|Hydropolitics along the Jordan River. Scarce Water and Its Impact on the Arab-Israeli Conflict (UNU, 1995, 272 pages)|
|2. Hydrography and history|
|History - Water conflict and cooperation|
The emergence of agriculture and nationalism
Pre-1923: The shaping of modern nations
1923-1948: Nationalism, immigration, and "economic absorptive capacity"
1948-1964: Unilateral development and the Johnston negotiations
1964-1982: "Water Wars" and territorial adjustments
Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
1982-Present: Hydrologic limits and peacemaking
Hydroconspiracy theories: The "hydraulic imperative," and "hydronationalism"
Conclusions: Historic summary and lessons for the future
From the origins of civilization in the Middle East, the limits and fluctuations of water resources have played a role in shaping political forces and national boundaries. Water availability helped to determine both where and how people lived, and influenced the way in which they related to each other. Issues of water conflict and cooperation have become especially intense with the growth of nationalist feelings and populations of the twentieth century. These issues are also relevant to current conflict - particularly between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza - but they may offer new opportunities for dialogue as well.
As I describe the relationship between the water resources and political events in the region, it should be kept firmly in mind that nothing described here happened in a political vacuum. Of all the myriad of geopolitical and strategic forces surrounding each of these developments, only those relating water resources to conflict or cooperation have been extracted for examination in this work.
Living as they do in a transition zone between Mediterranean subtropical and arid climates, the people in and around the Jordan River watershed have always been aware of the limits imposed by scarce water resources. Settlements sprang up in fertile valleys or near large, permanent wells, and trade routes were established from oasis to oasis. In ancient times, cycles of weather patterns occasionally had profound effects on the course of history. Recent research suggests that climatic changes 10,000 years ago, which caused the average weather patterns around the Dead Sea to become warmer and drier, may have been an important factor in the birth of agriculture (Hole and McCorriston, as reported in the New York Times, 2 April 1991). The Natufians of the Jordan Valley, it has been suggested, found that by planting wild cereals they could overcome the increasing summertime food shortages of a drying climate.
It is also becoming increasingly accepted that a similar climatic drying around 4,000 years ago was responsible for the movement of groups of pastoralists from the marginal lands of the Syrian and Jordanian steppes as well as the Negev and Sinai deserts, because the marginal land no longer provided enough feed for their herds, into the more fertile coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Together, as these groups shifted from sheep herding to agriculture, they coalesced into a political/religious entity later to become known as the Israelites.2
Even in biblical times, variations in water supply had their impact on the region's history. It was drought, for example, that drove Jacob and his family to Egypt, an event that led to years of slavery and, finally, to the consolidation of the Israelite tribes 400 years later (Genesis 41). Even then, the waters of the Jordan were occasionally associated with military strategy as, for instance, when Joshua directed his priests to stem the river's flow with the power of the Ark of the Covenant while he and his army marched across the dry riverbed to attack Jericho (Joshua 4).
National changes are not restricted to a drying climate. In an exhaustive study of the relationship between the ancient peoples of the Middle East and their water, Arye Issar (1990) suggests that favourable climatic conditions, with rainfall in the Negev 50 per cent greater than today's, may have contributed to the success of several national entities in the region from about 200 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. This was a period in which the Roman Empire included much of the Middle East, the monastic Dead Sea sect (possibly the Essenes) thrived around the area of Qumran and, further south, the Nabateans extended their hold over the spice trade routes from Arabia to the ports along the Mediterranean coast. Before the twentieth century, the previously greatest population between the Jordan and the Mediterranean probably was reached during that period as well about one million people during Byzantine rule (fifth century C.E.) (Broshi 1979) (see appendix I, map 6)
The Nabateans, with cities across the Negev Desert and a stunning capital at Petra, were particularly adept at intensively managing each drop from the rare rain events of their arid territory (Issar 1990,178181). Their methods, referred to as "water harvesting," included diverting storm water to their fields and terracing and cultivating ephemeral stream beds. By collecting rocks from the surrounding hillsides into piles, they were also able simultaneously to induce dew out of the night air with the cooler rocks and to increase run-off by "smoothing out" the hill slopes. These techniques are currently studied for applicability to today's marginal lands. Nevertheless, Issar argues, these practices would not have been enough for stable agricultural returns without the more humid climate that he postulates.
Issar concludes his study with the intriguing speculation that, once the climate again began to become drier in the fifth to seventh centuries C.E., the inhabitants of the ever-increasingly desiccated Arabian Peninsula may have found incentive to search for a more hospitable environment, resulting in the Moslem expansion across the Middle East, North Africa, and into Spain:
Was this burning religious zeal of the Moslems made fiercer by the droughts which struck the northern and central parts of their peninsula? Did this drying up also weaken the countries of the Fertile Crescent guarding what was left of the Roman Empire ... ? (Issar 1990, 188)
In the subsequent centuries, the inhabitants of the region and the conquering nations that came and went have lived mostly within the limits of their water resources, using combinations of surface water and well water for survival and livelihood (Beaumont 1991, 1). But just as changing amounts of water availability in the Middle East may have contributed to the formation of both the Jewish and Arab nations millennia ago, conflicting interpretations of how to overcome those limits have also been a factor in competition and conflict as their respective nationalisms began to re-emerge on the same soil in the twentieth century. Lessons from the details of these conflicts are used later in this work to inform strategies for conflict resolution.
