Until about ten days ago we were having the driest winter in decades, if not since measuring began late in the 19th century. You might chalk this up to global warming, I suppose, if it weren't for Europe having a rather cool winter, and North America being buried under snow down into Mexico or somewhere. About ten days ago, at the tail end of winter, it started raining seriously, and it now looks like the winter of 2009 won't be a record-breaking catastrophe, merely a decidedly dry year. Bad, not awful.
In which context, someone at Y-net went to look at the subject of water we supply to our neighbors. (In Hebrew). This is a toxic topic, on which most people know very little though many think they know lots. Remember, for example, how until 2005 the "accepted wisdom" was that those evil Israeli settlements in Gaza were drinking 25% of the local water? This, at a time when Israel was piping water in for the Palestinians, while a Palestinian inability to construct better pipelines was limiting the quantities Israel was prepared to supply. As they say: Lies, damn lies, and accepted wisdom about Israel.
I'm not going to do justice to the topic in a blog post. But the figures in the Y-net news item are interesting. Israel's treaty with Jordan stipulates that Israel must give Jordan 35 mcm (million cubic meters) of water annually. In addition, Israel may pump water out of the Yarmouk river upwards into the Sea of Galilee, but the Jordanians may request 20 mcm of that water for itself since it borders on the Yarmouk. In reality, Israel supplies those 20 mcm even in years such as 2005 and 2007 in which there was little rainfall and the Syrians, further up the Yarmouk, essentially pumped it dry. Meaning Israel supplies Jordan with the extra 20 mcm at its own expense, or from its own (dwindling) reserves.
Israel and Jordan are at peace, so maybe this makes sense (and maybe not). The policy of supplying water to the Palestinians is stranger, given the rather tortured relationships which, whatever they are, are not peace. Until a final-status agreement is reached, Israel must supply the Palestinians with 28.5 mcm water annually, 5 mcm of them to Gaza. In reality, Israel has been supplying the Palestinians with 65 mcm (some of it through authorizing new Palestinian well-drilling from the common underground reservoirs).
In total, Israel's contracts mandate it to supply 80 mcm to its neighbors, but in reality it supplies 120 mcm. In 2009 there is a projected 80 mcm shortfall of water for Israel itself, which of course raises the question if perhaps we should revert to the letter of the treaties and stop the gestures, and save half of our own shortfall.
If we do so, prepare yourself for the reports on the new Israeli crime against humanity of drying up Palestinian faucets.