Follow-up of political water issues in the Israeli-Jordanian relations
(Articles appear in reverse chronological order)

2000

1999
The Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal from an Israeli perspective (Jordan Times, 28/09/2000)
By Dureid Mahasneh (the author is a water expert and a member of Jordan's former peace negotiating team with Israel)
It came as a surprise (to me at least) that the Israelis are showing some interest in the Red Sea — Dead Sea Canal (RSDSC) project after opposing the idea for so many years.
It was not a secret that Israel always preferred another canal extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea and they only engaged in talks about the RSDSC in the trilateral committee with Jordan and the United States for the sake of not being attacked as non-cooperative. Thus, their engagement in the works of the committee and the master plan study of the Jordan Rift Valley was minimal and lacked any enthusiasm. They even assigned Mr Rafi Benvenisti, an old timer and an expert on details but few results under his belt at least in that area, to head their team. What added to my surprise now is that Benvenisti is back heading the Israeli team to talk to their counterparts in Jordan about the same project. Since I do not believe in coincidences especially where Israel is concerned, this led me to look further into the Israeli initiative.
The Israeli team came to talks that resumed lately at different levels here and in Israel, backed by a review report written by one of the prominent Israeli Consultants firms, Tahal. The Tahal paper depended mostly on the work done by Harza and Dar Al Handasah with the support of the World Bank and financed by the Italian Government. The Jordanian Government through the American firm Bechtel later reviewed this study. All the previous mentioned works agreed on the three components of the project, which are: The whole project when first studied jointly in 1995 was about integrated development in the Jordan Rift Valley and the RSDSC was an essential part of the scheme. However, the Israeli report is only interested in the canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It even gave a new name to the project, the `Red Sea-Dead Sea Peace Conduit'. One does not have to look further to understand that the main interest Israel has is looking for ways to save the Dead Sea from further decline by restoring the natural environment. This would help save tourist and industrial investments on the Dead Sea from the destructive effects of declining sea water levels causing sink holes in the ground. Unlike previous studies, the Israeli report is limiting Israel's role only to the execution of the canal carrying sea water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It is leaving the desalination process — the focal project from a Jordanian point of view — to be privatised. It also accepts that the canal will be on Jordanian soil as a Jordanian project thus eligible for soft loans and grants. Nevertheless, Israel is accepting to call the project a joint one and even share in selling the conveyed sea water to the desalination plant. They are thus not excluding the role Israeli companies might play in implementing the presumed Peace Conduit.
One wonders where this generosity comes from? It is apparent that the Tahal study finalised in July of this year was made for the use of the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation and supported by Minister Peres and the centre named after him. Clearly the Israelis took advantage of the fact that Jordan could not say no to such a vital project which would secure over 500 million cubic metres (mcm) of fresh water and provide development in the poor valley and unique employment opportunities. Realising more and more that there would be little reward for Jordan as a result of the final status talks between Israel and the PA, such a project might be a reasonable compensation to satisfy Jordanians! Remarkably enough, the Israeli initiative was more than welcomed in the Jordanian official circles and meetings are leading to efforts to secure funds needed to complete the necessary studies. Even Jordanian businessmen attending the annual meeting of the Peres Centre for Peace this September started collecting information about the project and seeking partnerships with their Israeli counterparts.
Since deliberations have barely started, it is thus not too late to remind all that the project is only feasible if executed in its totality as an integrated development project and not fragmented into components where partners would pick what is profitable for them and discard the rest. Though this is the project that may secure Jordanian needs for fresh water, any initiative in cooperation with Israel should also emphasise Israel's implementation of other projects stipulated in the Peace Treaty with Jordan. Those projects include the additional 50mcm water for Jordan, the dams on the Jordan River and the rehabilitation of the Jordan River.
This by all means should not diminish the Israeli move since the execution of the RSDSC project is only achievable through cooperation with Israel and the future Palestinian State. It is thus apparent that a sort of jointly managed commission needs to be formed to enable the implementation of these projects. Such a commission granted international support and managed through private sector type initiatives, is necessary to cut red tape, execute projects and prevent future water conflicts in the region. On the other hand, there is a big difference of wills in Israel between the Prime minister's office and the Peres Centre and one would really feel more confident if the initiative was coming from Barak's office. An office that was not able to help in the election of Peres as the president of Israel would find it as difficult to secure the $5 billion needed to implement the project.


