Water is important in the Middle East. According to some leaders,water is the new oil in the Middle East. Therefore, it is a majorsource of disagreement. The water problem between Israel andPalestine has continued to intensify. The problem dates back in 1967when Israel had the highest water consumption. To prevent illegaldrilling of wells, the two countries established a joint watercommittee. However, Palestine has been defying the provisions of thejoint water committee by drilling unapproved wells. The reason behindthis is that Palestine perceives Israel to be consuming water beyondits domestic need. This paper lays insight on the problem bydetailing its causes and the possible solutions. Although there is awater shortage in the Middle East, the problem of water in the twocountries is politically instigated. Various scholars and researcherswith an interest in the issue provide information that contributes tothe development of the thesis. It is necessary for the internationalhydrological law to take effect to prevent a possible conflict.
Water plays an important role in the Middle East mainly due to thedesert nature of the countries. Different authors have approached thesubject of the water problem in the Middle East. A major point thatmost of them note is the inseparability of water and politics in thecountries of the Middle East. However, the many claims made byindividual countries are usually hyperbolic and misleading since eachcountry tries to further its interest. Various leaders n the MiddleEast have equated water as the new oil in the Middle East. Ben-Meir,a former director of the Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture oncenoted that the next war in the Middle East will be instigated by thescramble for water resources (Elmusa 4). Israel and Palestine formpart of the intensified conflict on the water. Israel controls muchof the water resources including Jordan River, and this causes waterdeficiencies in Palestine. This paper will lay insight on the causeof the water conflict between Israel and Palestine and the possiblemeasure that can dismantle the building conflict.
Background of the Study
The declaration of principles on interim self-government arrangementsof 1993 proved for the specific issue of water between the twocountries (Elmusa 4). Both countries participated and formulatedagreements on the use of water. The Jordan Basin is the major causeof the rift between the two countries. The basin is the major waterresource located in the northern part of Israel, the Golan Heightsand the southern part of Lebanon. Also, river Jordan and the YarmoukRiver feed Lake Tiberias. These water supplies from the JordanInternational Drainage basin that cannot be artificiallysub-sectioned (Fisher 302).
The conflict between the countries also emanates from the aquifers inthat flow from The West Bank and Israel springs, and they feed riverJordan. Therefore, there is a notion that the two countries,therefore, should have equal access to eh water in river Jordan. Theaquifers contribute up to70% of the total water supply in both Israeland Palestine (Jad 6).
Currently, Israel controls the biggest portion of the water resourcesdespite the aquifers emanating from both countries. The reason forthis is that Israel has authority over a large part of the area thanPalestine (Zarour and Isaac 23). It controls the biggest part of theJordan River, and the westward flowing West Bank aquifers due to itsoccupation of the Golan Heights. Israel also occupies west bank, andthis restricts Palestine from accessing the water.
The dissatisfaction exhibited by Palestine also comes from theever-intensifying efforts of Israel to control the water resources.Currently, Israel is draining water from Yarmouk River, and it isvetoing Jordan’s receipt of a loan given by the World Bank todevelop a dam at Makrin to its advantage. By 1967, Israel accountedfor only 3% of the Jordan basin but currently, it controls thelargest part of the basin (Stutz 12). At present, Israel has anannual volume of 70-100 million cubic meters of water from Yarmoukwhile Jordan is only utilizing only 0.5% of the water on riverJordan.
According to Suffer, Palestine has been under the restriction fromusing underground water (21). The country must obtain permission fromdrilling wells from the military, and only 23 wells have beengranted. Only three of these wells are permissible for agriculturaluse. The Palestinians are also forced to pay high rates for watersupply. Settlers pay an average of 0.4 dollars for domesticconsumption ad a subsidized rate of 0.16 dollars for water meant foragricultural use (22). The Palestine citizens pay for 1.20 dollar forpiped water.
However, Israel demonstrates that it cannot reduce its waterconsumption due to the investment it has made. It emphasizes theeconomical and social damage that would result if the water supply isreduced. It cites its population’s corollary and its agriculturalinvestment. Conversely, Palestine cites its need for agriculturaldevelopment and builds a modern country (Gleick 152). Palestineprovides that the 4.6 million people in Israel should not haveabundant access to water at the expense of the two million citizensin Palestine (Suffer 31). Palestine cites that Israel is the onlycountry in the Jordan Basin that guzzles water from the river foruneconomic uses while the other countries cannot get enough foragricultural and domestic consumption.
