Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Handing Out Water

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.


Dimitry said...

I actually think that water provides a perfect opportunity for Israel 9to make a positive out of a negative). Israel is obviously the only rich enough country in the area to desalinate water. All our neigbors with the possible exception of Lebanon lack water and the situation will get worse with years as the population increases. If Israel was to desalinate water and tie the neigbors to us by helping them solve their water troubles, it would create a leverage for us.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap:


Anonymous said...


Those committed to jihad against Israel have rarely, if ever, been motivated to halt their quest to destroy Israel based on the actions of Israelis, whether it is providing water, jobs, life-saving medical care, aid when disasters strike, releasing prisoners who Israel has every right to hold, giving up land, etc, etc.

Much of the violence and hostility toward Israel is religiously motivated, even if expressed (particularly in English) in the language of human rights and national liberation, considerations Arabs themselves don't offer to religious, ethnic and sectarian minorities living under their rule.

Muslims believe they are commanded by God to submit the entire world to Islam, starting most urgently with lands that were once under Muslim rule. Furthermore, their Holy books teach them that the Jews are enemies of Islam and the Jewish role in this world is one of humiliation and degradation.

There is simply nothing that commands the Muslim believer to abandon the jihad if the infidel treats him with kindness.

That doesn't mean that Jews should abandon living by their values or helping their neighbors. But thinking that Jewish actions will win them love, mercy or peace from their Arab neighbors runs contrary to 1400 years of Islamic history and 100 years of Arab-Israeli relations in the Land of Israel.

rshams said...


I never knew about this aspect of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. What are Jordan's obligations to Israel in this regard, or is this another one of those one-sided deals?

Dimitry said...

Anonymous, I know all of this. I think you are somewhat missing my point, though. You have pragmatic leadership in Egypt, Jordan, probably in Iraq and some gulf states. While water won't make them zionists, it might tie them enough to Israel to need us. Look, the only reason Egypt is still at peace with us is because the US support to them is conditional on them holding to their side of the Camp David treaty. I don't kid myself that this will change much in the short term. Maybe in a couple of generations.

Anonymous said...


You are right about Egypt.

Egypt has a vested interest in not shooting at Israel in order to keep the money and weapons flowing into Cairo from the U.S. However, should the day come when Egypt thinks it can destroy Israel, or that other Arabs are about to destroy Israel, the Egyptians will move their forces into Israel, participate in the slaughter and expulsion of the Jews, and grab their share of the glory and the spoils.

Egypt reneged on all its commitments to foster good relations and end anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement as soon as it received the Sinai back.

Syria has no treaty with Israel, but the Israeli border with Syria remains quiet. Why? Because Syria believes it has more to lose by starting a war with Israel, both in terms of the damage that would be done to its rebuilt forces and the disgrace that the government would bring on itself that could weaken it internally. But as with Egypt, the long-term goals, motivations and pathology remains intact, with military action postponed out of necessity.