Officials deny Israel stopped supplying Jordan with water (Jordan Times, 06/06/2000)
Jordanian and Israeli officials on Monday denied a news report saying that Israel had announced that it had stopped supplying Jordan with an additional 25-30 million cubic metres (mcm) of water annually.
In an article published yesterday, Al Rai Arabic daily referred to a commentary written by Ze'ev Schiff in the Israeli daily Haaretz and published May 16, in which Schiff said that the agreement by which Israel provides Jordan with 25-30 mcm of water annually had ended on May 7.
In the Haaretz English Internet edition of the same day, Schiff said: “Israel has informed Jordan that the Hassan-Sharon agreement is no longer valid, while Israeli experts are saying that Israel should immediately stop issuing this special grant of water...”
But Israeli Press Officer Roey Gilad told the Jordan Times on Monday that “Israel did not stop pumping water to Jordan on May 7.”
Minister of Water and Irrigation Kamel Mahadin confirmed that the pumping of water to Jordan had not been halted.
An article in the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel provides for the two sides to search for additional sources of water to make available 50 mcm of water (for Jordan's needs) within one year after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the peace treaty.
The most prominent plan to find additional water was the setting up of a desalination plant.
However, by 1997, two-and-a-half years after the peace treaty, none of these ambitious plans had materialised.
In order to provide Jordan with much needed water in the meantime, an interim agreement was concluded between Jordan and Israel on May 7, 1997.
Under this agreement, Israel was to supply Jordan with 25-30 mcm of water annually until a desalination plant would have been set up to supply Jordan with the 50 mcm of water provided for in the peace treaty.
According to Schiff, the agreement set a three-year time frame that expired on May 7, 2000.
Mahadin, however, told the Jordan Times that according to the agreement, Israel is obliged to supply Jordan with the above mentioned amount of water until a desalination plant is erected and becomes functional to supply Jordan with the 50 mcm annually.
A Jordanian water expert, who preferred not to be named, concurred: “The three-year period was not meant to be a time frame for the agreement but an estimation of the period of time needed to erect the desalination plant,” he said.
Early last summer, Jordan and Israel locked horns over the water supply issue when the Likud government of then-Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu decided to cut water provided to Jordan from Lake Tiberias. When the Labour Party defeated the Likud, newly-elected Premier Ehud Barak found a compromise solution with his neighbours, admitting that the Israeli claim that drought had prompted the cut off was a false excuse.
“I hope and I believe that Israel will not stop supplying Jordan with water,” Mahadin concluded.


