Deals on land, water and economic ties

'A kilometre here, a kilometre there, a drop of water more, a drop of water less - what is this compared to a peace agreement?' asked Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, when challenged in his cabinet about compromises he made to secure today's peace treaty.

For four years Israel and Jordan have disputed these same kilometres and measures of water, holding them up as a reason not to make peace. However, unlike the disputes that once bogged down peace talks with Egypt, and unlike the present disputes with the Palestinians or Syrians, the issues that separated Israel and Jordan were never substantial. The lands they argued over were of dubious value, while security concerns were relatively easy to answer.

When the political will for peace was there, the nuts and bolts of the agreement dropped suddenly into place. The American offer to pay dollars 700m-dollars 1bn ( pounds 430m- pounds 614m) in Jordanian debt relief, and to modernise Jordan's armed forces, helped to push King Hussein to the peace table. The King saw in the treaty a chance to shore up the status of his kingdom against a potential threat from a Palestinian state.

For Israel, the prospect that peace with Jordan would hasten peace with the whole Arab world encouraged compromise. For Jordan, the main dispute with Israel centred on demarcation of its western boundary along what Israel calls the Arava Valley, running between the southern tip of the Dead Sea and the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. Jordan insisted the boundary be drawn along a line sketched by British officials in 1922. Then Transjordan was carved off from British-mandate Palestine. Although the same line marked out an Israeli-Jordanian ceasefire line in 1949, after Israel's war of independence, Israel had always argued that it was not a legal international boundary.

After the 1967 war, Israel pushed out east of the British line, unilaterally occupying a strip of Jordanian territory along the valley, comprising a total of 381 sq km. The strip is largely desolate sand, but was made to bloom in parts by Israeli kibbutzniks.

Under today's treaty, the boundary is based on the 1922 line and Jordan is formally ceded sovereignty over the disputed lands. However, small chunks of the strip are to go back to Israel, under a 25-year lease, to allow the kibbutzniks to keep their farms, at least for now. A minor border dispute in the north, involving five sq km of land near Tiberias, has also been settled under the peace treaty.

Water was another key issue tackled under the treaty. Jordan has accused Israel for years of siphoning off its share of the waters of the River Jordan, and the King has said many times he would never go to war with Israel again except over water. The details of the water deal are not yet known. According to details published so far, the two sides have agreed to create 'new sources' of water rather than divide up existing sources. This is almost certain to mean an agreement to build desalination plants.

One proposal, backed recently by President Bill Clinton and under discussion, is a Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, carrying sea water north from the Red Sea. As the water flows the 400 metres to the Dead Sea it would pass through giant turbines. These turbines would produce power to drive desalination plants on the shores of the Dead Sea, desalinating Dead Sea water for drinking.

A second water-creation project under discussion would involve running a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea. It is taken as read that the treaty will also institute a wide range of new economic ties between the two states, ending existing boycotts.

The most controversial section of the treaty, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, is Jordan's role in East Jerusalem. Israel has recognised Jordan's 'special historic role' in guarding the Jerusalem holy sites and has given Amman a central role in future negotiations on the city's status.

Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, rejects a special role for Jordan, believing the city should be the Palestinian capital.

The refugee question also caused controversy. Two million Palestinians live in Jordan, and of these, half are refugees who fled from homes in Israel or the West Bank in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967. The official Palestinian position remains that all refugees should have the right to return to their homes or receive full compensation. Israel rejects any Palestinian right of return to Israel proper. The two states have side- stepped the issue by agreeing to set up new committees on the refugees' future. However, secret deals are thought to be under discussion whereby Jordan may receive payment to help to resettle Palestinian refugees still in camps.

Letters, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable