On 22nd November 2021, government delegates of Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates signed at Dubai Expo, in the presence of US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, a “Declaration of Intent” (DOI, I‘lān al-nawāyā in Arabic) in the field of energy and water security that, if it will be confirmed next year, would represent an unprecedented agreement for the whole Middle East (https://www.mwi.gov.jo in Arabic)
The published document briefly outlines cooperation terms between the two Levantine countries, with UAE assistance and US supervision. The “Proposal” comprises two mutual projects, the so-called “prosperities”, which are interdependent and contingent one to another.
“Prosperity Green” shall allow an Emirati company to establish a photovoltaic power station in south Jordan that is expected to generate from 2,4 up to 3 gigawatt per hour of electricity to be exported in Israel. In turn, the Jewish state shall enable “Prosperity Blue”, a desalinization plant to be built on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in order to supply the Hashemite Kingdom with 200 million cubic meters of fresh water per year.
The DOI has been described by the signatories as a response to climate change and as a hydro-diplomatic tool that will deepen interconnectivity within the Middle Eastern area. Based on the principle of fairness, it aims to bring equal benefits to parties having complementary needs: Israel has several hydric resources, but few desert areas available for solar power plants; on the contrary, Jordan has plenty of them, but it is devoid of consistent water reserves.
However, one could notice at least two striking differences. First, the parties are highly unbalanced in terms of energy, water and food security. Israel, endowed with advanced technology, has made remarkable progress in the field of renewables. Jordan cannot rely on high-tech and is notoriously one of the driest places on Earth; it suffers constantly water shortages that, exacerbated by migration issues, may compromise its social cohesion and political stability. Second, the number of stakeholders is uneven: excluding related Ministries, only one Jordanian actor, the National Electric Company, is mentioned in the document, while its counterpart is represented by a public-private consortium: the Israel Electricity Authority, the Israel Electric Company and Noga, an independent system operator.
For these reasons, the Expo announcement encountered some criticism among Jordanian public opinion and on Friday 26th hundreds of people demonstrated in the capital, saying that the kingdom risks to become in the future fully dependent from Israeli supply. Such perception is reinforced by the fact that Amman last October purchased from Tel Aviv additional 50 million cubic of fresh water.
Demonstrators also question the neutrality of water diplomacy of the DOI, fearing that it might lead to further normalization with Israel, thus neglecting the Palestinian cause. The Emirates will play a pivotal role in ensuring cooperation and avoiding the risk of tensions between the two. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stated that the declaration “is just one of the positive outcomes of the Abraham Accords that is serving to reinforce regional peace, stability and prosperity”.
Ph.D. Candidate in Institution and Policies and Teaching Assistant in Geopolitics, History of Islamic Asia, History of Civilizations and Political Cultures at the Catholic University of Milan. His research areas include Arab and Mediterranean geopolitics, history of MENA region, Arab secular and religious movements.