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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are set to sign a deal on Monday, pushed along by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, to build a massive solar farm in the Jordanian desert, five Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the biggest regional cooperation project ever undertaken between Israel and its neighbors. The plan calls for the UAE-funded solar farm to provide energy mainly to Israel, which will build a desalination plant on its Mediterranean coast to provide water to Jordan.

  • The deal was made possible by the Abraham Accords, and was helped across the finish line by several phone calls from Kerry to Jordan's King Abdullah II and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
  • It is expected to be signed on Monday in Dubai by senior officials from Israel, Jordan and the UAE, with Kerry also expected to attend.
  • The deal will only increase the strategic importance of the relationship between Israel and Jordan, which has improved significantly since Naftali Bennett replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister. It should also ease Jordan's water crisis.

Behind the scenes: The agreement is a result of secret talks between the three governments, which grew increasingly serious in September and matured into a draft agreement at the end of October.

  • The deal was initially set to be signed two weeks ago during the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
  • King Abdullah was prepared to move ahead, but Bennett asked to postpone the signing out of a concern that it would generate domestic political criticism days before a critical vote on Israel's budget, Israeli officials say.
  • The final details were hammered out on Tuesday, with Kerry playing a role in the talks. A spokesman for Kerry did not respond to a request for comment.

The backstory: The vision behind the project originally came from EcoPeace Middle East, a regional environmental NGO.

  • The logic was that Israel needs renewable energy but lacks the land for massive solar farms, which Jordan has.
  • Jordan, meanwhile, needs water but can only build desalination plants in the remote southern part of the country, while Israel's coastline is closer to Jordan's big population centers.

Details: The solar farm will be built by Masdar, a UAE government-owned alternative energy company.

  • The plans call for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and produce 2% of Israel's energy by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million per year to be divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.
  • The agreement links the electricity deal to further water purchases from Jordan. It states that Jordan plans to double the amount of water it purchases from Israel, either from a new desalination plant or existing facilities.

What’s next: The agreement is expected be signed in Dubai on Monday by the Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, Jordanian Water Minister Raed Abu Al-Saud and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, with Kerry in attendance.

Go deeper

Nov 29, 2021 - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Amazon does not sufficiently distinguish between its search results and paid ads, potentially "deceiving millions of consumers," according to a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Joan Moriarty, research director for the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that filed the complaint, told the Washington Post the group is "very hopeful" that the FTC will investigate the complaint because Lina Khan (D), a known Amazon critic, is now chair.

2 hours ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

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