Cooperation on water resource management only way to ensure regional stability, environmental sustainabilty (Jordan Times, 02/02/2000)
By Batir Wardam (The writer works for the World Conservation Union (UCN) `Jordan-Programme Development Unit')
The jubilation following the long-awaited heavy snow and rainfall proves how much people have worried about possible droughts next summer. The water issue has really become a matter of national security.
It was a good suggestion by Prime Minister Abdur-Raouf S. Rawabdeh to call for the establishment of a commission on `water and security' two months ago. Alas, nothing has materialised so far and the government's answer to the continued drought was to further exploit non-renewable ground water resources, while turning a blind eye to the illegal exploitation of groundwater through more than 500 unregistered wells owned by `fat cats'. A more disturbing alternative was the idea of importing water from Turkey to Jordan via Israel, a pipeline route that could hardly be designated `secure'!!!
What we hope for is that such a committee, if ever established, will be formed from truly dedicated technocrats and scientists rather than a group of bureaucrats with a lot of paper work that nobody actually cares to read. Such committees usually end up with prepared statements on how the Government has succeeded in providing water and maintaining its purity.
The water and security issue in Jordan and the Middle East is of great vitality since this region has virtually run out of water. So many potential sources of conflicts are being incarnated at an alarming rate, both interstate and intrastate. The term `security' itself is now taking new shape in international relations.
Security has traditionally been dealt with as a strictly militaristic concept associated with security of borders and national institutions against threats from outside. Now researchers and scholars are moving away from that definition to a wider and more holistic approach encompassing environmental security in terms of equitable resource management and combating environmental degradation of life support systems.
Such a concept is vital for the Middle East in particular. Water is the predominant environmental threat to the security of the region. His Majesty King Abdullah was among several leaders in the region to call for joint and collaborative efforts to combat water scarcity and distribution problems in the region. Otherwise, this issue might ignite violent conflicts in the future.
Water Security could be defined within several criteria including stability of societies, inequitable distribution of water resources, scarcity and low affordability of water as well as degradation of water quality. All these elements, unfortunately, are reflected in the water dilemma in Jordan.
An integral concept of water security is equity. This is manifested in the equitable sharing of affordable resources, which relates to regional, sectoral and intergenerational equity.
Equity has emerged as an important key element of water security due to the fact that globalisation trends have increased the proportion of `marginalised' people around the world; those who are being `discriminated against' on the basis of access to economic power and capital. Equitable sharing of environmental (natural) resources is proving to be both ethically and an environmentally sustainable policy.
Natural resources are becoming either a source of conflict or a point of cooperation. This will depend on the existence of conflict resolving traditions and mechanisms between states and between several stakeholders in the community. Unfortunately, the Middle East region does not have this, thus one of the main objectives of any plan to tackle water security issues will be to facilitate the establishment of such a mechanism.
Shortages in water resources have reached crises levels. The per capita consumption of countries like Jordan has reached alarming scarcity. Compared to what is internationally conceived as adequate water consumption at 1000 cubic metres/year and water scarcity level at 500 cubic metres, Jordanians have a share of 350 cubic metres per capita. There is no common vision between states in the region on how to manage water crises especially in transboundary dimensions.
Added to that, most freshwater resources of any single country originate from a neighbouring country. This will lead to conflicts of rights between riparian countries. The desire of one country to control the water resources originating from its territories or managing it individually may lead to negative reactions from neighbouring countries which get negatively affected (i.e. Turkey vs. Syria and Iraq).
Several international agreements on water sharing have not been implemented or abided by. Even detailed peace treaties in some cases leave room for different interpretations of a single reference text (e.g. the Jordanian/Israeli peace treaty). There is a general lack of adherence to principles of International Law in arbitrating water issues.
Most freshwater supplies are distributed as groundwater basins. Overexploitation of such non-renewable resources is occurring at an alarming rate. Moreover, water quality is falling and pollution is limiting its use for various purposes especially as drinking water. Treatment methods are proving inefficient and fall short of handling the pollution load.
Water resources management in the region is subject to justified technical criticism. The planning is unsustainable, short-termed and unfair. There's a general lack of adequate national water policies. Most of the region's countries have developed national policies for water management, but these cycles were not completed or implemented in a manner that is environmentally sound and ecologically sustainable. In addition, these activities were not consolidated or coordinated with other water-based functions.
Sectoral distribution of water supply is questionable. Agriculture consumes around two-thirds of supplies. Some of the crops are low-income high-water-consuming crops that contribute to the unsustainable use of scarce resource. In Jordan, agriculture contributes 10 per cent to GDP but consumes 74 per cent of water resources. However, this issue has social consequences that should be carefully dealt with.
Groundwater basins are the principal victims of short-termed policies. They are over-exploited and in several cases unlicensed. Jordan is one of the countries that suffers most from such a situation. The flow of information on water is hindered, several bureaucratic procedures prevent the free access of information between interested parties within a country or between regional countries and institutes.
There are social causes also for the emergence of water security problems. Ever increasing population growth in the region (the highest in the world, collectively) puts further stress on the already scarce water supplies. Provided the current rate of growth continues, a wide and dangerous gap between supply and demand will emerge and reach a point that makes its bridging a formidable and technically unfeasible task. Equity in distribution remains a challenge for all water management plans.
At the economic level, further stress is exerted on water policies. Most of the economies in the region are in a transitional state between public sector dominance and on going privatisation. The long history of water subsidies which provided a base for family economies is difficult to change. An innovative economic tool should be developed to safeguard social security while implementing strategies aiming at providing a concrete base of water security for future generations by redefining the value of environmental resources (i.e. water).
Most countries in the region are performing economic restructuring programmes under the guidance of the international monetary institutions. Incorporating water and security as an economic dimension is essential in expanding the domains of such programs and ensure its sustainability.
While water management technologies are globally advancing at a very fast rate, technology in the region is still lagging behind and valuable water resources are being treated and managed with improper technologies and inefficient methods. There's a need to distinguish also between modern and proper technology. Some indigenous local technologies could be more environmental friendly than any non-conventional modern methods.
The volatile political situation in the Middle East makes it vital that a consensus between countries on water resource management is reached. With political negotiations and emerging peace treaties providing hope for a sustainable future, the water issue is the single biggest potential danger hindering peace talks.
This brings about a collective responsibility for countries in the region to bridge the political and `trust' gap between them in order to reach the required sense of stability and collaboration to diffuse environmental threats especially those pertaining to water.
With so many political, to social, ideological and economic differences between countries in the region, only principles of environmental ethics and true sense of responsibility will be able to support sustainable development in the new millennium.

