What the Jordan-Israel Water and Energy Deal Means for the Future of Middle East Peacemaking

Nov. 24 2021

In Dubai on Monday, Israeli and Jordanian representatives signed a major cooperation agreement, which involves an Emirati firm building a solar-power plant in Jordan that will export clean energy to the Jewish state. At the same time, Jordan has agreed to buy potable water from an Israeli desalination plant that will be constructed on the Mediterranean coast. The United Arab Emirates, which helped to broker the deal, will also provide crucial investment. Ghaith al-Omari and Simon Henderson examine the plan’s significance:

Once implemented, the deal could bolster Jordan’s stability by addressing its severe water shortage and providing help to its cash-strapped government. Israel, the UAE, and the United States all see the kingdom as an ally and are invested in its stability.

The deal also demonstrates additional ways to build on the Abraham Accords. So far, most of the diplomatic activity surrounding the accords has focused on adding new countries or deepening bilateral relations between Israel and its new partners. These efforts should be continued, but the solar/water deal shows how the accords can simultaneously deepen Israel’s relations with the first generation of Arab peacemakers, [i.e., Egypt and Jordan].

With the trilateral deal, the UAE will not only provide all-important financial resources, but also help create a context in which Jordan-Israel relations can proceed in a less-charged political environment. Criticism of Israel is common in the Jordanian media, but commentators tend to be more cautious when discussing a friendly Arab country such as the UAE, arguably Amman’s closest Gulf ally.

Abu Dhabi’s role may have a similar effect on the Israeli domestic scene. Although Israel has traditionally been keener than Jordan to develop bilateral civilian ties, signs of politicization have emerged there as well. For example, Benjamin Netanyahu recently criticized the current government’s decision to sell more water to Amman. Framing the bilateral relationship within the Abraham Accords—which are immensely popular in Israel—can blunt some of that politicization.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Water

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship