied West Bank. Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want to be part of their future state.

The announcements came days before Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited the White House. The Biden administration called on all parties to take steps that could help lay the groundwork for a resumption of possible peace talks.

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