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Israelis, Palestinians agree to crucial water deal

Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached a U.S.-brokered deal through which Palestinians, including those in Gaza, will receive clean drinking water — a desperate need particularly in Gaza — and the shrinking Dead Sea may be partially replenished.

Mediated by Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special representative for international negotiations, the agreement was announced on July 13 and will help the Jordanians as well.

Under the terms of the deal, each year Israel will sell around 32 million cubits of water from Mediterranean desalination plants to the Palestinian Authority. Some 10 million cubits will be allocated to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank. Moreover, water from a desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan will be sold to southern Jordan and Eilat in southern Israel, and water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan.

The head of the PA Water Authority, Mazen Ghuneim, told reporters that the deal was an example of how Palestinian living conditions can be improved through cooperation with Israel.

“This will reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people which has been worsened by the beginning of summer and the crises that they are living through. It will also reduce the suffering of the people of Gaza, where more than 97 percent of the water is not drinkable,” Ghuneim said at a press conference in Jerusalem.

The infrastructure for the project, which includes a canal, will be located entirely in Jordan and is expected to take some five years to complete. It will run by a joint administrative board.

The deal is not to have any effect on final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and, indeed Greenblatt refused to make any comment on the conflict’s wider issues. Nevertheless the White House affirmed the agreement as a “vital deal [that] was reached under Trump’s leadership.”

Equally enthusiastic was Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

“Unfortunately, in our neighborhood we don’t always have a reason to smile. This morning we do,” he told reporters. “After years of stalemate, and thanks to the passionate negotiations of Jason Greenblatt and thanks to the pragmatic and professional approach of both delegations… we reached an important agreement.”

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Karen Faulkner
Karen Faulkner recently completed a Master's degree in Human Rights and Transitional Justice at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She made Aliyah in 2006 and lives in Jerusalem.

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