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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.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

4 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

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