Is the energy-for-water deal worth the benefits?

(Photo: Envato Elements)
Jordan’s pursuit to end its water crisis seems to have generated another set of problems. A plan arranged between Jordan, Israel and the UAE would see Jordan acquire fresh water from a new desalination plant in Israel in return for providing it with energy.اضافة اعلان

It may seem odd that the UAE is involved, but its role is to finance the prospective solar plant that will complete Jordan’s part of the deal.

Of course, energy cooperation is needed under the current circumstances. Jordan, like the rest of the world, is facing a toxic concoction of severe economic downturn and morbid consequences of climate change. But the task is difficult, for, trying to confront the problem only leads to a moral dilemma.

The above deal consists of more than just energy and water, and this is clear to anyone with the slightest sense of awareness. By following through this project, we risk further normalization with Israel, and to some, this is giving approval to Israel’s heinous actions against the Palestinians and its innumerable violations of international law.

Jordanians, many of whom are of Palestinian origin, view such a deal as an indignity; in essence, they be paying a price for something that is already thiers. Given this, it is no surprise that hundreds of thousands publicly protested against the deal. After all, according to the 2020 Arab Opinion Index, 93 percent of Jordanians are opposed to diplomatic recognition of Israel.

The UAE’s involvement in the deal has diplomatic ramifications as well. Part of what ensures Jordan’s prosperity in this turbulent region is its careful neutrality. Typically, Jordan’s leaders and diplomats maintain a level of negotiating skill unseen in the world. In the 1990s, Jordan was able to maintain relations with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the US and the Gulf states at once, all the while entering peace negotiations with Israel. Just this year Jordan began building ties with Iran, with whom tensions have been high since the revolution of 1979.

This energy-for-water deal is unlike Jordan because it places it firmly in one camp and runs the risk of alienating important regional powers. Aside from frustrating Iran and Qatar, this move may worsen relations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s largest neighbor, which was surprised to have been sidelined.

Given all this, it would be easy to paint the deal as unethical and illogical, but there are always two sides of a story. Even the most unpopular opinions deserve a voice. That voice is Mohammad Al Najjar’s, minister of water and irrigation.

After the agreement was made at the Dubai World Expo last November, the minister received an extraordinary amount of backlash from the Jordanian public. His phone number was leaked, and soon his inbox was filled to the brim with insulting and threatening messages. But is the minister the villain Jordan has made him out to be?

Najjar, a Palestinian himself, stresses that it is the dismal water crisis Jordan faces that pushed our government to make this move.

“I expected a high level of opposition because of Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians. Because of the economic situation, people found this deal to be a trigger,” he said.

If the minister knew this, why did he go through with the deal?

He said that Jordan is in dire need of water, and that Emirati investors would like to make money by selling clean electricity, which Jordan has much potential in producing, to the Israelis. This is when “we proposed water for electricity, and vice versa”.

What about other options? It seems there are none, at least none affordable, according to the minister, and that is true.

A look at our neighboring states shows that Jordan is not left with many options. Iraq, besides many other internal issues, is also experiencing water shortages thanks to a Turkish dam on the Euphrates. Obviously, the Saudis have to desalinate to get their own drinking water, and Syria has its own affairs to look after.

The aforementioned agreement, or, technically speaking, expression of intent, took three to four months of planning. Thus, it may be the case that this arrangement was well-planned.

After all, water is the lifeline of a nation.

We are now left with some food for thought: when it comes to critical matters like this, can we allow ideology and pride to take a backseat to practical solutions? Even in this circumstance, Jordan may be able to offer some more resistance to Israeli policy. With the leverage of an important asset like solar power, Jordan may be able to put its foot down against further Israeli abuse of Palestinians and this apartheid state’s other reprehensible actions. Most times, Jordan is at the receiving end of foreign influence, but this can change with the long-term energy development.

Still, even if we get a pass and the minister’s reasoning justifies this to the public, it must be said that in almost all cases, cooperating with the Zionist entity is deplorable. Perhaps the focus should be on educating our young generation in order to reach a point of self-sustainability in the coming decades.

Jordan must remain unwavering in its obligation to oppose Israel. Jordan and its people will work to better their situation and that of the Palestinians, even if the realities of the climate crisis and realpolitik get in the way.

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