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December 13, 2002

Why one should oppose a second Palestinian-Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza - Part 15 of 23

This piece continues a series of which the first 14 parts were posted on September 8, 9, 11, 17, 20, 22, 23; October 7, 24, 28, 29; and November 6, and 26; and December 5, 2002. (Alternatively, the previous articles may be found in the IsraPundit archives as follows: September 8, 9, 11, 17, 20, 22, 23; October 7, 24, 28, 29; and November 6 and 26; and December 5, 2002). The object of the series is to provide a database that is not only reliable and well-documented but also one for which documents are easily accessible, preferably from web resources. The term "second Palestinian-Arab state" is used in order to underscore that one Palestinian-Arab state already exists: it's called Jordan, and it is located in that part of Eastern Paletsine that was originally to have been part of the Jewish National Home.

15. The scarcity of water in the region renders it imperative that Israel retain control over the this resource in Western Palestine as a whole (Israel and Yesha). Based on past experience, one has reason to suspect that should a sovereign Palestinian-Arab state control this resource, such a state would be a permanent threat to Israel.

Palestine (including contemporary Jordan, Israel and Yesha) and the neighbouring countries suffer from a serious shortage of water, a fact which makes this resource unique in its importance. Conflicts over water have coloured the relations between Turkey and her neighbours (see, for example, the official Turkish site), as well as the relations between Israel and Syria (see, for example, TimeLine or brief article). As will be shown at the end of this article, the conflict between Israel and Lebanon about water is still ongoing.

In connection with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, the water problem stems from the fact that for Israel,
fully 40 percent of the available fresh-water resources consists of ground water drawn from aquifer wholly or partially under Judea and Samaria. This is a supply without which Israel would be brought to the brink of catastrophe...
[Cited from p. 311 of
Netanyahu, Benjamin. Durable Peace. Warner Books, 2000.]

This “catastrophe” could come about by denying Israel water through diversions, by contaminating the aquifer, whether deliberately or through mismanagement of sewer/waste disposal systems, by depleting the aquifer, by or by damaging it irreversibly in other ways.

Should Israel lose control over the source of its water through granting sovereignty to the Palestinian Arabs, Israel would have to live perpetually under the Sword of Damocles.

Israel has good reasons to be sceptical about the environmental awareness of her Arab neighbours and their willingness to share water. Suffice it to recall the persistent sabotage in which Syria engaged during the period in which Israel was constructing her National Water Carrier. In the same vein, the first act of sabotage in which the PLO was involved was an attempt to sabotage the National Water Carrier on January 3, 1965. And the current conflict with Lebanon is yet another element to heighten Israel’s concern (see end of article).

According to a report published in Grist Magazine, Israel attempted to manage the water in Yesha by freezing the status quo, i.e., by :
capping Palestinian consumption, banning the digging of new wells, and putting quotas on how much water could be extracted from existing wells.
Hostile as this magazine is towards Israel, it had to admit that Israel hooked Palestinian towns into the water network; because of the Palestinian poor management, however, “as much as half of the water meant to supply some Palestinian towns may be lost to leaking pipes”. Imagine the situation had Israel lost control entirely!

On January 31, 2001, several months after the PA organized the recent Intifada, Iaraeli and Palestinian Arabs met to flesh out an agreement that would put the water/sewage system beyond the conflict. The way the Palestinian Arabs adhered to the agreement is described by Ha’Aretz:
The declaration stating that the water and sewage infrastructures must not be harmed despite the military conflict was signed at the Erez Junction on January 31.
Chlorine for purifying drinking water is manufactured in the Haifa Bay, and Mekorot workers make sure to deliver it to meeting points in the West Bank, often at personal risk to themselves. The Palestinian water officials are grateful to them for this. Recently, when the IDF trisected the Gaza Strip, Israeli water officials made sure that chlorine would be delivered to the southern part of the strip to purify drinking water there.

But despite this openness for the Palestinians' water needs, Israel is quick to respond any time the Palestinian side purposely breaches the interim agreement on water. An example of this is the situation in the Jenin area. Palestinians privately drilled in 30 spots there for agricultural irrigation without permission or coordination with Israeli authorities. As a result, Israel is refusing to approve large-scale drilling for drinking water in that area.
Again, imagine the Palestinian Arabs gaining sovereignty over the water sources!

It will be recalled that the Oslo Accords of 1993, 1994, and 1995, deferred the issue of water, together with the issues of refugees, Jerusalem, Israeli settlements in Yesha, boundaries, and security, to the final negotiations. The assumption was that during the interim period, the Palestinian Arabs would show their intentions for a peaceful solution. But as reality indicates, and as this series has documented, peace is the last thing on the mind of the Palestinian Arabs, and under these realities, sovereignty for the Palestinian Arabs, which would deprive Israel of control over the regions water, is a recipe for Israel’s destruction.

