Samstag, 16. August 2008

Israels Water Grab

Israel's Water Grab
+ the relation to Syria, Libanon,Turkey and the Palestinians
(Ishaac, J., Waltz, V. Auszug aus dem Buch: The Fabrication of Israel...))

The Zionist slogan of a state 'from the river of Egypt to Euphrates’ (Herzl, 9.10.1988) must be understood as a demand for water resources from Egypt to Iraq. From the beginning of the Israel project, Zionist planners realised the importance of water to maintain the viability of the Jewish state (Sabbagh 1994:505). Already at the end of the 19th century the Zionist Congress mentioned the importance of water while making the first geographic plans for the Jewish State. Many scientists and politicians assert that the next 'casus belli' in the Middle East will be control and use of water (Amery 1993). If so, the Middle East region carries the potential for conflicts between all the riparian states of the Jordan, Nile, Euphrates and adjacent rivers. The last occupation of south Lebanon can be understood as part of corresponding Israeli strategies. This article is mainly based on Amery (1993), Eickelpasch (2001), Moss (2006), Dolatyar/ Gray (2000).

1. Israel's usurpation interest on the Arab water resources until today
Besides the coastal aquifer, the main regional water resources are: the Litani river of Lebanon, the Jordan river of the West and the East Bank in Palestine and Jordan, the Lake of Tabariyya, the Yarmouk river of Jordan, the Golan Heights of Syria and the northern, eastern and western aquifer of the West Bank. (see Map 1 and Map 2) "Almost half of the water currently used in Israel is captured, diverted or pre-empted from its neighbours." (Stauffer 1996: 11). Israel understands water as "Israel's vulnerable and fragile source of life" ( Amery 1993: 232) showing no respect for the needs, demands and plans of others. Control of the Litani river has long-since been a vision of Zionist planners for establishing a Jewish state "from Sinai to ancient Babylon" (Stauffer 1996: 11).
Already in 1905 the Zionists proposed diverting the Litani southward, because they assumed "the waters of the Jordan basin would be insufficient for the future needs of Palestine." (Amery 1993: 233). Because of its water, it was suggested that the Litani become part of the "national Jewish entity" in 1919, but this was rejected by the League of Nations. In 1919, Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organisation at that time, wrote to the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George that Lebanon was "well-watered" and that the Litani waters were "valueless to the territory north of the proposed frontiers. They can be used beneficially in the country much further south." He concluded the Litani was "essential to the future of the Jewish national home." (Weisgal 1977: 267). However, the Litani became part of Lebanon ( Soffer 1994: 966-7).
The 1920 San Remo accord, which decided on the former territories of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and designed the 'new map' of the region, did not respect the Zionist demands in this point. The northern border especially was not satisfying to Jewish strategists. Hence, Weizman - later president of Israel - commented to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Cruzon: ' the draft accord France proposed not only separates Palestine from the Litani River, but also deprives Palestine from the Jordan River sources, the east coast of the Lake Tabariyya and all the Yarmouk valley north of the Sykes-Picot line. I am quite sure you are aware of the expected bad future the Jewish national home would face when that proposal is carried out. You also know the great importance of the Litani River, the Jordan River with its tributaries, and the Yarmouk River for Palestine.' (Dolatyar 1993)
Strong Jewish interests in the Litani were also expressed at the time of the Second World War. Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister suggested the inclusion of the Litani in the Jewish state. The 1941 international commission to whom this was suggested recommended that seven-eighths of the Litani be "leased to Israel." (Amery 1996: 233). On this occasion as well, however, Israel could not achieve its objective. Hence, access to water remained a fundamental object of crisis between the Arab neighbours and the state of Israel after 1948.
Several plans for sharing or controlling parts of the different water resources, mainly the Litani river, were disputed. Of these plans the 'Lowdermilk'- plan of 1944 was considered the "water constitution" by the Zionists. Lowdermilk proposed to use the Dan, Zarqa, Banias, Yarmouk in Jordan and the Hasbani rivers in Lebanon as contributors to irrigate the Jordan Valley. Furthermore, the Litani should feed an artificial lake in northern Palestine from where water should be pumped to the Negev Desert in Southern Palestine. However, the US under Eisenhower did not agree to Israel's use of half or more of the flow of the Litani (Amery 1993). Nonetheless, the Lebanese waters in the south remained of interest to the Zionists/Israelis for their purity and quantity (Kolars/Naff, 1993:. 4). The diaries of Moshe Sharett, an Israeli prime minister during the 1950s, reveal that Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, defence minister at that time, were strongly advocating military occupation of southern Lebanon up to the Litani River (Rabinovich 1985). However, aiming 'to make the desert bloom' (Dolatyar 1993), Israel began to develop national water resources and used the Hula waters to 'irrigate the desert'.
Between 1948 and 1967 Israel confiscated and usurped not only most of the Palestinian lands but also the water resources. In 1951, Israel drained the Huleh Swamp (north of Lake Tiberias) infringing on its demilitarised zone with Syria and provoking military clashes. Shamir, Prime Minister of Israel in 1990, summarised this policy in the sentence: "Great Aliya (immigration) needs great Israel.". This meant that further immigration would also require the future appropriation and exploitation of all water resources in the region. On the same principle: "Aliya' in the future needs new water resources and new lands; otherwise Israel will be in a water crisis!" (Sabbagh 1994: 513). Consequently, water was supposedly a main reason for the occupation of the West Bank. (Lee&Brooks 1996).
In fact, in the 1967 war, water resources were "perhaps the prominent factor in Israeli strategic calculations." (Amery 1993: 233). After the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, defence minister, stated, that Israel achieved "provisionally satisfying frontiers, with the exception of those with Lebanon" (Hof 1985, 36). Also Bargouthi (1986) and Saleh (1988) argue that lack of water resources supposedly is one of the motives for the 1967 war. Water supplies from the West Bank constitute as much as 40 percent of the water consumed in Israel. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel took also the Golan Heights. Since then, negotiations and fights between Syria and Israel were mainly about the water-rich Golan Heights and the surrounding region of South Lebanon.
Nevertheless, the Litani was targeted again. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon. The 1978 "Litani Operation" was done under the pretext to end the activities of Palestinian 'guerillas' (Hiro 1996: 127). In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon again. Dolatyar describes that "many view Israel´s retention of southern Lebanon as an extension of its persistent efforts to secure the Litani waters.' (Dolatyar 1993)
Alongside and after the occupation of the West Bank, new strategies were attempted proposing contracts on water use and inserting water in 'peace' negotiations with neighbouring countries. In the late 1970s, a water pipeline from the Nile River to the Israeli Negev desert was proposed by Egyptian President Sadat, but was rejected in Egypt, Israel, Ethiopia, and Sudan, due to security reasons for some, national interests on the same water source for others (Gerti 1979). Conflicts also developed around the Euphrates River. The source of the Euphrates is in Turkey, and it crosses both Syria and Iraq, all countries which – to some extent – depend on the river for economic development. Large damming projects by Syria (the 1974 Al-Thawrah Dam) and Turkey (the Ataturk Dam in the early 1990s and currently the GAP project) have already led to considerable tension between neighbours (Isaac & Saafar). Substantial future water deficits could seriously worsen these relations and intensify domestic conflicts. Only Turkey and Israel signed a contract in 2002 to enhance Israel’s water supply from Turkey’s share of the Euphrates. This agreement, however, was more significant in political – i.e. in allowing Israel to intensify its relations with the "only other democratic state" in the Middle East – than in material terms. In fact, the supply volume would at best replace the water which Israel agreed to supply to Jordan as part of the 1994 peace agreement (50MCM billion gallons of water, Brooks and Mehmet, 2000). Furthermore, the water provided would be extremely costly: twice as high as desalinated water and three times that of waste-water recycling (JNF 2007).

2. Israeli Water Shortage - home made and dangerous
Israel draws water from several sources in addition to those shared with the Palestinians. Total Israeli utilisation from fresh water resources currently stands at approximately 1609 MCM/year, and total water utilisation at around 1954 MCM/year, including desalination and wastewater reuse. (Netanyahu, 2006).
With an annual deficit of 629 million m3 of water, Israel is over-consuming its water resources by 25 percent. According to findings of a 2007 Jewish National Fund (JNF) report there are "two major reasons that Israel's water shortage has reached such extreme proportions 1) over-consumption, 2) drought ,and each problem exacerbates the other" (JNF 2007). It should be noted that the most significant consumer of water in Israel is the agricultural industry, which consumes a total of 1129 MCM per year (Netanyahu, 2006) although at least 245 MCM of this is from reuse of wastewater.
Over the last ten years, Israel has experienced a drought cycle which is seriously straining the country’s fresh water supply. Even during the particularly rainy winter of 2003, the coastal and mountain aquifers were not adequately replenished and additional water had to be pumped from Lake Tabariyya (JNF 2003). Currently, despite maintenance closure of the National Water Carrier, which transports water from Lake Tabariyya to the south of the country, the lake’s water level is less than half a meter above the red line (Haaretz 27.01.2007). In fact, the meagreness of 2007 year’s rainfall, only 65% of annual average for the winter season is such that Israel will most probably face a total national water deficit for the winter of 300 million cubic meters (Haaretz 27.01.2007). Moreover, experts predict that the global warming trend coupled with the region’s natural aridity will persist to the extent that even two dry years will be sufficient to take Israel back to a crisis-level water shortage.
The reality is that Israel already depends highly on the usurped water from its neighbours and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) (see overview 1). Ishaac and Zarour (1993) record the following composition of Israeli water sources for the year 1991. From 'greening the desert' Israel's over-exploitation of an essential vital regional resources for this aim today includes the danger of 'creating more desert'.

