Water Problems in West Bank
Having very low availability of water resources in comparison with the global average, Israel, Jordan and Palestine have been suffering from scarcity of water and the scarcity impacts their economic and daily lives directly mostly for the higher population in Jordan and Palestine. The continuous rapid growth in population has in the region has raised the question as to whether the basic needs of water for the whole population will ever be met in the coming future.
The resources of water in Israel, Jordan and Palestine are a mixture of groundwater and surface water sources. The major surface water however is Jordan River. Israel, Jordan and Palestine are thus riparian’s and are hydrologically linked. The quality of water in the upper Jordan is said to be the best and contains salinity in Lake Tiberius which is a major natural reservoir of system of Jordan River being around 250mg/l. However, the lower downstream of Jordan has poor quality water and this is normally due to saline springs diversion which naturally flows in Lake Tiberius into the downstream river same as the effluent irrigation. Currently its waters are of little use to humans. The major tributaries of Jordan River are Zarqa and Yarmouk rivers with the Yarmouk forming some part of the border between Israel and Jordan and also Syria and Jordan. From the Jordanian territory the Zarqa River flows into Jordan River.
Water Division in Palestine, Israel and Jordan
The major transboundary water resources which are shared between the occupied territory of Palestinian and Israel include the Coastal Aquifer, Mountain Aquifer and Jordan River. The water resources of Palestinian was exclusively brought under control of Israeli through military orders with the West Bank occupation in 1967. This move denied Palestinians access to their rightful share of their water resources transboundary and they have also been highly restricted against developing their water resources. The quantity of water availability to Palestinians for domestic and personal use for securing food security and livelihoods and also enabling socio economic development has been highly reduced due to the inequitable allocation of water between occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. Access restrictions and movement have caused further difficulties for accessing sufficient quantities of safe water for many communities.
There are a total of four hundred springs in the West Bank. These springs are depended on by sixteen Palestinian communities as their only drinking water source. However, since springs are replenished by intermittent seasonal rainfall, they are not considered a very reliable source of water. The West Bank Valleys have been dominated to extensive pollution caused partly by Israeli restriction on development of Palestinian of collecting waste water and treating and also by unregulated dumping of waste water in the West Bank.40% of the contamination is from the settlements of Israeli in the West Bank and also from the illegal settlements and other neighborhoods of Palestinians in East Jerusalem which after being unilaterally annexed by Israel have come under full jurisdiction of Israel. The largest polluted area is Wadi Nar (Kidron) where 17.5mcm/yr of sewage comes from Jerusalem
The Palestinians have been denied access to River Jordan which was their main water resource service since the year 1967. The Jordan River has been reduced to a foul trickle since all of the flow of the Upper Jordan River was diverted by Israel Riverat Lake Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee and this has caused serious reduction of 1m/yr in the Dead Sea Level.
Institutions Protecting the Water
The Joint Water Committee must give Palestinian approval to start a development, maintain and also operate their resources. The Joint Water Committee was established under the Oslo Accords to cater for the management of the water resources that is being shared most especially in the West Bank. Though the committee is made up of Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli is granted more exclusive power over the West Bank thus restricting Palestinian Water development. The Palestinians have not been granted any permission to even drill a new well in the most productive aquifier basin (Western Aquifer) since 1967. Also since Oslo there has not been even one permit for developing agricultural wells. The available 120 wells are said not to be functioning due to lack of JWC approval for maintenance and repair. The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) also gives official permit for any water project
Will Syria have direct access to Lake Tiberius?
In the year 2000 during the last stage of negotiations, the remaining obstacle to a piece of an agreement of peace was a narrow strip of land dispute which was twelve kilometers long and some few hundred meters wide in Lake Tiberius along the northwestern shore. Sovereignty over this strip was demanded by President Hafiz Asad to allow Syria direct access to the lake for swimming and fishing and maybe at some point giving the country control over half the lake. This long-held situation resulting from Syria’s order for a revisit to the June 4, 1967 line which it had taken since the 1948 warfare with Israel , even though the global boundary segregated in 1923 by the British Mandatory power in Palestine and the French Mandatory power in Syria was drawn 10 meters from the lake’s northeastern shore.
Barak did not agree with the compromise proposal also regarding the disputed strip of land which was suggested in the year 2000 described that Israel will exercise full sovereignty over the lake and Syria over the disputed land strip in northeastern. The agreement would have let Syria have access over the lake for swimming and fishing but not for drawing water, allow the northeastern shoreline become a joint tourist area for Syria, foreigners under UN and Israelis
Barak and Asad did not accept the compromise proposal and as a result the two leaders missed a good opportunity to reach an agreement for peace that could have effectively served the interests of the two nations as well as proper contribution towards the stability and security of the region. Such an agreement would have removed a strategic threat for Israel while at the same time neutralizing the menace of Hizballahin Southern Lebanon thus leading to a peace agreement between Israeli and Lebanese. The image of Israel towards the world of Arabs would also have been improved by the peace agreements between Syria and Lebanon through enhancing its position of bargaining and also reducing the Iranian threat.
