The Jordan-Israel Solar Energy-for-Water Deal

In late November of 2021 at the Dubai Expo, a ground-breaking resource sharing agreement was signed by Israel, Jordan and the UAE. Under the agreement, the UAE will support Jordan in setting up a Solar farm to provide Israel with 2-3% of its electricity over the next decade. In return, Israel will set up a desalination plant on its Mediterranean coast, providing much needed drinking water to Jordan. This is the largest display of regional interpolarity ever undertaken by Israel and Arab nations.

This deal is a lifeline for Jordan, who’s watery supply is growing ever scarcer. With an exceptionally hot and dry summer in 2021, 6 out of its 17 dams dried up. Israel’s Director of EcoPeace, Gidon Bromberg describes it as a “win-win for all sides and a model for out-of-the-box thinking on climate security”. This is not untrue; Israel would struggle to meet their renewable quota in line with the Paris Climate Accords. Realistically, this agreement is more of a necessity for Jordan and a luxury for Israel.

It marks the first public normalization of relations between an Arab country and Israel since that of Jordan in 1994, which improved security relations but did little else. The agreement comes off the back of the Abraham Accords signed in 2020 by the UAE, Israel and the United States. It is a positive sign than an agreement has come to fruition after the accords. Some commentators feared the Accords were going to be nothing more than a diplomatic gesture.

Can the agreement calm tensions?

The regional and international significance may be clear, but that means little on the ground. With a Palestinian majority in Jordan, hostile feelings are not going to go way overnight. Many fear that the dependence on Israel that the deal creates will allow Israel to strongarm Jordan. With this discontent among the population there is a fear, remote for now, that it could destabilise the country. There have already been protests in response to the deal which as we have seen, can escalate all too easily.

While the Jordanian population may have concerns, the hope is that the deal will bolster Jordan’s stability by addressing its severe water shortage and providing help to the cash-strapped government.

It is unlikely to do anything for Palestine tensions either. The deal is another sign that Arab states are continuing their rapprochement with Israel. Saudi Arabia continues their clandestine engagement with Israel and will perhaps follow a similar route to that of the UAE who have welcomed Israel with open arms in recent years.

The deal could prove to be very lucrative for Israel. It’s a further demonstration of their desalination capabilities. Over half of Israel’s water is produced in such a way and this resource-sharing agreement only cements Israeli dominance in the space. As mentioned in a previous article, water security in Africa and the Middle East is only going to become more prevalent. More deals like this could prove hugely beneficial for Israel, both economically and politically. Israel have a new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett and the deal is clear indication of his desire for a more peaceful region.

The Role of the UAE:

The UAE have taken on a facilitatory role in the agreement. A role that is likely to be of great international importance for them. It demonstrates their ability to play an active leadership role in the region and their name is in the hat as a legitimate regional player. Since the signing of the deal, Israel have begun investing into Emirati tech firms, tourism has increased and bilateral trade between the two nations has strengthened. Israel is a powerful economic player and one the UAE will be glad to have as on its side. There are drawbacks for the UAE, they have lost the trust of Palestinians and it is unlikely the UAE will advocate for Palestinian human rights and statehood going forward. A further blow for those hoping for Palestinian statehood.

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