Overview 1: Israel water supply 1990/91
Source in Million cubicmetres (MCM)
Israel 745
Golan Heights 280
West Bank 415
Jordan 215
Total 1.655
(Source: Zarour/Isaac 1993 )

Palestinian are deprived from access to water
Following the 1967 war, Israel strengthened its control over the water resources in the region through its occupation of the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the Palestinian Territory, Israel imposed restrictions on water use by Palestinians and declared the lands located alongside the Jordan River as closed military area. In addition, soon after the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territory in 1967, Israel imposed a number of Military Orders to control Palestinian water resources. Military order No.2 (June 7th, 1967) declared all water resources in the OPT to be "Israeli State Property". Consequently, on August 15, 1967, the Israeli Military Commander issued Order No. 92, in which water was considered as a strategic resource for Israel. This Order was followed by numerous other orders aimed at making basic changes in the water laws and regulations in force in the OPT. Under Military Order No. 158 of 1967, it is not permissible for any person to set up, to assemble, to possess, or to operate a water installation unless a license has been obtained from the area's Military Commander. This Order applies to all wells and irrigation installations. The area's Military Commander can refuse to grant any license without the need for justification. All of these military orders were issued by the Israeli Occupying Forces, in order to achieve complete control over the Palestinian water resources.
By the 1990s, Israel was utilising approximately 80% (453 MCM/year) of the water of the West Bank Aquifer System to supply approximately 25% of the country’s water use, leaving only 20% (118 MCM/year) to meet all Palestinian water needs; a situation that persists to this day (ARIJ, 2007). Thus, Israel controls nearly 483 million cubic meters (almost 70% of Israel's actual deficit) of Palestinian water (ARIJ 2007). On the other hand, the Palestinian people in the OPT are denied their right to utilise their own water resources from the Jordan-River System, which they were utilising partially until 1967. This regime, in clear violation of international law, deprives Palestinians of access to the Jordan River which has led to a dwindling Palestinian share of drinking and agriculture water. Furthermore, Israel's illegal construction of the Segregation wall in the West Bank has deprived Palestinians of 29 groundwater wells and 32 springs used for domestic and agricultural purposes, as well as many cisterns and reservoirs, isolated or confiscated for ‘security reasons’ behind the wall (ARIJ, Database, 2006).
Despite the rapid increase in population and demand on water, Israel, has granted Palestinians of the West Bank only few permits for new water wells. All were to be used exclusively for domestic purposes. Between 1967 and 1990 only 23 permits were conferred to Palestinians for digging new wells in the West Bank, of which only 20 were for domestic use (Nasser 2003). At the same time, Israel continued to develop water abstraction from the West Bank’s Aquifer, constructing more than 32 deep wells in the Western Aquifer to supply Israeli colonies (Trottier 1999 in ARIJ 2007). It is important to mention that new water wells for agricultural purposes in the West Bank were also restricted to permits. The Israeli policy of metering all Palestinian wells was another means of restricting quotas on Palestinian water utilisation.

