Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu is delaying approval for a request from neighbouring Jordan for water that has been agreed by a joint committee, according to reports in late March from the region.
The water standoff is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat snubs apparently arising from personal tensions between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports: “Despite the recommendations of professionals, Netanyahu and the National Security Council delayed their answer in a manner that attested to his intention of denying the request.”
Haaretz goes on to cite “Israeli officials who are in close contact with the Jordanians”, who assert Netanyahu is deliberately endangering the Israel-Jordan peace treaty “due to the personal hostility between him and the king”.
The recent frictions between the leaders of the two nations include a refusal by Jordan to allow Netanyahu to fly through its airspace to the UAE on a landmark trip that was ultimately cancelled, and a dispute over security arrangements for the Jordanian crown prince during a planned visit to holy sites in Jerusalem that was likewise ultimately cancelled.
Water sharing is one of the main principles of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty signed in 1994, which stipulates that Israel must give Jordan a specific amount of water each year and that the two sides help each other survive droughts. Jordan regularly submits requests for additional water during dry spells, and Israel usually accedes as a matter of routine.
Despite Jordan’s position as Israel’s leading ally in the Arab world, relations between Netanyahu and King Abdullah have reportedly been poor for q number of years. Israel’s defence establishment largely supports the strategic importance of Jordan as an ally. However, Netanyahu, who is known to harbour distrust of the military establishment, considers Jordan’s strategic significance is on the wane, and has recently been quoted in some media outlets as saying: “The Jordanians need us much more than we need them.”
The development comes as a recent study by Stanford University in the US finds that “prolonged and potentially destabilising water shortages will become commonplace in Jordan by 2100” due to dwindling water supplies and a growing population that is set to halve per capita access to water.