Israeli-Palestinian Water Deal: A High-Water Mark in Relations

(New York Times) Seth M. Siegel - Jason Greenblatt, the president's Middle East envoy, announced Thursday in Jerusalem that the Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians will be cooperating on a large water infrastructure project. The project will take water from the Red Sea near Eilat, and use gravity to carry the water 137 miles via Jordan to the Dead Sea, where it will be desalinated, with the brine deposited in the shrinking Dead Sea and the fresh water transferred into Israel. In exchange, a water pipeline will be built from Israel into Jordan's capital, Amman, and Israel will augment the already significant amount of water it provides to the Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron area. The strategic genius of the plan is that it weaves vital economic interests of these sometimes-antagonists together. Even should Jordan or the West Bank someday fall to radical rejectionists, it would be nearly impossible for those leaders to entirely break the water ties established here without creating substantial hardship for their populations. In 2008, the Palestinian leadership decided to turn water into a political tool to bludgeon Israel. After warm working relations from 1995 to 2008, the Palestinian Water Authority refused to meet with its Israeli counterpart in the Oslo-created and hitherto high-functioning Joint Water Commission - under the banner of "anti-normalization." Politics in service of the governed had given way to politics in service of ideology and obstruction. Israel's settlements suffered from a lack of new water projects, but the Palestinians suffered more. Quietly, the Palestinian business community made clear that the value of blackening Israel's name was not worth the price being paid in quality of life and lost business opportunities. The writer is the author of Let There Be Water: Israel's Solution for a Water-Starved World.

2017-07-14 00:00:00

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