Jordan may advance Red-Dead project alone, or with Saudis

Israel reportedly threatens to shelve Jordan water deal until embassy reopened

Offices in Amman were shuttered in July after an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians, one of whom was stabbing him

A view of the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on October 18, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)
A view of the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on October 18, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

Israel has reportedly told Jordan that a joint agreement for the construction of a pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea will not go ahead until Israel is allowed to reopen its embassy in Amman.

In an escalating war of words and threats, senior officials in Jerusalem told Channel 10 that Israel notified Jordan that the water project will not move forward until Ambassador Einat Schlein and her staff are permitted to return to their posts.

Two weeks ago Jordan said it would not allow the embassy to reopen until an embassy guard who shot dead two Jordanian nationals was brought to trial.

Jordan refused to allow Schlein to return as Jerusalem’s envoy after she was photographed along with the guard, named as Ziv Moyal, during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the deadly incident occurred on July 23.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with security guard Ziv Moyal (R) and Israel’s Ambassador to Jordan Einat Schlein (L), at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 25, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The incident has put a damper on the so-called Red-Dead project. Several weeks ago Israel and Jordan were to have finalized the details before calling for tenders from international companies to do the work.

Without an embassy, the Jordanians reportedly wanted to continue the discussions by phone, but Israel has insisted on face to face meetings, which won’t happen until the embassy is reopened, the TV report said.

“The position of the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office is that we cannot have a situation where on the one hand the Jordanians do not allow us to reopen the embassy and on the other hand we continue to advance projects that are important to them as if nothing had happened,” an anonymous Israeli official told Channel 10.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, center, sits next to Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, left, and Mazen Ghoneim, right, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, during a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

That message was reportedly conveyed to Jordan several weeks ago. In response, Jordan has reportedly threatened to continue with the project alone. Several articles in Jordanian media have cited officials saying that they do not need Israel for the pipeline, and even raising the possibility of bringing in Saudi Arabia to partner with them instead.

The $10 billion project, which some see as an early stage in a regional peace deal, would see the construction of a 220-kilometer (137-mile) pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea.

According to the plan, a water desalination plant in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, located next to Eilat, will pump its brine (very salty water leftover from the desalination process) north to the Dead Sea. This will solve another problem: As desalination provides much-needed water to both southern Israel and Jordan for agriculture and consumption, the brine needs to go somewhere other than the Red Sea, which is home to sensitive corals.

Besides providing a yearly total of 100 million cubic meters of drinking water to Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis, the Red-Dead project will produce “green energy” and replenish the Dead Sea, which is currently shrinking at a drastic pace.

Hadashot News (formerly Channel 2) reported last week that the Shin Bet had completed its investigation into the embassy incident and concluded that the security guard was justified in shooting Mohammed Jawawdeh, who stabbed him with a screwdriver after learning that he was Israeli. Moyal’s landlord was also shot and killed by Moyal by accident during the incident. According to the report, there was no doubt Moyal acted in self-defense and there were no grounds for prosecuting him.

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