Is Israeli-Lebanese War Over Water?

In my research of this area I have discovered that there has been a threat of war for years over waters being diverted from the Wazzani River in Lebanon, and Israel's alleged attempts at taking water from the Jordan and the Litani Rivers. Therefore, is taking out Lebanon's pumps and gaining control of the Litani and Wazzani Rivers now also part of the plan of these current attacks?

Per this article from 12 years ago (which shows how long this dispute has been going on):

Israel's Appropriation of Arab Water: An Obstacle to Peace

by Ronald Bleier
Middle East Labor Bulletin, Spring 1994
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"There is no reason for Palestinians to claim that just because they sit on lands, they have the rights to that water," Mr. Katz-Oz said. "The mountains do not own the water that fall on them. It's the same with Canada and the United States. It's the same all over the world." -- NYT 10/93

On the whole, when it comes to the common water resources shared with Palestinians and other Arabs, Israel ... acts like a great sponge. -- Sharif Elmusa (1993)

Palestinian hopes for genuine self-determination hinge on a number of factors, not the least of which is Israel's ability to solve its perennial and growing water shortage. According to Dr. Hussein A. Amery, of the Department of Geography, Bishop's University, Quebec, Israel uses 17% more than the 1.9 billion cubic meters of water that is renewable from natural sources.

"The deficit in water supply is being met by desalinating brackish salty waters, recycling waste water and over- pumping underground waters." ("Israel's designs on Lebanese water," MEI, 10 September 93 p. 18.)

But these facts and figures don't address the question of equity. Arguably 50% or more of the water that Israel uses is unilaterally appropriated from water that should fairly go to its Arab neighbors. Even the New York Times used the word "theft" when quoting an "Arab" in connection with Israel's appropriation of regional water resources. ("Hurdle to Peace: Parting the Mideast's Waters" by Alan Cowell NYT, 10.10.93 p. 1)

Before the Israeli diversion, the U.S. plan apportioned 33% of Jordan River water for Israel's use. As Stephen Green points out, the significance of this figure is that only 23% of the flow of the Jordan River originates in Israel. The Israelis, however, wanted more than 33%. Today, Israel takes virtually all of the Jordan River flow leaving only brackish, unusable water for the Syrians and Jordanians. Moreover, Israel's diversion of the Jordan River water to the Mediterranean littoral and to the Negev, defies an important principle of international law regarding water use; namely that water should not be diverted from its catchment basin.

There is much history and information to be read at the link above where this article continues.

The third river system of the Middle East, the The Jordan River, is the most disputed water source in this area, and is bordered by countries whose leaders all have vowed to go to war for the water. The annual flow in the entire area has been controlled by Israel since 1967, and is just under 500 cubic meters per person. The latest figures I could find reference to from 1991 indicate that Israelis use 375 cubic meters apiece, and Palestinians 180 cubic meters (even though Palestinians have a higher birth rate. These figures may also have gone up somewhat since that date) The population could also double some time between 2010 and 2020, which puts a even greater strain on these water resources. And because of the arid nature of the land, the flow cannot be improved either. Water shortages have been endemic here even despite water rationing. Bottomline: Israel is using too much water and needs to conserve and share these resources.

Arabs also never fail to mention that while the Jordanian average use is 80 liters per day, Israelis use 300 liters of the same river and the same aquifers. Is this true? And if so, is this necessary? Or is this just another way to systematically punish their neighbors? And I'm not talking about Hizbollah here, I'm talking about Palestinian families who need this water to subsist and for agriculture. There is no excuse for deliberately keeping water from ANYONE.

The presence of some 100 Israeli settlements populated by over 100,000 Jews on land occupied in the West Bank in 1967 was also a very contentious issue, and more than likely why that region has been occupied again. I believe that water is very much in the heart of this conflict. The 100,000 settlers were given almost as much water as the one million Palestinians who live in the region. This is then a source of bitter resentment, and a roadblock to a peaceful solution.

Israelis are also alleged to take 80 percent of the annual flow of 615 million cubic meter of mountain aquifers that are said to be "Palestinian water." Arabs see this as "stolen water" and want it back...ergo, war. The Israeli counter argument on being entitled to this water is based on their military superiority and a status quo (including aid from this government,) as well as the lack of clearly drawn out provisions regarding ownership and water use in International law, which we need desperately.