In 2005, of the total 75.5 MCM of domestic water supplied to the West Bank Governorates, approximately 38.9 MCM were purchased from the Israeli water company-Mekorot (Palestinian Water Authority, PWA 2005). Based on the WHO recommendations that each person should receive 150 litres of fresh water per day, the total deficit in domestic water supply for 2005 was 41.61 MCM for the whole of the West Bank (PWA 2005). Thus, on average; domestic water supply covered only 64% of demand. This deficit is expected to worsen as the population grows. As a matter of fact, the discrimination in utilisation of the water resources shared, unwillingly, by Israelis and Palestinians is clearly seen in the figures of the water consumption by the two populations. According to the 2005-Israeli Water Commission's data, approximately 4 million Palestinian inhabitants in the OPT utilised only about 323 MCM/year of their water resources, with their domestic, industrial and agricultural needs. For comparison, approximately 7 million Israelis utilised about 2009 MCM/year. On a per-capita basis and according to the Israeli Water Commission, water consumption by Palestinians is 83 m3/yr compared to about 277 m3/yr for Israelis. In other words, the per-capita consumption in Israel and in the Jewish colonies in the OPT is 4 to 5 times higher than the Palestinian per-capita consumption in the OPT. It is important to mention that the 485,000 Jewish settlers in the OPT consume annually about 160 MCM of the West Bank Aquifer water. On the other hand, while Palestinians have been struggling to connect the remaining 25% of the Palestinian population to household water-distribution systems, Jewish settlers in the OPT receive continuous water supply, largely from Palestinian wells drilled in the aquifer systems that belong to OPT.
Palestinian water rights include the groundwater of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the rightful shares of the Jordan River System, including Lake of Tabariyya. Even Israel recognised Palestinian water rights when it signed the Oslo Accords, but to-date no negotiations on the details of these rights have been held. Moreover, to-date, the Oslo Agreement has not been fully implemented. Not even the 28.6 MCM for the immediate needs of the Palestinians is fully available. Even if it were fully implemented, the amount of water allotted to the Palestinian people under the Oslo Interim Agreement is not in fact enough to meet the basic needs of the population. It also does not account of population growth or economic development.
3. Israel's water grab between Jordan River and Litani River, with or without a Palestinian State
The migration of East European and former Soviet citizens to Israel has resulted in a vast increase of its population. An advertisement of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Israeli Newspaper Jerusalem Post (1990) argued that a Palestinian state on the West Bank would draw on the water resources that are vital to Israel. 'Relinquishing' the land to a potential Palestinian state would likely result in the repatriation of Palestinian refugees, whom the advertisement referred to as 'poverty-stricken humanity', from surrounding Arab countries. That in-migration "would generate an impossible strain on the already over-extended water supply and inadequate sewerage system, endangering even further Israel's vulnerable and fragile source of life." The commentary concluded by asserting that "it is difficult to conceive of any political solution consistent with Israel's survival that does not involve complete, continued Israeli control of water and sewerage systems, and of the associated infrastructure, including power supply and road network, essential to their operation, maintenance and accessibility" (1990 10 August, intern. edition).
The only alternatives are recycling water and desalination, which are also included in future programmes. But as fresh potable water remains an asset, it is easy to conclude that before reaching any final solution, Israel's governments will create facts on the ground concerning the Litani and Jordan rivers.

Litani River interests
The main attraction of the Litani River is the high quality of its water. The salinity level is only 20 parts per million, whereas that of the Lack Tabariyya is 250 to 350 parts per million. Israel’s aquifers are stressed, especially along the coast, and the water in them is increasingly brackish. The water of the Litani would lower the saline level of the Lack Tabariyya, from which the National Water Carrier channels water to much of the country. "It is this purity that makes the Litani very attractive to the Israelis, who have developed their National Water Carrier System with a view towards potable (as opposed to irrigation quality) water" (Naff and Matson 1984, 65).
Turkey proposed a peace pipeline to meet the needs of numerous southern water-deficient countries, including Israel, but importation over hundreds of kilometres of 'unfriendly territory' is seen in Israel as untenable and easily subverted, thus a threat to national security. It is therefore becoming increasingly evident that the only feasible solution - in terms of water quality, volume, and proximity of the resource - to Israel's growing water problem is to tap a nearby source, namely the Litani River.
When Israel occupied south Lebanon, creating a special zone under military control, the Israeli army prohibited drilling of wells there (Bargouthi 1986). Moreover, after the 1982 invasion, Israeli army engineers carried out seismic soundings and surveys near the westward bend of the river, probably to determine the optimum place for a diversion tunnel, and confiscated hydrographical charts and technical documents of the river and its installations from the Litani water. Over the years, there have been reports of water siphoning from the Litani into the Jordan River basin, a distance of less than ten kilometres (Cooley 1984; Bargouthi 1986; Saleh 1988; Abu Fadil and Harrison 1992; Gemayel 1992). Independent water analysts, however, have reported that Israel has been diverting some water from the Litani River into the Jordan River (Collelo 1989, 117) by tapping the massive underground water resources. Hence the measured flow of the Litani is not affected (Cooley 1984, 22-23).