Even before modern Jewish nationalism, known now as Zionism, began to be formulated at the end of the nineteenth century, the longings for a "return to Zion" were occasionally given practical outlets, sometimes aided by Christians who saw an ingathering of the Jewish exiles as a necessary precondition to the Biblical "end days," the preordained series of events that would lead to the "second coming". Much Jewish settlement activity centred around modernizing local agricultural practices in Palestine. The British Society for the Promotion of Jewish Agricultural Labour in the Holy Land, for example, was headed in the 1850s by the British Consul to Jerusalem and his wife, and was marginally successful in establishing land reclamation on a small scale, including an irrigation project and "Abraham's Vineyard." The Consul also submitted a detailed scheme to the British Foreign Secretary "to persuade Jews in a large body to settle here as agriculturalists on the soil .. . in partnership with the Arab peasantry" (Tuchman 1956, 219). "As the word 'persuade' indicates," Barbara Tuchman points out, "the time was still not ripe."
However, by the latter half of the nineteenth century, Jewish immigration to Palestine was beginning in earnest. Land was purchased for farms, colonies, and settlements centring around the towns of Safed and Jaffa, and in the Judaean Hills and Galilee. Financing for these endeavours came initially from such wealthy diaspora families as the
Montefiores and Rothschilds. Eventually, however, sufficient people were involved, both in funding and in immigration, for organizations such as Chovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) and, later, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund, to be established to streamline fundraising and to give political structure to the movement (Sacher 1916, 138-142).
In the twentieth century, as the developing nationalisms of both Arabs and Jews become more clearly defined, and with subsequent population pressures accelerated by immigration, water has continued to be a critical strategic resource.
When, after the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, the idea of creating a Jewish State in Palestine (which by then had been under Ottoman rule for 400 years) began to crystallize in the plans of European Jewry, Theodore Herzl, considered to be the father of modern Zionism, travelled to the region to assess the practical possibilities. In Jerusalem, Herzl met the German Kaiser, whose influence with the Ottoman Sultan he sought to enlist. Barbara Tuchman describes the meeting in 1896 outside the Mikveh Israel colony:
The Kaiser rode up, guarded by Turkish outriders, reined in his horse, shook hands with Herzl to the awe of the crowd, remarked on the heat, pronounced Palestine a land with a future, "but it needs water, plenty of water," shook hands again, and rode off. (Tuchman 1956, 291)
Frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Turks for Jewish settlement, Herzl turned to the British, whose control of Egypt extended into the northern Sinai Peninsula. In 1902, Herzl suggested to Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary, that Jewish colonization and massive irrigation of the territory around El-Arish, in the northern Sinai Peninsula, would create a "buffer state" between Egypt and Turkey, helping to protect British interests in the Suez Canal (Ra'anan 1955, 36-37). Although Chamberlain was supportive, Lord Cromer, head of the Anglo-Egyptian Administration in Cairo, was sceptical of the chances for success of Jewish colonization and wary of intimidating the Turks, with whom the legal boundaries in the area were unclear. Cromer finally vetoed the project in 1903, claiming that Nile water, which would be necessary for irrigation, could not be spared.
Even without commitments for independent nations, both Jewish and Arab populations began to swell in turn-of-the-century Palestine, the former in waves of immigration from Yemen as well as from Europe, and the latter attracted to new regional' prosperity from other parts of the Arab world (Sachar 1969; McCarthy 1990). According to Justin McCarthy (1990), Palestine contained 340,000 people in 1878 and 722,000 by 1915 (see appendix I, maps 7 and 8).
During World War I, as it became clear that the Ottoman Empire was crumbling, the heirs apparent began to jockey for positions of favour with the inhabitants of the region. The French had inroads with the Maronite Catholics of Lebanon and therefore focused on the northern territories of Lebanon and Syria. The British, meanwhile, began to seek coalition with the Arabs from Palestine and Arabia - whose military assistance against the Turks they desired - and with the Jews of Palestine, both for military assistance and for the political support of diaspora Jewry (Ra'anan 1955).
As the course of the war became clear, French and British, Arabs and Jews, all began to refine their territorial interests; the location of the region's scarce water resources was a critical factor in the decision-making process of each party.
A detailed description of the lengthy process that ultimately led to the final determination of boundaries for the French and British mandates, which, in turn, informed the borders of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, is beyond the scope of this work, but can be found in the works of Ra'anan (1955), Sachar (1969; 1979; 1987b), Hof (1985), and Fromkin (1989). However, since the roots of subsequent water conflicts lie in the delineation of modern borders, it is important to examine in some detail the process and results, as well as the motives of each of the actors involved. The following outline of events leading up to the Anglo-French Convention in 1923 emphasizes only certain decisions, and is based on the works mentioned above. The interested reader is referred to that literature for more detail (see maps 9 -12).
1913. French and Lebanese discussed the creation of a "Greater Lebanon" under French control, which would include the Beka'a Valley and the vilayet of Beirut, and which included northern Palestine (Ra'anan 1955, 72).
22 March 1915. T.E. Lawrence wrote to London from Cairo suggesting that he "pull them [the Arab tribes] all together and roll up Syria by way of the Hejaz in the name of the Sharif [Hussein] ... and biff the French out of all hope of Syria" (Ra'anan 1955, 64).
May 1915. The "Damascus Protocol" was drafted in Syria by secret Arab nationalist organizations insisting on independence for the Hejaz, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, in exchange for assisting the British. In July, Emir Hussein of the Hejaz communicated these demands to the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon. In October, McMahon finally agreed, but insisted that certain areas had to be excluded because of British or French interests, namely "the country west of Aleppo, Hams, Hama and Damascus," leaving unclear what the status of Palestine was to be (Ra'anan 1955, 65).
9 March 1916. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed between the British and the French, dividing the Middle East into regions that would be designated as French (including Lebanon and the northern Galilee), Frenchinfluence (Syria), British (Egypt, Iraq, and the port of Haifa/Acre), Britishinfluence (northern Saudi Arabia and Jordan), and international (the remainder of Palestine) (Ra'anan 1955, 68).
The spheres of influence of the Sykes-Picot Agreement would have left the watersheds in the region divided in a particularly convoluted manner: the Litani and the Jordan headwaters to just south of the Huleh region would be French; the Sea of Galilee would be divided between international and French zones; the Yarmuk Valley would be split between British and French; and the lower stem of the Jordan would be international on the west bank and British on the east.
Because of these divisions, and because there is no mention of water per se in the literature on these negotiations, I suggest that other factors, such as the locations of rail and oil lines, holy places, and political debts and alliances, took precedence and that water resources was not an issue to this point in the border demarcation process (see Ra'anan 1955 and Fromkin 1989 for thorough discussions of these other factors). After the Sykes-Picot Agreement, however, and as the outcome of the war began to become clear, each entity with national claims in the region increasingly included water resources in its geographic reasoning, particularly after the end of World War I in 1918.
7 February 1917. Disturbed by rumours of the still-secret Franco-British agreement, Zionist leaders met Sir Mark Sykes to express opposition to condominium or internationalization of Palestine in favour of a British Protectorate; they also insisted on full rights of Jewish immigration and that Jews in Palestine be recognized as a nation (Memorandum of Meeting, in Sachar 1987b, vol. 8).
2 November 1917. The Balfour Declaration was approved by the British Cabinet:
His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Reproduced in Sachar 1987b, vol. 8)
Conflicting interpretations of what was meant by "national home," or even by "Palestine" (at the time including both sides of the Jordan River), and the apparent contradiction between "facilitating this object" and "not prejudicing the ... rights of existing non-Jewish communities," would lead to contention for years to come.
September-December, 1918. Because of British conquests in Palestine, the British no longer felt overly obligated to the French and new political interests began to be incorporated in the delineation of borders. Although they did not accede totally to Zionist requests, the British did deviate from the Sykes-Picot line and adopted the biblical "Dan to Beersheba" for Palestine, as based on a map of "Palestine under David and Solomon" (Hof 1985,11), in negotiations with the French over the temporary boundaries of "Occupied Enemy Territorial Administrations (OETA)," but held open the possibility that
Whatever the administrative sub-divisions, we must recover for Palestine, be it Hebrew or Arab, the boundaries up to the Litani on the coast, and across to Banias, the old Dan, or Huleh in the interior. (Lord Curzon, cited in Ingrams 1972, 49)
French Premier Georges Clemenceau agreed that Palestine, defined at the time in the temporary borders of OETA, should be exclusively British (Hof 1985, 7) (see appendix I, map 10).
1919. With the war over, and as preparations for the Paris peace talks began at Versailles in early 1919, border requirements were again refined by each side, as follows.
The Zionists began to formulate their desired boundaries for the "national home," to be determined by three criteria - historic, strategic, and economic considerations (Zionist publications cited in Ra'anan 1955, 86).
Historic concerns coincided roughly with British allusions to the biblical "Dan to Beersheba." These were considered to be minimum requirements, which had to be supplemented with territory that would allow military and economic security. Military security required desert areas to the south and east as well as the Beka'a Valley, a gateway in the north between the Lebanon Mountains and Mount Hermon.
Economic security was defined by water resources. The entire Zionist programme of immigration and settlement required water for large-scale irrigation and, in a land with no fossil fuels, for hydropower. The plans were "completely dependent" on the acquisition of "the headwaters of the Jordan, the Litani River, the snows of Hermon, the Yarmuk and its tributaries, and the Jabbok" (Ra'anan 1955, 87).
In a flurry of communication between world Zionist leaders, the aspects of historic, strategic, and economic security became increasingly linked with the Jordan headwaters. These leaders of diverse backgrounds (including Chaim Weizmann, a British chemist whose wartime contribution of the gunpowder-refining process to the Allies granted him a certain status among British decision makers; Aaron Aaronsohn, a Palestine-born agriculturalist who had undertaken intelligence operations on Turkish troop movements for the British; and Louis Brandeis, a US Supreme Court Justice) each became demographer, cartographer, hydrologist, and strategist, in preparation for the Peace Conference.
The guiding force in refining the thinking on the necessary boundaries was Aaron Aaronsohn. He was in charge of an agricultural experimental station at Atlit on the Mediterranean coast, where his research focused on weather-resistant crops and dry-farming techniques. Convinced that the modern agricultural practices that would fuel Jewish immigration were incompatible with "the slothful, brutish Ottoman regime" (Sachar 1979,103), he concluded that Zionist settlement objectives required alliance with the incoming Allied Forces. Aaronsohn initiated contact with the British to establish a Jewish spy network in Palestine, which would report on Turkish positions and troop movements. Perhaps because of his training both in agriculture and in security matters, he became the first to delineate boundary requirements specifically with regard to future water needs. Aaronsohn's "The Boundaries of Palestine" (27 January 1919, unpublished, Zionist Archives), drafted in less than a day, argued that
In Palestine, like in any other country of arid and semi-arid character, animal and plant life and, therefore, the whole economic life directly depends on the available water supply. It is, therefore, of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to insure the possession of whatever can conserve and increase these water - and eventually power - resources. The main water resources of Palestine come from the North, from the two mighty mountain-masses - the Lebanon range, and the Hermon ...
The boundary of Palestine in the North and in the North East is thus dictated by the extension of the Hermon range and its water basins. The only scientific and economic correct lines of delineation are the water-sheds.
Aaronsohn then described the proposed boundaries in detail, as delineated by the local watersheds. He acknowledged that, with the exception of the Litani, the Lebanon range sends no important water source towards Palestine and "cannot, therefore, be claimed to be a 'Spring of Life' to the country." It is the Hermon, he argued, that is "the real 'Father of Waters' and cannot be severed from it without striking at the very root of its economic life."
Returning to the Litani, however, Aaronsohn suggested that
[it] is of vital importance to northern Palestine both as a supply of water and of power. Unfortunately its springs lie in the Lebanon. Some kind of international agreement is essential in order that the Litani may be fully utilised for the development of North Palestine and the Lebanon.
Aaronsohn's rationale and boundary proposals were adopted by the official Zionist delegation to the Peace Conference, led by Chaim Weizmann. The "Boundaries" section of the "Statement of the Zionist Organization Regarding Palestine," which paraphrased Aaronson's proposals, read, in part (see appendix II for the complete text):
The economic life of Palestine, like that of every other semi-arid country depends on the available water supply. It is therefore, of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to be able to conserve and control them at their sources.
The Hermon is Palestine's real "Father of Waters" and cannot be severed from it without striking at the very root of its economic life ... Some international arrangement must be made whereby the riparian rights of the people dwelling south of the Litani River may be fully protected. Properly cared for these head waters can be made to serve in the development of the Lebanon as well as of Palestine. (Proposals dated 3 February 1919, Weizmann Letters 1968, appendix II)
Interestingly, Aaronsohn thought his ideas had been badly mangled in the Proposals, perhaps because he was not included in the final drafting. In an angry letter to Weizmann, he complained that the draft was "a disgrace and a calamity" (emphasis Aaronsohn's), and expressed shock that, for one of the delegates, "a 'watershed' is the same as a 'thalweg.' Incredible, but true" (unpublished fetter, 16 February 1919, Weizmann Archives).
In June 1919 Aaronsohn died in a plane crash (at the time deemed by the Zionists "mysterious") on his way to the Peace Conference and the Zionist proposals were submitted without revision. Nevertheless, the importance of the region's water resources remained embedded in the thinking of the Zionist establishment. "So far as the northern boundary is concerned," wrote Chaim Weizmann later that year, "the guiding consideration with us has been economic, and 'economic' in this connection means 'water supply"' (18 September 1919, Weizmann Letters, 1968).
The Arab delegation to the Peace Conference was led by the Emir Feisal, younger son of Emir Hussein of the Hejaz. Working with T.E. Lawrence, Hussein and his sons had led Arab irregulars against the Turks in Arabia and eastern Palestine. After the war, Feisal had developed a relationship with Chaim Weizmann as both prepared for the Peace Conference. After a meeting in 1918, Feisal said in an interview
The two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understand one another, and I hope that as a result of interchange of ideas at the Peace Conference, which will be guided by ideals of self-determination and nationality, each nation will make definite progress towards the realization of its aspirations. (Cited in Esco Foundation 1947,139)
Feisal also initially expressed support for Jewish immigration to Palestine, in part because he saw it as useful for his own nationalist aspirations. At a banquet given in his honour by Lord Rothschild in 1918, he pointed out that "no state could be built up in the Near East without borrowing from the ideas, knowledge and experience of Europe, and the Jews were the intermediaries who could best translate European experience to suit Arab life" (Esco Foundation 1947, 140).
In a meeting later that year, Feisal tried to enlist Weizmann's support against French policies in Syria. Weizmann in turn outlined Zionist aspirations and "asserted his respect for Arab communal rights" (Sachar 1969, 385). The two also agreed that all water and farm boundary questions should be settled directly between the two parties.
Feisal and Weizmann formalized their understanding to support each other's national ambitions on 3 January 1919, in a document which expressed mutual friendship and recognition of the Balfour Declaration, and stated that
All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights, and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development. (Original reproduced in Weizmann Letters, 1968)
These undertakings were (Feisal hand-wrote in the margin) provided that Arab requests were granted. "If changes are made," he wrote, "I cannot be answerable for failure to carry out this agreement."
The Arab requests were spelled out in a memorandum dated 1 January 1919. Because the territory in question was so large (including Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula), geographically diverse and, for the most part well watered, it is not surprising that water resources played little part in the Arab deliberations. On the basis of a combination of level of development and ethnic considerations, Feisal requested the following (Esco Foundation, 1947):
Two areas were specifically excluded: these were Lebanon, "because the majority of the inhabitants were Christian," and which had its own delegates, and Palestine which, because of its "universal character was left to one side for mutual consideration of all parties interested" (Esco Foundation 1947,138).
Once testimony had been heard at Versailles, as the peace talks continued, culminating at San Remo in 1920, the decisions were left to the British and the French as to where the boundaries between their mandates would be drawn.
The French supported the Lebanese claim that the "historic and natural" boundaries of Greater Lebanon should include the sources of the Jordan River (Sachar 1979, 117), including the Galilee region. They claimed that the Litani was needed for development in Lebanon, whereas the snows of the Hermon provided water for Damascus.
In 1919, the British first suggested the "Meinertzhagen Line" as a boundary. This line, which was based chiefly on British security requirements, was similar in the north to that in the Zionist proposals, and was rejected by the French for similar reasons. In September the British put forward the compromise "Deauville Proposal," which granted Palestine less territory than the Zionists sought but which still included the southern bank of the Litani and the Banias headwaters. At the time, Banias was thought (incorrectly) to be the biblical Dan, thereby allowing the British to remain true to their claim of Palestine "from Dan to Beersheba" (Hof 1985, 9) (see appendix I, map 11, for the area of dispute between French and British claims). Finally, to meet French objections as far as possible, the British proposed a border running north from Acre to the Litani bend, then east to Mount Hermon, which would increase Lebanese territory but leave the headwaters in Palestine (Ra'anan 1955, 123).
Although the French rejected each of these proposals, Phillipe Berthelot, the Foreign Minister and negotiator to an Anglo-French conference on the Middle East in December 1919, suggested that, although Prime Minister Clemenceau insisted on the Sykes-Picot line, he was prepared
... to agree that one-third of the waterpower of the waters flowing from Mount Hermon southwards into the Palestine of the Sykes-Picot agreement should be allotted to the Zionists under an economic arrangement with France. The French could do no more than this. (Cited in Ra'anan 1955, 125)
At a meeting on 17 February 1920, the British, represented by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, suggested that "all Jews were unanimously agreed that the sources of Hermon and the head-waters of Jordan were vital to the existence .. . of Palestine" (Ra'anan 1955, 128). Without these headwaters, Lloyd George argued, the Mandate for Palestine would be a "heavy burden" for Britain. If France could not concede the point, he argued, United States President Wilson might be asked to arbitrate.
Berthelot responded that "the snows of Hermon dominated the town of Damascus and could not be excluded from Syria, nor could the waters of the Litani, which irrigated the most fertile regions of Syria." But he did suggest that the claims to the Jordan might be more admissible and that, while France could not concede a frontier following the watersheds of the Syrian and Palestinian rivers, "some arrangement might be made for the joint use of the waters in question" (Ra'anan 1955, 129).
As to United States mediation, the French refused, claiming that "President Wilson was entirely guided by Judge Brandeis, who held very decided views." Brandeis had, in fact, sent a telegram to the conference, endorsed by President Wilson, which read in part, that "rational northern and eastern boundaries are indispensable to a self-sustaining community and economic development of the country. North Palestine must include the Litani River watersheds, and the Hermon on the east ... Less than this would produce mutilation of the promised home" (unpublished telegram, 16 February 1920, Zionist Archives).
Lloyd George and Berthelot finally fell back on "from Dan to Beersheba," as described in an atlas written by Adam Smith, a Scottish theological professor, where ancient Samaria only brushes against the Litani, and has a boundary on the west coast more southern even than the Sykes-Picot line (Hof 1985, 11).
In June 1920, France agreed to a compromise: Palestine's northern boundary should be a line drawn from Ras en-Naqura to a point on the Jordan just north of Metulla and Banias-Dan, and then to the northern shore of Lake Hula, running from there along the Jordan, down the middle of the Sea of Galilee to the Yarmuk, where it would meet the Sykes-Picot line. Although these borders included all existing Jewish settlements within Palestine, most of the water resources would remain in Syria (Ra'anan 1955, 133).
At the San Remo Conference in April 1920, agreement was reached where Great Britain was granted the mandates to Palestine and Mesopotamia, and France received the mandate for Syria (including Lebanon). During the remainder of the year, last-minute appeals were made both by the British and by the Zionists for the inclusion of the Litani in Palestine or, at the least, for the right to divert a portion of the river into the Jordan basin for hydropower. The French refused, offering a bleak picture of the future without an agreement and suggested (referring to British and Zionist ambiguity as to what was meant by a "national home"), "Vous barbotterez si vous le voulez, mais vous ne barbotterez pas à nos frais" (Butler and Bury 1958, vol. VIII, p. 387).
On 4 December 1920, a final agreement was reached in principle on the boundary issue, which addressed, mainly, French and British rights to railways and oil pipelines, and incorporated the French proposal for the northern boundaries of six months earlier. The French delegation did promise that the Jewish settlements would have free use of the waters of the Upper Jordan and the Yarmuk, although they would remain in French hands (Ra'anan 1955, 136). The Litani was excluded from this arrangement. Article 8 of the Franco-British Convention, therefore, included a call for a joint committee to examine the irrigation and hydroelectric potential of the Upper Jordan and Yarmuk "after the needs of the territories under French Mandate," and added that
In connection with this examination the French government will give its representatives the most liberal instructions for the employment of the surplus of these waters for the benefit of Palestine. (Cited in Hof 1985, 14)
The final boundaries between the French and British mandates, which later became the borders between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, were worked out by an Anglo-French commission set up to trace the frontier on the spot. Their results were submitted in February 1922 and signed by the British and French governments in March 1923 (Ra'anan 1955; Hof 1985). The frontier would run from Ras en-Naqura inland in an easterly direction along the watershed between the rivers flowing into the Jordan and into the Litani; the line was then to turn sharply north to include in Palestine a "finger" of territory near Metulla and the eastern sources of the Jordan.
Rather than include the Banias spring within Palestine, as in the French proposal of six months earlier, the border ran parallel to, and 100 m south of, the existing path from Metullah to the Banias (see appendix I, map 12). The French insisted on inclusion of this road in its entirety to facilitate east-west transportation and communication within its mandate. This northern border meant that the entire Litani and the Jordan headwaters of the Ayoun and Hasbani would originate in Lebanon before flowing into Palestine. The Banias spring, meanwhile, would originate and flow for 100 m in Syrian territory, then into Palestine. As Palestine had a promise of water use, and also access to the Banias Heights, a small hill that over looked the spring, the fact that the actual spring lay outside the boundaries was not of immediate concern. Of the headwaters of the Jordan, however, only the Dan spring remained entirely within Palestine.
From Banias, the border turned south towards the Sea of Galilee, along the foothills of the Golan Heights, parallel and just east (sometimes within 50 m) of the Huleh Lake and the Jordan River. Rather than passing through the middle of the Sea of Galilee, the border ran just east of its shores (even if the level were to rise because of a proposed dam), leaving the entire lake, the town of El-Hama, and a small triangle just south of the Jordan's outflow, within the territory of Palestine. These latter two were already included in Zionist plans for water diversion and hydroelectricity generation. These changes were beneficial to Palestine's hydrostrategic positioning and, although they were made mainly for administrative reasons, "to make customs inspection easier," it was also expressed that the development plans should proceed without international complication (Ra'anan 1955,138,143). Nevertheless, according to the agreement, fishing and navigation rights on the lake were retained by the inhabitants of Syria.
At the Yarmuk, the border went eastward along the river, meeting the Sykes-Picot line, into the Syrian desert and south of the Jebel Druze.
The final agreement made no mention of joint access to French-controlled waters.
Although the location of water resources had been an important, sometimes overriding, issue with some of the actors involved in determining the boundaries of these territories, it is clear in the outcome that other issues took precedence over the need for unified water basin development. These other factors ranged from the geostrategic (the location of roads and oil pipelines), to political alliances and relationships between British, French, Jews, and Arabs, to how well versed one or another negotiator was in biblical geography. The final boundaries are the result of competing needs and abilities of each of the people and entities involved in the negotiations. Because of limited land and resources, no one political entity could achieve all of its economic, historic, and strategic requirements. hood. Because the boundaries had been drawn in a way unfavourable to Palestine, they ensured a bitter conflict, by making it impossible to arrive at a compromise solution on the lines of a clear territorial separation between the two nations. (Ra'anan 1955, 141)
The results sowed friction for generations. For Palestine, by failing to approximate any natural geographic frontiers, the borders left the country perennially exposed to armed invasion. This heritage of economic and military vulnerability was to curse the Palestine mandate, and later the entire Middle East, for decades to come. (Sachar 1979, 117)
Once the formidable process of border delineation between the British and French Mandates was complete, it was left to these powers to decide how best to balance their own national goals with those of the local populations. Between the World Wars, both powers relinquished increasing control in favour of the new nations of the region, but the process of allowing the region to turn inward was not without its difficulties. Conflicting national claims, ambiguities over historic promises, and, more to our point, discrepant claims as to how many people the land of Palestine could absorb, based on its land and water resources, each added to the strife of the process of nation-building (see tables 2.4 and 2.5).
The delineation of Mandate boundaries was only the first step in the 20year process of withdrawal of British and French from the Middle East. Although each wanted to be influential in its respective mandated territory, it was clear that local national aspirations demanded local leadership. This was brought home to both the British and French when, in March 1920, the General Syrian Congress proclaimed a full and undivided independence of Syria, including Palestine; named the Emir Feisal as their constitutional king; and announced "the termination of the present occupying military governments" (Sachar 1969, 274).
