THE MEMORANDUM of understanding signed in early December between Jordan, Palestine and Israel on a water exchange and a regional effort to save the Dead Sea was a rare occasion of open consent in this region of discrete channels and foreign envoys. Finally a handshake in Washington, out in the open, in front of the cameras, to the joy of the media.

In principle, a limited water exchange between Israel and Jordan makes economic, environmental and political sense. It will significantly alleviate the worsening shortage of domestic water in Amman by adding an extra 50 million cubic meters annually from the Sea of Galilee to the Jordanian capital’s network, and supply much-needed water on the Israeli side of the Arava Desert to Eilat and other areas not connected to the national water carrier. Given the costs of the alternatives, this is the most economically efficient way of solving these water needs in both countries.

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