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Jordanians critical of trilateral ‘energy-for-water’ project

Deal gives Israel window to control the vital resource, some fear

1. Energy for Water
The El Prat Desalination Plant near Barcelona, Spain, on July 29, 2010. An anticipated deal between Jordan, the UAE, and Israel would see the construction of a water desalination plant built on the Israeli coast. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
AMMAN — The ‘energy-for-water’ mega project that Jordan is yet to confirm and sign alongside the UAE and Israel is being met with mixed reactions, and is seen as objectionable by some groups, including experts, and analysts, who say it would give Israel a window to control the region.اضافة اعلان

The project, envisaged to be signed on Monday in Dubai, entails building a desalination plant on the Mediterranean coast to provide Jordan with water in exchange for a solar farm in the Jordanian desert that would provide clean energy to Israel. Commentators who spoke with Jordan News believe this is an attempt by Israel to control Arab states.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF) said in a press statement issued on Saturday that the agreement poses a threat to Jordanian sovereignty as it puts the vital sectors of the water and energy in Israel’s hands. Moreover, the agreement, the IAF said, goes against the Jordanian people’s longstanding stance against all forms of normalization with Israel.

The IAF contended that the agreement would violate the Jordanian Constitution, namely Article 33, which states “Conventions and agreements which would affect the state’s Treasury or the Jordanian people’s public and private rights shall not take effect unless approved by the Parliament. Also, any secret terms in a convention or agreement shall not contradict the public terms whatsoever.”

Political analyst Labeeb Qamhawi told Jordan News that he did not see any rationale in including Israel in this agreement, as it would lead to no added value except for normalization with Israel, “and a chance to control us”.
“The funder, being the UAE, is an Arab country, and so is the beneficiary, which is Jordan, so why would Israel take part in the plan?” questioned Qamhawi, who views Israel as the greatest beneficiary.

Qamhawi added that the project could very well be a part of an extensive scheme that would link Israel with regional strategic plans, and “consequently lead to Israel becoming part of the Arab world.”

Amer Shoubaki, an energy expert, said in an interview with Jordan News that “successive Jordanian governments have not prioritized the issue of water security, despite the fact that Jordan has been suffering from water shortage for decades.”  If governments had prioritized water in developmental plans, he added, the water shortage crisis would have been resolved years ago. “But, that is not the case.”

Shoubaki argued that “Israel could become hostile to Jordan at any moment, and consequently threaten to cut off the Kingdom’s water supply,” pointing out that Jordan is in no place to venture into any new risky projects, particularly as the water crisis worsens each year.  Furthermore, Shoubaki believes that the project will not solve the root cause of the water problem Jordan faces, but only serve as a temporary solution.

“Any desalination plant must operate under the management and oversight of the concerned country,” Shoubaki said, in order for that country to be able to ensure that “the water is safe for human consumption, and that it meets the quality and safety standards.”

According to the US news website Axios, a solar farm will be built by Masdar, a UAE government-owned alternative energy company. The plan calls for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and will be designed to produce 2 percent of Israel's energy by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million per year — divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.

In a bid to address a persisting water shortage, Jordan bought 100 million cubic meters from Israel this year in addition to 55 million cubic meters that it gets under the 1994 Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty. According to water and energy experts, Jordan needs an estimated 1.3 billion cubic meters of water annually to cover the needs of the various sectors.

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