Although the French pushed Feisal out of Syria later that year (he was named King of Iraq in 1921 by the British), both Syria and Mesopotamia were granted provisional independence, subject to mandatory control, at the San Remo Conference in 1920 (Sachar 1969, 279). By 1921, Feisal's brother Abdullah was installed by the British as Emir of Transjordan, which was separated from the rest of Palestine at the Jordan River. Transjordan declared its independence on 15 May 1923, but remained linked to Britain until that country's mandate ended in 1946. Similarly, Lebanon became a republic independent from Syria in 1926, but gained full independence only in 1946, along with Syria, when British forces ousted the French after World War II.
Table 2.4 Population of Palestine, 1922-1942a,b
Source: Esco Foundation (1947).
a. Exclusive of members of His Majesty's Forces (Great Britain).
b. Adapted from table, "Estimated Population of Palestine," Statistical Abstract of Palestine 1943, p. 2.
c. The figures for 1931 and following years are as of 31 December of each year.
Table 2.5 Recorded immigration and emigration, Palestine, 1930-1939
|Year or period||Immigration||Emigration||Net immigration|
Source: Esco Foundation (1947).
a. "x" indicates that emigration was not reported.
Meanwhile, in Palestine, which after Transjordan's separation in 1922 referred only to the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, tensions began mounting between the local Arab and Jewish populations, increasingly resulting in violence. The process had been foretold in prescient detail, if with an overly optimistic timetable, in 1919 in a letter from Richard Meinertzhagen, newly appointed Political Officer in Palestine, to Prime Minister Lloyd George:
In fifty years time both Jew and Arab will be obsessed with nationalism ... Nationalism prefers self-government, however dishonest and inefficient, to government by foreigners however efficient and beneficial ... Jewish and Arab sovereignty must clash. The Jew, if his immigration programme succeeds, must expand and that can only be accomplished at the expense of the Arab who will do his utmost to check the growth and power of a Jewish Palestine. That means bloodshed. (25 March 1919, Sachar 1987, vol. IX, 293)
The British, caught in their effort to balance their conflicting promises to Arabs and Jews, as stipulated in the Balfour Declaration, increasingly blamed Zionist settlement policies, particularly immigration and land purchases, for the troubles.
In April 1920, even as the peace talks were in progress, riots broke out during the Nebi Musa festival in Jerusalem, during which several Jews and Arabs were killed and several hundred wounded (Sachar 1969, 392). In subsequent hearings on the actions of the British police, officers of the military government insisted that Zionist provocation alone had inflamed the Arab rioters. The Zionists, in turn, accused the British of complicity with Arab nationalists, despite warnings from intelligence sources of the potential outcome. Richard Meinertzhagen, by then a colonel and Chief Intelligence Officer in Cairo, took the witness stand to endorse fully the Zionist claims, "to the astonishment and indignation of the British authorities" (Sachar 1969, 393). One result of the investigation was that, four days after the Mandate was awarded to Britain at San Remo, the military gov ernment Palestine was dismantled in favour of a civil administration.
Nevertheless, tensions between Arabs and Jews increased. On May Day 1921, a group of Jewish Communists marched through Arab Jaffa. Local Arabs, incensed and incited by nationalists, rioted and looted Jewish stores. One principal target was the Zionist immigration depot, where 13 newcomers were stabbed to death (Sachar 1969, 398). During the week, as rioting spread throughout the country, a total of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs were killed.
This time, though a commission of inquiry found that the Arabs were unquestionably the aggressors, "the feeling against the Jews was too genuine, too widespread and too intense to be accounted for in a superficial manner" (cited in Sachar 1969, 399). As a result, the Civil Administration for the first time imposed a ban on Jewish immigration. Although the ban was lifted by July 1921, rigid controls were imposed, including the necessity for a guarantee of employment for each immigrant (Sachar 1969, 396).
In part because of this strife, Sir Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner in Palestine, wrote in June 1922 a White Paper (a formal policy statement), which was meant as a definition of the British interpretation of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. Although supporting the principle of a Jewish national home, what became known as the Churchill White Paper (named for Winston Churchill, at the time Colonial Secretary) restricted the interpretation of a "national home," geographically excluding the territory east of the Jordan River; politically, by defining it in terms of "development of the existing community"; and numerically, limiting future immigration to "the economic capacity of the country" (Sachar 1979, 127).
Two ideological seeds were planted in the Churchill White Paper that would have far-reaching implications. First, in calling for "undisturbed national development," for both Arabs and Jews, the Paper advanced the principle that two nations could develop separately in Palestine. Over the years, this idea would recur and be refined as a two-state solution, or "partition." Second, the White Paper would be the first, but hardly the last, document linking ArabJewish tensions with "economic absorptive capacity." This theme, too, would reappear in later British policy, as is examined below.
Disappointed in the Paper but wary of losing British support altogether, the Zionist Executive signed the document. In contrast, objecting to any concept of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and arguing that "the numbers of the Jewish community [then about 80,000 people] ... had already exceeded the capacity of the country to absorb new arrivals" (cited in Esco Foundation 1947, 479), the Palestine Arab Delegation rejected the document in its entirety. The Arab view, as presented to the League of Nations in 1928, was that a constitutional government, proportional to the local population before immigration began (about nine to one, Arabs to Jews), should be implemented (Esco Foundation 1947, 479).