Agreement reached on Jordan's extraction of Yarmouk's water (Jordan Times, 26/08/99)
By Ahmad Khatib
AMMAN — Jordan and Israel on Wednesday agreed that the Kingdom directly  extract 1.5 million cubic metres of water from its share in the Yarmouk River as part of efforts mainly aimed to stave off this year's regional drought, informed sources said.
During a “positive and candid” meeting held in the Jordan Valley, joint technical teams “agreed in principle that as soon as Israel gives Jordan the go-ahead, it can directly get the amount until mid-October,” the sources told the Jordan Times
last night.
Several weeks ago, the Kingdom made its request that only this summer it carries out this water sharing term in order to help meet its 10 per cent water shortage caused by the drought.
“As a result, the water taken from Lake Tiberias will be reduced, but no changes will occur on the total amount of water agreed to in the peace treaty,” one source stressed.
Under the peace deal, in summer, Israel transfers to the Kingdom 20mcm from the Jordan River, while the Kingdom is entitled to an annual quantity of 10mcm of desalinated spring water diverted from the river. Until a desalination plant is
set up to provide Jordan with 50mcm annually of treated brackish water flowing into the Jordan River from the Israeli side, according to the agreement, Israel will supply the Kingdom with 25mcm a year from Lake Tiberias, as agreed to a 1997 joint meeting.
The Kingdom normally stores its water share of the river in Tiberias in winter to reclaim it in summer, as Jordan has no capabilities to keep the amount in its territories.
“The final decision has to be approved by the two countries' leaderships,” said another source. “The new regulations are of deep political indications.”
Israel has said its acceptance of the Kingdom's proposal “aims to show its goodwill towards Jordan.”
“The measures also show that Jordan and Israel are working together to cope with their water shortage,” added the source.
Several months ago, Jordan and Israel reached a compromise in a water dispute erupted in April when Israel proposed cutting 40 per cent of water supplies to the Kingdom because of poor rain.
As the region this year was severely hit by the worst drought in 50 years, Jordanian and Israeli officials agreed on the need to find short- and long-term solutions for the a pressing water crisis, getting even worse with an average less
than 250 millimetres of rain a year, while at the same time a population of 12 million people is currently increasing by more than two per cent annually.
To handle the shortage, the government designed a three-step contingency plan, drilled several water wells and took 8.5mcm of water from Syria.