Exacerbating the water issue is the phenomenal population increase of the Palestinian Arabs in Yesha, a topic which will be discussed in a forthcoming article, in the context of the economic viability of a Palestinian-Arab state in Yesha. Suffice it to note here that the annual rate of population increase has been recorded by the CIA Factbook (“West Bank” and “Gaza Strip”) at 3.39% for Judea and Samaria, and at 3.95% for Gaza (data for 2002). Using the demographic “rule of 72", these rates correspond to doubling the population within 21.2 and 18.3 years, respectively.

In response to peace overtures by her neighbours, Israel has shown incredible generosity in all areas, including water. For example, as part of the 1994 peace pact with Jordan, Israel agreed to distribute water to Jordan, notwithstanding the chronic shortage from which Israel herself suffers. But the belligerent Palestinian Arabs are clearly a different kettle of fish.

So are the Lebanese/Syrians. Their recent conflict with Israel is a two-prong conflict, namely, water and sewage, demonstrating the seriousness of the analysis outlined above with regard to the Palestinian Arabs.

The water prong of the conflict came to the fore in September, 2002, when it became clear that the Lebanese intended to install and operate a pumping station to remove water from the Wazzani tributary of the Jordan river. On September 15, the Jerusalem Post reported:

Diversion of waters from the Wazzani River was a top concern raised by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in meetings with US officials on Friday.

Peres met with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and other administration officials in Washington.

"The Americans said [they] see as very grave what the Lebanese are doing with the water in the North but [they] are looking for a solution, not an escalation," one source in Peres's delegation said.

Peres, in a meeting with Israeli reporters, called Lebanon's moves a "senseless provocation."
The Lebanese government has apparently taken heart from reports that the US has asked Israel to tone down rhetoric on the issue.

Israel Radio yesterday quoted senior sources in Jerusalem as saying that Hizbullah is behind Lebanese plans to divert the river. The sources said that despite the imminent attack on Iraq, the organization has not changed its strategic outlook and is trying to stir up the northern border with Syria's full support.
One month later, on October 15, the Jerusalem Post reported about the provocative opening ceremony of the pumping station:

High-ranking Lebanese officials led by President Emile Lahoud and foreign diplomats joined with an estimated 10,000 people on Wednesday to participate in the inauguration of the controversial Wazzani River project.

Watched by IDF troops on the border with Lebanon, the cavalcades of the Lebanese hierarchy arrived one after the other to attend the ceremony, including Hizbullah's leader in south Lebanon, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk.

It was party time for the Lebanese and especially Hizbullah's Shi'ite rival, the Amal movement, which was the motivating force behind what the Lebanese view as the "liberation of the water."

Despite Israel's warnings and mediation efforts by the US, which did not send a representative to the ceremony, as well as the European Union and the United Nations, the official opening of the Wazzani project went ahead on a grand scale.

Israel has vehemently opposed Lebanon's unilateral action on the grounds that it sets a dangerous precedent and breaks the status quo on water use in the region that has existed for decades.
With regard to sewage, IMRA reported on November 3, 2002, that
[T]he Ministry of the Environment confirms that the Lebanese are dumping sewage water in the Ayoun River on the border
with Israel. The Director of the Northern District of the Ministry of the Environment, Shlomo Katz, asked senior officials to act to put an end to the polluting. He said that the four tanks of sewage that the Lebanese dumped flow down a route that ultimately reaches the Kinneret - a key source for drinking water in the nation. The Israel Radio correspondent noted that drinking water is also drawn from the river itself.

Israel Television Channel Two reported that the move by Lebanon is seen as another attempt to draw Israel into conflict after the recent water pumping operation failed to lead to an Israeli reaction on the ground.
A story by the Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2002, elaborates:
IDF troops are closely monitoring the dumping of sewage and other waste on the Lebanese side of the border, apparently into Nahal Ayoun, which flows into Israel.

Trucks have been seen dumping fluid waste there raising concern that the sewage will spilinto Israel when winter rains flow into the stream, which runs past Metulla on its way to nearby Tanur waterfall.

Trucks and tankers are reportedly being used to drain cesspools of villages in south Lebanon.
The sewage is then being poured into the Ayoun and possibly other riverbeds which are dry in the summer, but flow across the border in the winter and early spring.

The prime concern is that the sewage will ultimately seep into and pollute tributaries of the Jordan River which flows into Lake Kinneret, as well as damaging the water table.
The argument that a soverieing Palestinian-Arab state could be subject to a hypothetical “water agreement” should be discounted in the same way that the argument of “demilitarizing” a Palestinian-Arab state in Yesha is refuted: the stakes are too high, the means of verification and enforcement are too feeble, and the malevolent intentions of the Palestinian Arabs too manifest to permit Israel to relinquish control over water (or the borders, or the air space). At the same time, such control is bound to be a primary demand of a sovereign Palestinian State.

Once again we point to the only viable solution that will grant Israel security and grant the Palestinian-Arabs the self-determination they supposedly seek: an autonomous Palestinian-Arab entity within a sovereign Israel in the entire area of western Palestine.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland. This piece is cross-posted on IsraPundit and Dawson Speaks.