Netanyahu Belatedly Approves Jordan's Request to Transfer Water, Withheld Amid Diplomatic Spat

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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The Jordan River, two months ago.
The Jordan River, two months ago.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel has approved a Jordanian request for extra water rations from the Jordan River, almost a month after Amman made the request due to water shortages in the kingdom.

Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had delayed the response amid a diplomatic crisis between the countries, but in recent days he accepted Energy Minister's Yuval Steinitz recommendation to agree to the Jordanian request.

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According to the peace agreement the two countiries signed in 1994, Israel regularly transfers water it pumps out of the Jordan River to its eastern neighbor.

Jordan often requests additional amounts when the kingdom experiences dry spells, which it experienced a lot of over the past decades due to a growing population and scarcity of natural water resources.

The situation in northern Jordan has been particularly difficult, with the flight of Syrian refugees into the country over the past 10 years let to a 40-percent increase in demand for water in the area.

Relations between Netanyahu and King Abdullah have been troubled for years. In 2017, a serious dispute erupted over the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to Temple Mount. Around the same time a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman shot and killed two Jordanian civilians. Abdullah agreed to release the guard, but was furious at Netanyahu for giving him a hero’s welcome and posing for a photo with the guard.

A renewed crisis flared up in recent weeks, mainly due to Jordan's part in the cancellation of Netanyahu’s visit to the United Arab Emirates. The tensions began with a proposed visit by Jordan’s Prince Hussein to Jerusalem. The prince, Abdullah’s son, was supposed to visit Temple Mount, but a dispute developed over security arrangements.

The Jordanians demanded that the prince be accompanied by dozens of their own armed bodyguards. A compromise was reached with the Shin Bet regarding the number of guards and the weapons they would carry, but then another dispute broke out over the prince’s wish to visit some churches in the city, outside the Temple Mount compound. The Shin Bet objected and the Jordanians cancelled the visit.

Moreover, the kingdom has been afflicted recently with a harsh onslaught of the coronavirus. Jordan expected Israel to help by transferring vaccines, at least several tens of thousands of doses for vaccinating medical staff.

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