Jordan River interests
The Jordan Rift Valley is a distinct geological and geographical part of the Great Rift Valley which extends from Syria to the Red Sea. The Jordan River is an essential water catchment with the largest water yield in the region, running down from the main springs in the southern mountains of Lebanon through the lake Tabariyya to the Dead Sea.
As the only significant source of surface water in the region, the Jordan River has been the source of conflicts between the countries that share it (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine). The closest thing to a regional agreement on water utilisation between the riparians is the Johnston Plan (1955), which was approved by technical committees from Israel and the Arab League, but has never been ratified and the waters of the Jordan River have been exploited by unilateral projects without any compliance to the water allocations that were identified as outlined, see the following: (in MillCubicMeter MCM water/year)

According to 1. Johnson Plan Syria 50, Lebanon 0, Jordan 829, Israel 426., total 1 305MCM
According to revised John Plan Syria 132, Lebanon 35, Jordan 720, Israel 400 , total 1 285 MCM
Real Usage in 2006 Syria 153, Lebanon 7, Jordan 480, Israel 647, total 1 287 MCM
(Palestinians were not included)
(Source: Reguer 1993, Sherman 1999, ARIJ 2007 )

An important point to note is that when the Johnston Plan was drawn up, the West Bank was under the Jordanian Administration and, henLebanon O, Jordan 829ce, the water rights of the Palestinian people in the West Bank were never explicitly defined. However, a canal was planned on the western side of the River (the West Ghor canal) as part of the greater Yarmouk Project, which was to supply 240 MCM of water to irrigate lands in the Jordan Valley (Murakami, 1995; Naff and Matson, 1984). This canal was never built, and following the 1967-war and the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, 140 Palestinian pumping stations on the Jordan River were destroyed or confiscated.
Since that time, Palestinians have had no access to the Jordan River's waters (Agenda 21 in Palestine, 2001) The most significant projects carried out in the Jordan River Basin are the Israeli National Water Carrier through which Israel diverts approximately 650 MCM of water per year from Lake Tabariyya to Negev desert and the Jordanian East Ghor Canal. It is worth mentioning that the Jordan River Basin satisfies around 50% of Israel's and Jordan's respective water demands, supplying around 33% of the Israeli fresh water use (Netanyahu, 2006), while it only meets 5% of Lebanon and Syria combined water demands. These projects have reduced the annual water flow of the Jordan River from 1,320 MCM in the early 1950's to 250 MCM of high salinity and deteriorated quality water (Dead Sea project, 2004). The Dead Sea as well as the Jordan River are loosing enormously, endangering the survival of a unique ecosystem and historical landscape, attractive for its bio-diversity and subtropical climate (Anani 2007). Water quality in the Lower Jordan River is much poorer than in the Upper Jordan River, due to input from saline springs and contamination from irrigation return flows, as well as the diversion of much of the river upstream (EXACT, 1998). There is much concern that the level of the Dead Sea is dropping, due to the reduced input from the Jordan River and increased use of other sources. The surface area of the Dead Sea has shrunk by around 30% in the past 20 years; a drop in water level that translates to the rate of approximately 1 m per year (Dead Sea Project, 2004).
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1999), there is an actual plan to change the map, which will completely modify the Jordan valley and river: the Jordan Rift Valley Project. This project was initiated between the United States, Israel and Jordan. It aims to encourage tourism, transportation, trade and industry, agriculture, aquaculture, environment, telecommunication and energy generation. While the role of the Palestinian Authority was marginalised, one can say that the Jordan Rift Valley project comes as the biggest and most profitable integral part of Israel’s recent national development plans. (Anani 2007: 2pp). Furthermore, and as the issue of fresh water is especially acute in Israel, peace agreements with Jordan and the joint use of the valley - of which the majority is located in the occupied West Bank - was an important step for Israel's water grab. The actual pressure on Syria to agree on borders over Golan can be seen as part of this policy. Consequently Israel aims to completely exclude Palestinians from this source in the long run - the segregation wall has already been built and will be extended to the east side 'when it is time' as Sharon mentioned (Zarour, Hisham/Isaac, Jad 1993).

Israel's land grab is flanked by water grab. The 'greening of the desert' is a false story. Greening the desert would look different and if so, such a project is regional and cannot be done without agreement of the neighbours who depend on the same resource. The opposite has been happening since the beginning of the Zionist project. The usurpation not only of land but also of important water resources was envisaged by all Zionist planners, and after the recent war to occupy south Lebanon this is even more evident. Immigration programmes, modern life style and an extensive use of fresh water sources have become an evil instead of a dream. Huge irrigation projects in the Golan heights - where sprinkler systems water the apple plants during hot summer days, the assurance of a luxurious life-style with facilities such as swimming pools for the settlers, and planting cotton in an areas that never tolerated this water consuming crop is only one side of a wrong dream. The suffering of water shortage and lack of basic sources for the Palestinian society is the other side and proves the ignorance of Israel's politicians who have no interets in supplying the Palestinians. Water-wars are home-made, and consequently not a result of general shortage. Alternative policies could be developed in an optic of responsibility for a sustainable future of the region and in harmony with the neighbours. But this requires a different conception of the State of Israel.

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