Jordanians rally against Israeli solar power project

Jordanians demonstrate against Israeli solar power project
3 min read
23 November, 2021
Jordanians protested on Tuesday against the Jordan-Israeli solar plant to be built in the south of the kingdom, decrying what they saw as growing 'normalisation'.
The solar project, which was negotiated in private, immediately generated public criticism in Jordan, where an estimated 80 percent of the population is Palestinian [Getty]

Demonstrations were held across Jordan on Tuesday to protest the recently announced Jordan-Israeli solar power project to be built by the UAE in the south of Jordan.

Protesters gathered on several university campuses, as well as in Dakhaliya Circle in the capital, Amman, chanting "the blood of the martyrs demands my blood".

This is a reference to the Palestinians who have lost their lives fighting Israel. The hashtag "normalisation is betrayal" (#التطبيع_خيانة) was also trending on Twitter on Tuesday.

The energy deal was announced at the Dubai Expo on 22 November with US Climate Envoy John Kerry in attendance. According to the statement of intent, the UAE will build a solar power plant in the south of Jordan to supply Israel with 600 megawatts of green energy to Israel. In return, Israel will give Jordan up to 200 million cubic metres of desalinated water.

The solar project, which was negotiated in private, immediately generated public criticism in Jordan, where an estimated 80 percent of the population is Palestinian.

"This agreement makes the future of Jordan's water [security] dependent on the Israeli occupation, the number one enemy of the Arabs and humanity as a whole. The Jordanian people completely reject this," said Basel Ahmad, a representative of the Arab Renewal Bloc at the Hashemite University who participated in Tuesday's protest.

Ahmad added that the protesters want the government to "abide by the demands of the Jordanian street", reject any "normalisation" with Israel and cancel any previous agreements made with it.

Jordan is the second most water-scarce country in the world, with less than 100 cubic metres of renewable freshwater available per resident.

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Countries are considered to pass the threshold of "acute water scarcity" when only 500 cubic metres are available per person.

Earlier in the month, agricultural experts sounded the alarm after six of Jordan's 17 dams dried up, due to the summer's punishing droughts.

Jordan and Israel share a long land border and cooperate on a number of issues, including security and energy. The two countries established diplomatic relations after signing a peace treaty in 1994; however, popular perceptions of Israel in Jordan remain overwhelmingly negative.

Last year, Jordanians protested the government's decision to purchase natural gas from Israel, calling for the $10 billion dollar deal to be cancelled. Jordanian MPs also voted to ban gas imports from Israel after popular protests against it.

The deal has proceeded regardless, in part due to Jordan's reliance on imported oil and gas to address its continuing energy deficit.

Though relations between Israel and Jordan were frosty during Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure, things have improved somewhat under new Israeli PM Naftali Bennet.

In October, the two countries announced Israel would increase the amount of water that it sells to Jordan up from the 50 million cubic metres agreed upon in July.