Middle East

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The Politics of Water

Israel's decision to cut back water supplies to neighboring Jordan has helped to warm the Hashemite Kingdom's relations with its long-time adversary Syria, discomfiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, writes Danny Rubenstein in Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz.

This winter, the Israeli government announced that it would cut 60 percent of its water supplies to Jordan during the scorching summer months--infuriating the Jordanians, who already suffer from deep shortages. Syrian President Hafez al-Assad then ordered that a token amount of Syrian water be sent to Jordan. This follows the signing of a number of agreements between the two countries and, Rubenstein says, is further evidence of a warming of relations since the death of Jordan's King Hussein in February.

The closer ties worry Arafat, who has had notoriously stormy relations with Assad and fears that "the rapprochement between Syria and Jordan will come at his expense," Rubenstein writes. Since "the number of Palestinians living in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon is greater than the number living in the Palestinian areas on the West Bank and Gaza," Arafat may find himself in a weaker position on the question of who best represents Palestinian interests. According to Rubenstein, Arafat is scrambling to improve relations with Syria by attempting to establish diplomatic contact.

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