Jordan To Go Ahead With Red-Dead Canal Project

by Maskil on May 19, 2009

According to a handful of (somewhat conflicting) news reports, Jordan appears to have decided to go its own way, by proceeding with the controversial Red-Dead Canal Project without involvement from Israel (or the PA).

The unilateral launch of the Red-Dead Canal Project took place as part of the regional meeting of the World Economic Forum, and was announced along with a slew of mega-projects to be undertaken by Jordan.

How does this affect Israel, and what should her reaction be? I believe she should react by wishing Jordan all the best in her endeavours, while at the same time initiating a project to address her own water needs and rehabilitate the Jordan River Valley. The cornerstone of this project should be a Med-Kinneret Canal, taking desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea +/-40km east and 200m down to the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret).

Why abandon the Red-Dead Canal Project without a fight? I have detailed my reservations regarding the project elsewhere. These include:

  • The size of the project (distances, budget and timescales) weighs the odds heavily against success
  • Grave doubts as to whether the introduction of water from the Red Sea (Gulf of Eilat) will indeed save the Dead Sea, or simply hasten its demise
  • Concerns regarding all the environmental impacts of the project have yet to be addressed
  • The need for close international cooperation between enemies and former enemies (Israel, Jordan and the PA) brings further complications to an already risky enterprise
  • Infrastructure will be situated almost entirely in Jordan’s sovereign territory, presenting a risk in the event of continued or renewed conflict in the region

What does the Med-Kinneret Canal proposal offer that the Red-Dead Canal Project does not, at least insofar as Israel is concerned? While these have been detailed elsewhere, some of the key advantages include:

  • It would be located entirely within Israel’s sovereign territory
  • The scale, complexity and cost would be limited, as it would follow the shortest possible route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River Valley, due east from Acco/Haifa to the Sea of Galilee
  • It would not rely on close international cooperation between Israel and its current or former adversaries
  • It would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive project to address Israel’s water crisis holistically
  • It would utilise Israel’s existing water distribution infrastructure, e.g. the Mekorot network
  • It would help to rehabilitate the entire length of the Jordan River Valley, including both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea
  • Environmental impact would be reduced by introducing only partially or completely desalinated seawater into the upper reaches of the Jordan River system

I am, quite frankly, envious that it’s Jordan initiating this whole raft of mega-projects rather than Israel. Many of them are of a type and scale that would have traditionally been associated with Israel rather than its neighbours. Let’s hope that this will serve as something of a wake-up call to Israel that she is steadily losing her peacetime qualitative edge when compared to the region.

Hat tip to Joel Katz (Editor, Religion and State in Israel blog) for bringing the breaking news story to my attention.

Links/Reading/Resources:

  1. Business in Brief – Haaretz – Israel News
  2. Two studies to examine environmental impact

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