Jordanians angered by deal with Israel, experts puzzled by its logic

On Monday Novemeber 22, 2021, Jordan Israel, and the UAE signed a Letter of Intent for a project dubbed as “energy-for-water.” (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — Monday’s signing of a trilateral Letter of Intent (LoI) in Dubai between Jordan, Israel, and the UAE dubbed as “energy-for-water” deal has angered Jordanian political figures and activists and puzzled energy and water experts over the logic behind it. اضافة اعلان

Economist Jawad Anani views Monday’s ceremony as being overshadowed by the “shame and cover-up of the Jordanian government” which is not permissible at a time when numerous foreign media reported it, adding that it would have been more appropriate for the government to have a say on the matter, as Minister of Water and Irrigation Muhammad Najjar was the one to co-sign the LoI with the Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

Anani believes there has been American and international encouragement and direction towards the project, as the signing took place in the presence of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

On the Red Sea desalination project, Anani said the project requires 5-6 years to implement at a time when “Jordan is in dire need for water.”  Economically, however he advocates this option being the closest, fastest, and least expensive solution, especially with a rising population growth.  “We have to be logical, and people should understand that Jordan is under great political pressure.”

Executive Director of the Center for Defending Freedoms of Journalists, Nidal Mansour was critical of the government’s lack of disclosure and evasion of public opinion regarding critical issues, which only serves to create further confusion, especially when foreign media is fast to cover those issues.  
He asked how could the government conclude an agreement with Israel despite the Jordanian people’s refusal to engage with the “occupying state” on the strategic issue of energy and water. 

Lawmaker Khalil Attieh said that the government is filling up wells, emptying the dams of water, and not operating the Turkish rigs, which cost millions, and stopped pumping from Khan Al-Zabib wells, which could yield 20 million cubic meters of water, while cutting water off from citizens.  “All of these actions are planned and agreed upon to conclude the energy and water agreement,” he said.  

Lawmaker Saleh Al-Armouti lambasted “the government and its spokesperson for not telling the people about the agreement. He said the Lower House must convene a session to discuss the matter, as “the agreement will harm the homeland and its security.” 

Water expert Amer Shobaki said the problem of water deficit in Jordan is not new, and it is due to climate change, population growth, and the refugee influx, which led to a decrease in the level of groundwater. 

“This year, the water deficit has become more apparent, and officials have been late in addressing it and in unsuccessful ways,” he said.
Shobaki believes the solution to the water issue in Jordan can only come by building a desalination plant in Aqaba and pumping water to the north, adding that its construction will take the same time as the implementation of the water agreement with Israel.

Shobaki also added that the current water deficit is estimated at 50 million cubic meters annually, and the deficit is expected to stand at between 200 and 300 million cubic meters annually within the next 5 to 10 years, depending on the depletion in the groundwater level and the population growth.
Criticizing the deal with Israel, Shobaki said water from the Israeli side will hardly cover the local needs while Jordan’s water security would become dependent on an external source.

The Partnership and Salvation Party also issued a statement denouncing the LoI signed by the three countries while describing the development as “another disappointment recorded by Bisher Khasawneh’s government.”
The party expressed shock at what it called the “official media silence,” adding that the Jordanian public knew of the deal through “media in the Zionist entity,” while the Lower House was “kept in the dark.” 

For his part, MP Yanal Fraihat said the LoI Jordan signed with “the Israeli occupation authorities” violates Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, which stipulates that treaties and agreements which involve financial commitments to the Treasury or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians shall not be valid unless approved by the National Assembly.”

On his part, former government spokeman, Samih Maaitah said the government has tried to play down the nature of the energy-for-water deal by saying that it was a tentative understanding, at a time when people have read extensive financial and technical details about it in the foreign media. 
“Public opinion will remain the same, whether it is an initial or a final agreement,” he said.  Irrespective of the technical or beneficial aspects involved, “what counts are the hidden political dimensions.” 

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