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.