The obvious conclusion is that Israel is outrightly violating theinternational water law. However, the law has not been enforced dueto Israel’s co-riparian of the Jordan basin failure to address therights, justice and equity as they appertain to the use of water(Allan 255). Israel, therefore, is citing water security as the majorissue that drives its mandate, and it uses its military muscle tocontrol the water resources at the expense of the other countriesincluding Palestine. The hypothetical statement is that the waterproblem between Israel and Palestine is politically instigated.
The study is confined to the river Jordan basin since it is the majorcause f the rift between Israel and Palestine. The two countries tryto control the water resources in the basin. Israel has a strongermilitary muscle, and it also controls Gaza. Therefore, most of thewater resources including the water coming from the aquifers benefitthe citizens Israel.
Map of the area under study
The Social Ecological model guided the research. Binder, Stokols, andCatalano developed it in (1972). It postulates the application ofmultiple levels and methods of analysis and theoretical perspectivesto social problems. The problem is instigated by various factors withthe political being the primary instigating factor.
The research relied on the information gathered by other researcherswith an interest in the field. Therefore, it utilized the relevantliterature and the available data. To ensure specificity of the data,only the article that specifically outlined the problem between thetwo countries were used to contribute to the findings. Besides, theauthors in the literature conducted their findings in differentperiods and this helps to lay the groundwork for assessment of anychanges in the two countries as a result of the water problem.
Up to date, the water issue in the region has been under the controlof the Joint Waste Committee. The committee is responsible forallowing individual countries to increase their water consumption aswell as drilling additional boreholes to beef up the internal watersupply. The committee has allowed Palestine to drill about 70boreholes and 22 observation wells. The west bank as about 500 waterwells out of which, the Palestine government has received permissionto upgrade 55 of them.
The committee, however, was accused of acting for Israel due to itsrestrictive nature of disallowing Palestine to drill extra well. Forthis reason, the countries formed an interim committee to manage thewater resources. The forged water agreement between the two countriessettled for increasing the water supply to Palestine by 28.6MCM peryear (Jad 7). Out of this volume, 5 MCM per year would benefit theresidents of Gaza. The initial consumption by Palestine stood at188MCM, and it was deemed that an additional 28.6 MCM per would helpto solve the problems of water shortage (Isaac 7). The agreement wasin agreement with the future water nee of Palestine in the West Bankthat required at least 20% of the water in the west bank (Jad 7).
The consumption history between the two countries shows greatdisparity with the Palestine citizens having a lower consumption percapita as opposes to their Israeli counterparts. In 1967, Israel’sconsumption amounted to 1,411 MCM (Isaac 7). During the same year,its population was 2,776,000. It was equivalent to 508 cubic metersof water per capita annually. In the same yea, the Palestine waterconsumption amounted to 60MCM supplied to a population of 700,000. Ittranslated to about 87.5 cubic meters of water per capita in theyear. Therefore, the citizens fell short of water supply compare tothe citizens of Israel. As of 2006, Israel’s’ water consumptionwas 1,211 MCM supplied to a population of 7, 7117, 000. T translatesto 170 cubic meters of water per person during the year. ThePalestine water supply in the same year was 180 MCM to a populationof 1,800,000 (Isaac 12).It was equivalent to 100 cubic meters ofwater per individual in the year.
The problem in between the two countries has been embedded inpolitics with beach country using either policies or militarystrength to comply or defy the rules of the interim water committee.The Palestinians are asking for a bigger portion of the water fromthe mountain aquifer. That is all the water from the Gaza aquifer. Italso wants to share the water in the Jordan Basin and the CoastalAquifer (Elmusa 8). They claim that the position of the internationallaw is in their favor as well as for the best interest of theirsovereignty. The mountain aquifer, according to Palestine will liesquarely in its territory and they, therefore, want to take controlover it. The claim, however, ignores the international law on thegeographical-hydrological principle that provide for the maintainingof existing uses of water. For example, the natural springs and waterutilized before 1967 were in the Israel territory (Elmusa 8).
The past trends of water consumption between Palestine and Israelshow a disparity in per capita water consumption. However, the wateragreement sine by the two countries had clearly outlined the futureconsumption of water by Palestine. According to the agreement, thefuture water consumption by the country would range between 70 and 80MCM per year. The current supply stands at 118 MCM per year andtherefore, the country has more than its intended needs (Elmusa 9).
As observed in the trends, Israel gives its citizens more water thanPalestine. The primary reason for this is that Israel meets most ofthe demands outlined in the agreement like treating waste water.Conversely, Palestine has avoided treating waste water and the reuseof effluent for irrigation purposes. The move would result in freelarge quantities of water for domestic use while at the same timeprotecting the ground water from contamination. The Palestinegovernment is also drilling unauthorized wells without the approvalof the joint water committee in the upper part of the west bank. Asof today, more than 250 unapproved wells have been drilled (Zeitoun21). Also the failure to treat waste water use to the failure to fundtreatment plants leads the discharge of wastewater to streams. Someof the wastewater finds its way into the Israel territory, and thisis another cause of the rift between the countries.
Therefore, the government of Palestine plays an important role indefying the directives of the joint water committee. The drilling ofthe pirate wells is done under the protection of the government. Theproblem, therefore, is politically instigated seeing that the statehas received enough water supplies as pointed out in the future wateragreement. Morover, Israel has a bigger military muscle, and itcontrols a large part of the basin. The military sometimes takes themandate of the joint water committee to restrict the drilling ofboreholes. Each of the political institutions seems to be pulling toits interests (Reinhart 21).
In my opinion, the rift between the Israel and Palestine concerningwater is moving towards the verge of creating a conflict. If left tosolve the problem on their own, I believe that it can result in a warsince the political systems play a primary role in creating barriersto accessing water. Israel is the only country that is using waterfor other purposes others than for economic purposes. It is apossible reason that makes Palestine perceives itself as not fullyexploiting the water resource despite having several aquifers.Further, Israel perceives Palestine as misusing the water since theydo not treat the waste water. The rift may be sealed with theintervention of the international law since the regulations of thejoint water committee are defied severally. As some popular leadersput it, water is becoming the new oil in the Middle East and it mayresult in fresh fights.
The primary reason for settling on this topic is due to thepolitical weight that it carries and the possibility of becoming thesource of conflict between the two countries. Israel controls thebiggest part of the Jordan basin despite some of the aquifers havingtheir sources in Palestine. The consumption in the two countriesshows a big disparity with Israel having the highest consumption perindividual. Te regulations of the joint water committee have beendefied with Palestine drilling pirate well. It has instigated theIsrael government to use military force to restrict the drilling ofillegal wells. Therefore, if the two countries cannot honor theprovisions of the joint water committee, there is a need for theinternational hydrological laws to take effect.
This study is limited to river Jordan basis. Also, it is limited tothe information provided by authors and researchers who have aninterest in the conflict. Therefore, any other factor contributing tothe water conflict not covered in the exploited literature is notcaptured n the paper. There is a need for future research that willinclude the position of other countries in the region like Jordan andSyria on the use of the available water resources.
Allan, Anthony. "Hydro-peace in the Middle East: why no waterwars? a case study of the Jordan River Basin." SAIS review22.2 (2002): 255-272. Print.
Elmusa, Sharif. Negotiating water: Israel and the Palestinians.Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1996. Print.
Fisher, Franklin M. "19 Models for optimal water management andconflict resolution." Water Trading and Global WaterScarcity: International Experiences (2012): 302. Print.
Gasteyer, Stephen, et al. "Water grabbing in colonialperspective: Land and water in Israel/Palestine." WaterAlternatives 5.2 (2012): 450-468. Print.
Gleick, Peter H. "Water conflict chronology." TheWorld’s Water, 2008–2009: The Biennial Report on FreshwaterResources (2000): 151-196. Print.
Haim Gvirtzman, “The Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict: An IsraeliPerspective,” The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, (2014).Print.
Isaac, Jad. "Core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli waterdispute." Environment and Conflicts Project (ENCOP)(1995): 56. Print.
Reinhart, Tanya. Israel/Palestine: How to end the war of 1948.New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011. Print.
Zarour, Hisham, and Jad Isaac. "The water crisis in the OccupiedTerritories." VII World Congress on Water, Rabat, Morocco.1991. Print.
Zeitoun, Mark. Power and water in the Middle East: The hiddenpolitics of the Palestinian-Israeli water conflict. IB Tauris,2008. Print.