Therefore, it is my contention that there will never be peace in this region as long as water is in the middle of this conflict. With population figures slated to double within the next ten years and these resources remaining finite, war is the only way these people know and will know in order to get it. Israel would have to give up the West Bank which gives it control of the southern portion of the Jordan River, its acquifiers, as well as the headwaters of the Jordan in the Golan Heights in Syria, and also the southern portion of Lebanon which includes the Wazzani, Zahrani, and Litani Rivers. And face it, that isn't going to happen.

There would have to be a miraculous discovery of a new source of water flowing into their country like manna from Heaven. But it seems in this supposed, "Holy Land," we see and will see nothing but death and destruction, in part because people no matter whether they are Israeli, Palestinian, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, or American, cannot see beyond their own selfish needs for water, rather than sharing it amicably. Terrorism will also have a stronghold in areas like Southern Lebanon as long as people there are kept in poverty and politically oppressive conditions and denied resources that are their basic human rights, like water. And again, I am not talking about Hizbollah here, I am talking about basic human rights.

Therefore, do you really want to stop war in the Middle East? It may be as simple as a plan for real peace in providing adequate and equitable distribution of water resources to ALL who inhabit this area, and the United States government needs to also stand up for this. Otherwise, as long as population rises and water resources dwindle with Israel using its military force to control the majority of the flow, again, we will never see peace in this region. Using water as a political lever is unconscienable. This is a MORAL issue.

Other references:

Water In The Middle East Conflict

Lebanese-Israeli Water Conflict Threatens To Boil Over

Definition of Israel's Water Problems

UN Officials Prepare For Health Crisis In Lebanon

Humanitarian Crisis Looms

Tags: death, destruction, Gaza, international law, Israel, Lebanon, political expedience, terrorism, war, water (all tags)



Re: Is Israeli-Lebanese War Over Water?

But go ahead, U.S. Congress... keep showing how you put political expedience over principle in allowing innocent people on both sides to DIE FOR IT. Don't then wonder why a new generation of terrorists is being born.

by thinkforyourself 2006-07-26 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Israeli-Lebanese War Over Water?

 Sharon threaten to wage war over water in 2002. Buzzflash is offering a book on Water Wars.

 This war is about water and it is probably the really big first water war of this century.

 Thanks for your research efforts -- most people will ignore you.

 It is much easier to believe that Israel's leaders have a right to fight for the "security" of Israel. There is no way that Hizbolla will be wiped off the face of the earth. Israel is acting like a recruiter for Hizbolla.

 Once Lebanon's water is secured for Israel -- what happens when Israel needs more and more? How long will the American tax payer buy into the current reason for this war "Israel has a right to defend herself".

 Water wars -- water use and water allocation -- are issues we will need to become familiar with as this century ages.

by carbANDting 2006-07-26 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Israeli-Lebanese War Over Water?

Thank you. We will either have to begin taking action or we will be in perpetual war. And you are so right about people ignoring this. Same as global warming. I truly think humans have a subconscious desire to live in denial so they don't have to take responsibility.

by thinkforyourself 2006-08-03 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Israeli-Lebanese War Over Water?

I knew about this water issue all along. Of course it would be wrong to take water by means of aggression. I think the Israelis think of their Muslim neighbors the same way Europeans thought about the Amerindians. They seem to have this "manifest destiny" notion.

The entire Middle East is faced with a disastrous long-term water shortage. This will be greatly accelerated by global warming. However, it has been going on since the ice ages. Mongolia is now mostly a vast desert area, yet the Mongols once had thriving farms. Africa's Lake Chad, formerly a vast body of water, is now a dusty desert decorated with abandoned fishing vessels. Arizona and Nevada are about to become even dryer than most deserts. We are finding belatedly that, once people pump all the water out of the huge underground aquifers, the dry surface actually becomes dryer. A lot of experts fear the possible loss of the rain forests in South America. They could go from being tropical rain forests, to absolute deserts in, perhaps, a decade.

As the water leaves the land and the polar caps, it fills up the oceans. So the oceans will rise, eliminating places like (most of) Florida, New York City, etc.

Anyway, what we call the Middle East is already mostly a desert, and will be one of the first places to become uninhabitable. So, human beings have no time or energy to waste on anything other than coping with these impending disasters. Yet, because they let monomaniacal insane people run their governments, they start wars that are guaranteed to eliminate any chance of long-term human survival. By the way, you will soon be hearing that our very own resident monomaniacal fruitcake is thinking about sending U.S. troops to Lebanon.

Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2006. By Ken Silverstein.

The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. "They are saying 'What the fuck?'" he told me. "Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don't like it because we're already way overstretched."

by blues 2006-07-26 09:34PM | 0 recs


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