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Israel, Jordan, UAE reportedly set to sign massive solar, water swap deal

US climate envoy Kerry expected to be on hand for Monday signing of biggest regional cooperation project Israel’s ever reached with its neighbors, after helping move talks forward

A general view shows part of a new 15 million euro solar plant during its official inauguration at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, on November 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)
A general view shows part of a new 15 million euro solar plant during its official inauguration at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, on November 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates will reportedly sign a deal next week under which a solar plant in the Jordanian desert will generate power for Israel, in exchange for a desalination plant in Israel that will provide Jordan with water.

The agreement will be the biggest regional cooperation project ever reached between Israel and its neighbors, according to the Walla news site.

The deal is slated to be signed in Dubai on Monday after months of secret negotiations between the three nations. It was purportedly supposed to be signed two weeks ago at the international climate conference in Glasgow, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett requested it be delayed until after Israel’s contentious budget votes, Walla said.

The report, which cites five Israeli officials familiar with the negotiations, claims that the Biden administration was also aware of and involved in the massive project. United States special envoy on climate John Kerry reportedly spoke multiple times with both Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Jordanian King Abdullah about the proposal.

Kerry, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, Jordanian Water Minister Mohammed Al-Najjar and UAE special envoy on climate change Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber are expected to take part in the signing of the deal.

Under the terms of the deal, a UAE company will construct the solar plant in Jordan from which Israel will purchase electricity. The deal was reportedly first raised in meeting in September between Elharrar and UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja, during discussions on how the UAE can help broker future regional deals following the Abraham Accords.

Elharrar met with Jordan’s Al-Najjar last month for a signing ceremony doubling the amount of water Israel supplies to perennially parched Jordan. That agreement, she said at the time, is proof that “we want good neighborly relations” with Jordan.

Illustrative: A view of the Sorek A Desalination Plant, on November 22, 2018. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

Despite signing a peace agreement with Jordan 25 years ago, relations have been remarkably chilly in recent years, particularly during the tenure of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But with the new government headed by Bennett in place, signs of thaw with Israel’s eastern neighbor have emerged.

Jordan’s cooperation with Israel on water predates their 1994 peace treaty. Israel is also a hot, dry country, but desalination technology has opened opportunities for selling freshwater.

Two weeks ago, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and her Jordanian counterpart, Yousef Alshamali, met in Jordan to discuss bilateral ties, the first such meeting in a decade.

In July, Bennett met with King Abdullah II in secret at the crown palace in Amman, in the first summit between the countries’ leaders in over three years.

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