Jordanian, Israeli teams to discuss Jordan's pumping of Yarmouk water (Jordan Times, 21/08/1999)
By Ahmad Khatib
AMMAN — Following Israel's approval of Jordan's proposal to directly take its water share from the Yarmouk River instead of storing it in Lake Tiberias, joint technical teams are expected to meet this week, to start acting on the request, sources said on Friday.
The two sides were expected to meet last week, but the talks were postponed at the request of the Jewish state, whose “acceptance, aims to show its goodwill towards Jordan,” the sources told the Jordan Times.
No further details were given, but newspapers here reported that the Kingdom is scheduled to directly take 4-6 million cubic metres of water from the Yarmouk.
Jordan normally stores its water share of the river in Tiberias in winter to reclaim it in summer, as the Kingdom has no capabilities to keep the amount in its territories.
Although the Yarmouk has been sharply affected by the drought and the abuse of its water, the Kingdom and Syria plan to construct a JD152 million dam on the river to provide additional 225mcm of water to Jordan and electricity to Syria.
Israel agreed only this summer that the Kingdom carries out this water sharing term in order to help meet its 10 per cent water shortage caused by the worst regional drought in 50 years.
Under the peace treaty, in summer, Israel transfers to Jordan 20mcm from the Jordan River, while the Kingdom is entitled to an annual quantity of 10mcm of desalinated spring water diverted from the river.
Until a desalination plant is set up to provide Jordan with 50mcm annually of treated brackish water flowing into the Jordan River from the Israeli side, according to the deal, Israel will supply the Kingdom with 25mcm a year from Lake Tiberias, as agreed to a 1997 joint meeting.

Israel agrees to Jordan's request to take its share from Yarmouk's water (Jordan Times, 18/08/1999)
By Ahmad Khatib
AMMAN — Israel has accepted a Jordanian request to directly take its water share from the Yarmouk River instead of storing it in Lake Tiberias before pumping it here, a source confirmed on Tuesday.
“At the request of Jordan, Israel agreed that only this summer, the Kingdom directly gets the water from the Yarmouk instead of storing it in Tiberias,” Israeli embassy spokesman Roey Gilad told the Jordan Times last night. “If Jordan wants this to be carried out every year, the joint water agreements must be changed, and I believe the two countries do not want to do such a thing.”
According to Gilad, the Israeli approval was affected during a recent joint technical meeting.
No further details were given on how the new plan will be carried out.
Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Jordan's request was made urgent after Israel's water company went on strike two weeks ago, disrupting the flow of Jordan's share that is stored in the lake in line with joint water agreements. But other sources said the strike had nothing to do with the two countries' water cooperation.
According to the peace treaty, in summer, Israel concedes to transfer to Jordan 20mcm from the Jordan River directly upstream from the river's Deganya gate. Also, the Kingdom is entitled to an annual quantity of 10mcm of desalinated spring water diverted from the river.
Jordan has already obtained the 10mcm, said one source.
The treaty stipulates that Jordan and Israel should cooperate to supply the Kingdom with an additional quantity of 50mcm of potable water every year.
In 1997, the two countries agreed that the 50mcm should be obtained through the desalination of brackish water flowing into the Jordan River from the Israeli side. At the same time, they agreed that until a desalination plant is set up, Israel will supply the Kingdom with 25mcm a year from Lake Tiberias.
Both sides are currently working on a proposal for the plant, which will be submitted to donor bodies for funding.
The Israeli press reported that a few weeks ago Jordan requested Israel to forgo drawing water from the Yarmouk River and that Jordan be allowed to use that water, instead of what it receives from Lake Tiberias, as “the Jordanians are finding it difficult to deal with the algae in the water of Lake Tiberias.”
But a former official and water expert has said the quality of Lake Tiberias water is better than the Yarmouk's, which has concentrations of bacteria, phosphate, algae and other substances that make it difficult to provide high quality water.
Compounding the water dilemma is this year's regional drought which has seen the river's flow drop to around two cubic metres per second.
The river, which supplies Jordan with 135mcm of water per year, begins in Syria, flows along the Syrian-Jordanian border and then joins the Jordan River downstream from Lake Tiberias.
The new regulation will help Jordan cope with this year's 10 per cent shortage caused by stingy rainfall, with demand totalling 283mcm and supply amounting to 254mcm.
Several months ago, Jordan and Israel reached a compromise in a water dispute that erupted in April when Israel proposed cutting 40 per cent of water supplies to the Kingdom because of the worst drought in 50 years.

Jordan seeks new water sharing terms with Israel (Ahmad Khatib, Jordan Times, 17/8/1999).
Jordan and Israel are negotiating a request by the Kingdom to directly take its water share from the Yarmouk River instead of storing it in Lake Tiberias before pumping it here, officials said on Monday.
“Technical teams from both sides are in talks on the issue ... Jordan prefers to see a shortcut in the way it receives its share,” one official told the Jordan Times. “We are not talking about a change in the quantity of water, we are just saying that instead of using water stored in the lake, let us take it directly from the river.”
Officials said the request was made urgent after Israel's water company went on strike two weeks ago, disrupting the flow of Jordan's share that is stored in the lake in line with joint water agreements. But other sources said the strike has nothing to do with the two countries' water cooperation.
According to the peace treaty, in summer, Israel concedes to transfer to Jordan 20mcm from the Jordan River directly upstream from the river's Deganya gate, which, water experts say, is of poor water quality. Also, the Kingdom is entitled to an annual quantity of 10mcm of desalinated spring water diverted from the river.
Jordan has already obtained the 10mcm, said one source.
The treaty stipulates that Jordan and Israel should cooperate to supply the Kingdom with an additional quantity of 50mcm of potable water every year.
In 1997, the two countries agreed that the 50mcm should be obtained through the desalination of brackish water flowing into the Jordan River from the Israeli side. At the same time, they agreed that until a desalination plant is set up, Israel will supply the Kingdom with 25mcm a year from Lake Tiberias.
Both sides are currently working on a proposal for the plant, which will be submitted to donor bodies for funding.
The officials said they hoped the new Israeli government of new Prime Minister Ehud Barak would be forthcoming on the Jordanian request.
Ha'aretz reported that a few weeks ago, Jordan requested Israel to forgo drawing water from the Yarmouk River and that Jordan be allowed to use that water, instead of what it receives from Lake Tiberias.
“The Jordanians are finding it difficult to deal with the algae in the water of Lake Tiberias and are therefore asking for water from the Yarmouk. The practical implication of this demand is the abrogation of central sections of the water agreement between the two nations,” said the newspaper.
Another official who requested anonymity said “the recent (labour) strike made it a practical and much easier request.”
“We do not think that Israel would mind, the whole mood now is much more positive than it was before,” the official added.
But according to Ha'aretz, “Israel gave Jordan a negative answer, although Barak authorised the transfer to Jordan of a larger quantity of water from the Yarmouk (despite the drought). However, this was a gesture, not a change in the terms of the bilateral agreement.”
A former official and water expert said the quality of Lake Tiberias water is better than the Yarmouk's.
“The Yarmouk's water has concentrations of bacteria, phosphate, algae and other substances that make it difficult to provide high quality water,” said the expert. “In addition, the river has been overused for ages and is currently at one of its lowest level.”
Thanks to this year's drought, the river's flow dropped to around 2 cubic metre per second, while Syria's 25 ditches inside its territory used to store the river waters helped to reduce the flow of the river from 470mcm a year to 270mcm near the Adassiyeh border area. However, Jordan and Syria plan to construct a JD152 million dam on the river to provide the Kingdom with additional 225mcm of water and Syria with electricity.
The river, which supplies Jordan with 135mcm of water per year, begins in Syria, flows along the Syrian-Jordanian border and then joins the Jordan River downstream from Lake Tiberias.
Several months ago, Jordan and Israel reached a compromise in a water dispute erupted in April when Israel proposed cutting 40 per cent of water supplies to the Kingdom because of the worst regional drought in 50 years.
When the problem occurred, former Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and his Infrastructure and Water Minister Ariel Sharon stated that the Jewish state has no intention of backing down from joint agreements with Jordan or the Palestinians concerning water supplies.
Jordanian and Israeli officials insist on the need to find short- and long-term solutions for the region's pressing water crisis.
However, much hinges on a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement that would allow all adversaries to sit and talk about finding new water sources.
An international panel of scientists warned that Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians would suffer chronic water shortage if they do not join forces to deal with the problem, as the region receives on average less than 250 millimetres of rain a year, while at the same time the region's current 12 million population is increasing by more than two per cent annually.
For Jordan, which officially declared a state of drought in January as poor rainfall dipped to just two per cent of the seasonal average, causing a 10 per cent shortage, the situation is a matter of survival, while for Israel it is an economic issue.
Jordan's population is expected to increase from 5.3 million in 2000 to more than eight million by 2020 — when the country's freshwater resources will be fully exhausted. The Kingdom's current water resources only amount to 960mcm a year, while the water deficit, projected to grow to 250mcm
 by 2010 from 220mcm in 1995, is being covered through the use of groundwater resources, some non-renewable, at over 200 per cent of their safe yields.
“In every meeting with the Israelis, we talk about the need to find new water resources to underpin regional peace and stability,” one source said.

