An influential Jordanian prince has told a London audience including the Israeli ambassador that sharing water in the Jordan Rift Valley would help lead to a “warm peace” between the countries.
Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who is chairman of the United Nations Secretary-Generals’ Advisory Board on Water & Sanitation (UNSGAB), said water was one of several areas of cooperation envisaged in the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, but that the reality had fallen “very, very far short”.
The prince was speaking at a Royal Gala Dinner in Whitehall on Tuesday night organised by British Friends of Neve Shalom / Wahat al Salam (NSWaS), otherwise known as Oasis of Peace.
A co-operative village located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it comprises 65 families, a school and a spiritual centre, and was founded in 1978 as a place for Jewish and Palestinian-Arabs of Israeli citizenship to live side-by-side in equality.
In a light-hearted and heart-warming speech, in which the prince playfully asked the audience whether Arabists were still kosher, Hassan nevertheless warned that “undertones of divide-and-rule, Sunni versus Shia, are ringing alarm bells, as do the sale of advanced fighter jets and command-and-control systems worth billions… it seems that waging war is of great interest to those who benefit”.
However, the prince said water in the Jordan Rift Valley could be a cause for cooperation, rather than war, adding that in one project residents of 300 towns from three different nationalities share water resources and regulation.
“During 60 years of conflict in the Jordan Valley, water has more often been a source of cooperation than conflict,” he said.
“We have moved from narrow thinking about water, in terms of simple irrigation, and that one’s gain is another one’s loss, to a realisation that water has the potential to link or divide us, to separate us or to reconcile us.”