Jordan Case Study


This paper examines the development of conflict and cooperation over the Jordan River Basin. The conflict over the waters of the Jordan basin dates back to the late 1800s when the Zionist Organization chose Palestine to establish a national home for the Jews. The Zionist Organization had water plans prepared as early as 1899 and continued working until Israel was established and the new state took over the chores of more detailed planning and implementation. The indigenous societies, primarily the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, came up with competing plans starting in 1939 and had a Master Plan prepared for the development of the Jordan Valley.

Ever since its establishment, Israel had been rejected by the states of the region, and disputes over Jordan River waters became an additional reason for escalating the conflict between Israel and the other riparian parties. To counter the threat of Communist infiltration in the Middle East, and to induce the Arab states to tacitly accept the new state of Israel, the President of the United States dispatched a presidential envoy to the Middle East equipped with a water plan for the utilization of the waters of the Jordan basin by the riparian parties.

US Ambassador Johnston made four separate trips to the region between October 1953 and October 1955. The final water plan that Johnston negotiated with the Arab Technical Committee and with Israel, known as the “Unified Plan for the Development of the Jordan Valley”, became the basis for the implementation of water projects in the Jordan Valley thereafter. The United States made compliance with the provisions of that plan a condition for US financial support to the parties. The East Ghor Canal Project in Jordan (now the King Abdallah Canal) was started and extended with grant contributions from the United States, and so were the Tiberias–Beit Shean project and the National Water Carrier project in Israel. The provisions of the Unified Plan were, to some extent, observed by Jordan and Israel until the two riparian parties resolved their water conflict during the peace negotiations under the Middle East Peace Process. Major elements of the water agreement between the two countries were based on the Unified Plan worked out by Ambassador Johnston.

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