Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have signed an agreement for the construction of a canal connecting the Dead Sea to the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba, fulfilling the dream of the founder of political Zionism Theodor Herzl. The deal will see the canal built in stages, beginning with a pipeline and a water desalination plant, reported Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said that the agreement is a boost for peace between Israel and its neighbours. "This is another layer to peace with the Palestinians," he said. "It is a day of celebration with no clichés… This is a success story."
Palestinian Water Minister Shaddad al-Oteeli, who signed the agreement at a ceremony in Washington, pointed out that this is not part of the Oslo Agreement. "It is a regional agreement, which shows that we can all work together," he said.
His Jordanian counterpart, Hazem Nasser, stressed that the accord is not political: "This is an agreement with a humanitarian aspect, designed to aid those who need water." He insisted that Israel is Jordan's partner. "Without water there will be no employment and poverty will increase," he added. "This is why we cooperate with our regional partners."
The project is designed not only to provide fresh water but also to help to save the Dead Sea. Although the Israelis refused to allow the Palestinian Authority to have a foothold on the northern end of the inland sea – on their own land occupied by Israel – West Bank residents should benefit from additional water supplies as a result of the agreement.