Jul 29, 2021

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Newly appointed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett just agreed to double the amount of water from the Jordan River that Israel sells to Jordan. According to the report, the water supplied to Jordan will be increased by an additional 50 million cubic meters per year until the end of 2022 and instructed the National Security Agency to evaluate the request each additional year based on the condition of the Kinneret.

Jordan is suffering severe water shortages exacerbated in part by the influx of over one million refugees from Syria.

Experts from the Water Authority assessed that water levels and conditions in the Kinneret permitted the additional amount. Jordan made the request in March from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who authorized the deal one month later. But the change in government required renegotiating the water deal.

Israeli media reported that the Biden administration urged Israel to supply Jordan with freshwater.

In 2010, Israel agreed to expand that annual allocation by 10 million cubic meters. Jordan paid 40 cents per cubic meter for the additional water; four times the regular price.

Israel signed a peace agreement with Jordan in 1994 in which they agreed on allocations of water from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers and from Araba/Arava groundwaters. Israel agreed to transfer to Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water annually from the northern part of the country for three cents per cubic meter. In addition, the two countries have agreed to cooperate to alleviate the water shortage by developing existing and new water resources, by preventing contamination of water resources, and by minimizing water wastage.

Water has historically been the basis for conflict in the region. In 1964, the Arab states decided to deprive Israel of 35% of the National Water Carrier capacity, by a diversion of the Jordan River headwaters (both the Hasbani and the Banias) to the Yarmouk River. The Arab countries eventually abandoned their project. Control of water resources and Israeli military attacks against the diversion effort are considered among the factors which led to the Six-Day War in June 1967.

 It should be noted in contrast that on April 30, 2020, Jordan ended the 25-year lease on agricultural land in Naharayim in the Jordan Valley and Tzofar in the Arava region in southern Israel. The land totaling 247 acres was also part of the peace deal. A special clause in the 1994 peace treaty permitted Israel to retain use of the land for 25 years with the understanding that the lease will be renewed. However, in October 2018, King Abdullah II announced plans to terminate the lease. Despite lengthy negotiations by the Israeli government, the lease was terminated.