U.S. brokers water pact between Israel and the Palestinian Authority

Israel and the Palestinian Authority recently took an important step toward completion of a historic water project that will provide freshwater to the region and restore water levels of the Dead Sea.

The two sides came together, with U.S. assistance, to negotiate the allocation of freshwater from a planned desalination plant in Jordan. Israel agreed to sell more than 30 million cubic meters of freshwater to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“I am proud of the role that the United States and our international partners have played in helping the parties reach this deal, and I hope it is a harbinger of things to come,” Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special representative for international negotiations, said at a July 13 press conference in Jerusalem.

The agreement is linked to an ambitious plan, first agreed to in 2013, to take salty water from the Red Sea, pass it through a desalination plant that is expected to be built in Jordan, and pump the freshwater to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

Three men sitting at a table, with one speaking into microphone (© AP Images)
U.S. Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, center, Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, left, and the head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Mazen Ghuneim, right, announce a breakthrough in negotiations. (© AP Images)

The leftover salty water will be routed to the Dead Sea to restore the water lost to evaporation. To accomplish this, the project requires 120 miles of pipeline and unprecedented levels of cooperation among the three parties.

The project is formally called the Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, but is generally known as the Red-Dead project.

“The Red-Dead project is the biggest, most ambitious project ever initiated and exercised in our area,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, the Israeli regional cooperation minister.

The latest agreement, brokered by the U.S., focuses on the amount of water (30 million cubic meters) Israel will sell to the Palestinian Authority once the desalination plant in Jordan is up and running.

Israel is a world leader in water technology and exports its irrigation techniques around the world. It will be working closely with Jordan on the development and construction of the desalination plant and pipeline.

Salt concretions lying on the shore of the Dead Sea (© Getty Images)
The salt water from the planned desalination plant will be used to restore the Dead Sea’s water levels. (© Getty Images)

Forerunner to future deals?

This was the second Israeli-Palestinian agreement signed the week of July 10. The other involved Israel transferring responsibility for a new electrical substation outside the West Bank city of Jenin to the Palestinian Authority.

The White House praised the deals as “another indication that the parties are capable of working together to achieve mutually beneficial results.”

Greenblatt said, “President Trump has made it clear that working toward achieving a lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him.”

“Water can serve as a means of reconciliation, for prosperity [and] for cooperation,” Israel’s Hanegbi said.

The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Mazen Ghuneim, agreed that the deal is an important step forward and thanked the U.S.’s Greenblatt “for his hard efforts.”

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.