Water is a major problem among all other disputes between Syria and Israel. The issue has increased military clashes issues between the two countries and highly contributing to the June 1967 outbreak of Arab Israeli war. However the part of the problems was solved during the negotiations in 1990’s, though the remaining dispute over Lake Tiberias shoreline of the north eastern was the major cause for the collapse or lack of success for these negotiations in 2000 March. The dispute regarding water however does not only involve the northeastern shore of the lake but also the Hula lake, the Banyas, the upper Jordan and its main tributary as they arise in the Golan Heights
The conclusion that can be drawn from all this water disputes is that peace is not foreseen anytime soon for Syria and Israel if they still remain in the unchanged environment regarding Lake Tiberias northeastern shoreline as the Syrians and Israelis reflect in their minds as well as in their leader’s strategies. Assuming that in the predictable future the Syria and Israel publics are not in a position to restrain their positions, and can go forward to exacerbate them, can the respective current leaders, reach an agreement for peace? Bashar has shown his desire to claim peace negotiations with Israel, principally due to his calculated predicament following the U.S. military action in Iraq. But Sharon rejected Bashar’s overture.
The military strategic peril could have been minimized if they claimed peace with Israel including the Golan’s return. The peace agreement would also have enabled Damascus to divert a large section of military expenditure towards the economic and social development. The economy and society of Syria could also have benefited from the American financial investment and aid that were in a position to follow an agreement of peace with Israel and thus removing Syria from the black list of those countries that support terror
Water Issues In Israel And Syria
There is a popular saying or rather an anecdote in the Middle East that was put together by the former Secretary of State in the U.S. government, Henry Kissinger in 1970’s, ‘no war is possible without Egypt and no peace possible without Syria. For the last twenty years, the Syrians’ have insisted on being given the authority to access Lake Tiberias but this is possible only if the Israelis withdraw completely from Golan. Syrians insist that the Israelis have to completely withdraw from Golan that had been captured in 1967 that run down up to 4th June 1967 which would give Syrians to access Lake Tiberias(Medzini & Wolf, 2004). The Israelis also have their demand which in this case is seeing the Syrians off tahe water but the best thing is that, they realize that Syrians’ precondition has to be met before there could be any peace. The two countries have been craving for peace but their only obstacle is the disputed area that’s between the 1923 border line and the 1963 prewar line. The area in dispute is of a very small size but its significance is of great value, it is the key to any peace deal between the Syrians and the Israelis. This area(Golan) is the one that will determine who accesses the water, the sovereignty and who has control over the area. It’s the sticking point that has haunted the two countries for the last twenty years with so many negotiations that have yielded nothing.
The American administration is of the idea that there should be a pace park in Golan. This peace park will serve as mark that will always remind the two communities about their peace deal. The idea of a peace park is not new here because the first park was established in 1932 in Canada. This park was known as the Waterton-Lakes International Park and so the idea has seen so many people adopting it. Today there are more than 170protected areas of the kind. With such an arrangement, the two countries that have been in dispute can be able to access the area without fear of being attacked. At the same time the park serves as a tourist destination meaning that none of the two countries will have to contribute anything to maintain the park (Brock, 1991). Water being one of the most contentious resources in the Middle East also happens to be one with the highest potential when it comes to peace making in the region. The only problem here is that more often than not, political and environmental decisions are made by one region at the expense of the other. Using a natural resource in this case will go a long way in making sure that there is sustainable development that will strengthen the call for peace both from Syria and Israel.
Once the peace park has been implemented, the other peace parks between the Jordan and the Israel will make their commitments that had been made in 1994 Peace Agreement actual. This agreement was supposed to advance their (Syria and Jordan) cooperation to preserve the nature and at the same time prevent pollution. The idea of a peace park goes will not only be good for environment conservation, it will also provide a ground for people to interact, it will be a tourist destination while still being a conservation area (Muslih, 1993). According to Syrian’s foreign minister, the Israelis are supposed to realize that the Syrians are entitled to the Golan the same way they (Israelis) are entitled to it.
The peace agreement will only be possible if the Israelis will withdraw fully from the Golan area and the Syrians given the right to ownership. The withdrawal is the only way that the two countries will be able to come into an agreement. The only problem to this move is that Israelis put more importance to land than to water. According to Israelis, these two matters, the land and the water are joined at the hip bone and for one of them to be resolved; the other has to be involved too.
How will the civil war currently raging in Syria impact water resources, if at all?
The Golan Heights Peace Park is the only thing that will bring in the desired peace in the region. Under this arrangement, both countries will be able to get control of the land and the water too. The reserve will allow the Israelis sovereign on the northeast of Lake Tiberia while Syria will get the sovereignty of the Golan Heights formally and the northeast coastline of Lake Tiberias(Miller, 2000). In this arrangement, Syria will get the land and controlled access to Lake Tiberias water while Israel will get the water and controlled access to the land and everybody will go home happy. The civil war in Syria will not have any impact in the water resources because it has nothing to do with water resources. The war is about Christians, the minority religious groups and the other groups in the country. So, the war is on a completely different ground.
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