Israel exepected to divert water to Jordan (Israel Line, 19 March 1999)
Following the resolution of the water dispute between Israel and Jordan, Water Commissioner Meir Ben Meir has recommended emergency regulations in order to conserve Israel's water resources, HA'ARETZ reported.
Water for farmers will be cut by 40 percent if  the Cabinet approves the recommendation of Commissioner Ben Meir.
The Cabinet is expected to approve the regulations. The shortfall of rain this winter has already prompted Ben Meir to order a 15 percent cut in the water quota for agricultural use.

Water talks with Jordan continue (Israel Line, 16 March 1999).
Water Commissioner Meir Ben-Meir is scheduled to depart for Amman on Wednesday, where he is expected to meet with his Jordanian counterpart and other officials in an attempt to resolve disagreements between the two countries concerning Israel's water supply to Jordan, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. This year's Middle East draught precludes Israel from transferring to Jordan the 20 million cubic meters of water obligatory under agreements between the countries, though Israel has pledged to transfer a smaller amount of water.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday stressed that Israel is not stepping back from agreements by reducing its water supply to Jordan this year, and reiterated the pressure placed on Israel to conserve water during a difficult draught year. Netanyahu said that Israel will in the future seek a means to compensate Jordan for the reduced water supply, adding that he hopes coming years bring more rain.
In previous, wetter years, Israel has responded to Jordanian requests by delivering double the amount of water required by agreements between Israel and Jordan.

Sharon unveils desalination plan (Israel Line, 4/2/1999).
Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday urged European Union ambassadors to support a major two-phase desalination project, which he says will protect Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians from water shortages in the future, HA'ARETZ reported. The meeting came a week before German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's visit to Israel. Germany currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Senior German officials are urging Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians to come up with a joint approach to the water issue. Israel favors expanding the water supply, while the Palestinians also want redistribution of
existing water resources used by Israel.
Sharon says the water crisis will peak by 2010, when Israelis and Palestinians together are projected to equal 10 million people. The initial phase of his proposal calls for a 50-million-cubic-meter desalination plant in Gaza for drinking water and domestic consumption; desalination of 50 million cubic meters of brackish water to supply Jordan in the Jordan Rift Valley; and desalination of 50-100 million cubic meters along the Mediterranean for use by Israel.
In a second phase, a large-scale desalination plant with a capacity of 800 million cubic meters of water would be constructed for use by all three partners.
 


