Spat With Jordan Averted as Israel Clears Plan for Water Pipeline

The program is based in part on Jerusalem’s 1994 pledge to provide the Jordanians with a set quantity of water every year.

Yaron Kaminsky

A potential diplomatic row with Jordan was avoided last week when an Interior Ministry committee rejected objections by four kibbutzim that had been holding up the laying of a water pipeline to Jordan.

A ministry appeals panel rejected the kibbutzim’s position, saying their stance depended too much on the principle “not in my backyard.” The pipeline is to pass through land used by the four agricultural communities near Lake Kinneret in the north.

The plan is being carried out in conjunction with an earlier commitment by Israel in its 1994 peace treaty with Jordan. Under that plan, Israel promised to provide the Jordanians with a set quantity of water every year.

Last year, in conjunction with a separate project with Amman involving desalination in Israel’s south, the government committed to increase the flow of freshwater from Lake Kinneret to Jordan. That required the Mekorot national water company to lay the new pipeline that the four kibbutzim objected to. The four kibbutzim are Degania Alef, Degania Bet, Kinneret and Beit Zera.

The plan, which was dubbed a national-priority project, called for part of the pipeline to run under agricultural land that the kibbutzim cultivated but which was actually owned by the Israel Lands Administration. The ILA consented to the pipeline plan.

The planning committee for the Jordan Valley approved the pipeline plan in January but conditioned it on the approval of the four kibbutzim. On appeal, the kibbutzim argued that Mekorot had improperly decreased the diameter of the pipe, while Mekorot said the kibbutzim’s consent was unnecessary.