The Israeli-Jordanian mini-crisis over the Jordan water resources, May 1997
(articles appear in chronological order)


HASSAN CANCELS MEETING WITH NETANYAHU (Israel Line, 6 May 1997).
Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan canceled a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that had been scheduled to take place today in Naharayim, HA'ARETZ reported. The meeting was to be held after a memorial service for the seven Israeli schoolgirls murdered by a Jordanian soldier in March.
Hassan's decision to cancel the meeting was made after secret negotiations on an Israeli water delivery to Jordan failed to yield a mutually acceptable schedule for the water transfer. The transfer of water from Israel to Jordan was part of the peace agreement between the two countries.
Israeli government sources said that the agreement foundered on issues relating to the quality of the water and the destination of the delivery.
Jordan had hoped Israel would bring the water all the way to Amman, while Israel contended that the Israeli-Jordanian border was the appropriate point of delivery.
One further complication arose when Jordan demanded immediate delivery of the water, in contrast to Israel's preference that delivery wait until an international fund is developed for the construction of a joint desalination plant under the custody of both countries.
Prime Minister Netanyahu defined the situation as a "mini-crisis," adding that it arose as the result of a misunderstanding or disagreement concerning terms of the peace agreement between the two countries. He said that the ceremony in Naharayim would be postponed so that it could be conducted properly in the future.


CROWN PRINCE HASSAN: THERE IS NO CRISIS IN ISRAEL-JORDAN RELATIONS (Israel Line, 7 May 1997).
Jordan's Crown Price Hassan said there is no crisis in relations between Amman and Jerusalem -- just a few misunderstandings, MA'ARIV reported.
Speaking at a press conference in Amman on Tuesday after meeting with Labor Knesset Member Yossi Beilin, the Crown Prince said a solution to the dispute over the transfer of water from Israel to Jordan could provide the key to calming the tension.
King Hussein called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, MA'ARIV reported, and the two agreed to renew bilateral negotiations on water. In a parallel discussion, Prince Hassan and Minster of National Infrastructure Ariel Sharon agreed to continue negotiations on water and to try to resolve the disputes at hand in a positive atmosphere.
Jordan also invited Foreign Minister David Levy for a visit, Israel Radio, KOL YISRAEL, reported. Preparations for the visit are expected to begin in the near future.


NETANYAHU AND HUSSEIN DISCUSS WATER ISSUE IN AQABA (Israel Line, 9 May 1997)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordan's King Hussein in Aqaba on Thursday, YEDIOT AHARONOT reported. Several Prime Ministerial advisors also attended the meeting.
The two leaders discussed several issues, among them recent disputes surrounding Israel's obligation to deliver 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan. Netanyahu and Hussein also explored possible strategies for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
During the meeting, Netanyahu proposed a solution to the water issue in which Israel and Jordan would jointly finance production of the additional 50 million cubic meters of water.


SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION CUBIC METERS OF WATER TO BE GIVEN TO JORDAN WITHIN THREE YEARS (Israel Line, 28 May 1997)
Israel will transfer 25 million cubic meters of high-quality water to Jordan this year, HA'ARETZ reported. An additional 50 million cubic meters of water are expected to be transferred in the next two years before the desalination infrastructure is scheduled to be completed on the Israeli-Jordanian border.
King Hussein thanked Israel for the water and praised the dialogue between Israel and Jordan which led to the transfer.
Minister of Infrastructure Ariel Sharon released this information during the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security's weekly meeting. The Committee was discussing water-related issues.
"The agreement with the Palestinian Authority is difficult and complex," said Sharon. "Hundreds of water wells have been dug without supervision in Gaza alone. We must arrive at regional water solutions."