By the end of the 1920s - a period of worldwide depression and, in Palestine, several years of below-normal precipitation - peak unemployment led to a concerted effort of national development on the part of the Zionists. Projects included road-building, irrigation, and land amelioration. Two major concessions were acquired from the British government - one for potash works at the Dead Sea (Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV, 151), and the other for a hydropower facility at the confluence of the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers (Rutenberg Concession, appendix I in Simon and Stein 1923). Though Rutenberg's dam was destroyed in the 1948 war, Israel has occasionally argued for greater allocation of Yarmuk water on the basis of Rutenberg's 70year concession, granted in 1926 (Naff and Matson 1984, 30).
Most contentious, however, was the Zionist policy of large-scale land purchases, notably along the Mediterranean coast, and in the Jezreel and Beisan valleys (Ruppin 1936, 182-190; "The Beisan Lands in Palestine: Government Statement of Policy," October 1929, unpublished).
In August 1929, tensions over Jewish access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem degraded into a week of Arab rioting throughout Palestine. In Hebron 66 Jews were killed and, five days later, another 45 Jews were killed in Safed. By the end of the week, 133 Jews had been killed, mostly by Arab rioters, as had 116 Arabs, mostly by British police (Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV, xii).
The British commission of inquiry distinguished, in its Shaw Commission Report of March 1930, between immediate causes of the outbreak, including the Western Wall dispute and inadequate deployment of police and military forces, and the fundamental cause - Arab opposition to Jewish immigration and land settlement (Esco Foundation 1947, 624-629).
Granting that Jewish development "has conferred material benefits upon Palestine in which the Arab people share," the commission charged that,
In the matter of immigration there has been a serious departure by the Jewish authorities from the doctrine . . . that immigration should be regulated by the economic capacity of Palestine to absorb new arrivals. (Esco Foundation 1947, 625)
The commission called for a clearly defined policy regarding Jewish immigration "with consultation of non-Jewish interests" (Esco Foundation 1947, 637). Land purchases were curtailed and immigration restricted, pending a survey of Palestine's agricultural potential.
Such a survey was contained in the Hope Simpson Report of 22 August 1930, which concluded that, after allowing for Jewish land holdings and potential Arab agricultural growth, remaining cultivatable lands in Palestine were "insufficient to maintain a decent standard of life for the country's Arab rural population" (Esco Foundation 1947, 637). The Report called for reduction or suspension of immigration if it adversely affected the Arab population, but suggested that, with an active policy of agricultural development, an additional 20,000 Jewish families could be settled.
The restrictive elements of the Report were emphasized in a formal statement of policy, known as the Passfield White Paper, submitted on 20 October 1930. The White Paper affirmed Hope Simpson's conclusions that no margin of land was available for immigrants and recommended that state-owned land be made available for landless Arabs.
Several points of dispute were raised by the Report. One was a most basic disagreement over data collection. An air survey suggested that there was about 40 per cent less cultivatable land available than the government's own land survey had previously described (Esco Foundation 1947, 637). Ruppin (1936, 206) suggested that, as the photographs were taken in June or July, when most grains were already harvested, mistakes in interpretation were likely. Ambiguities were also raised over the whole process of land acquisitions. Because land was often bought from absentee landowners, the legal rights of those who actually worked the land were occasionally tenuous. Equally vague was the status of some state lands, which either had been Turkish state land before the war, or was land for which no records existed. Because of these facts, and because the Zionists tried to compensate these squatters, although not legally required to do so, it was possible that there was some truth to both the Arab claim that 100,000 cultivators had been dispossessed and the Zionist claim that Zionist settlement had not dispossessed the fellahin from their lands (Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV, xxvii, xxx).
However, the most divisive issue raised in the White Paper, and one that is still not resolved today, was the question of how many people the land (and water) resources of the country could absorb. A flurry of pointed Zionist criticism followed publication of the Paper, which raised several objections to the British method of defining economic absorptive capacity (for example, Weizmann to Lloyd George, unpublished letter, 27 March 1930, Ruppin 1936, and Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV).
The Zionists pointed out that, when the issue of absorptive capacity was first raised in the Churchill White Paper in 1922, Transjordan was still a part of Palestine. By "lopping off" a vast and underpopulated area, and an area where Jews were being offered large tracts of land, the absorptive capacity had been reduced to the detriment of Jewish settlement (Weizmann to Lloyd George, in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV, 253). Furthermore, it was argued, industrial development was dismissed by the Report as impractical (Esco Foundation 1947, 641), as was agriculture in the area around Be'er Sheva in the desert south, which lacked an adequate supply of water.
Criticism of the lack of consideration of the potential for movement of water resources and intensive cultivation came not only from the Zionists, who had already initiated several irrigation schemes throughout Palestine, but also from within the British government itself. A 1931 report by Lewis French, Director of Development for the government of Palestine, states,
It is noteworthy that until comparatively recent times the vast importance of the water problem has not been fully appreciated by the Administration. (French 1931, 21)
The potential for increasing intensification of both land and water use was at the heart of Zionist criticism. The Hope Simpson Report had defined cultivatable land as land "which is actually cultivated or can be brought under cultivation by the application of the labour and financial resources of the average Palestinian cultivator" (cited in Ruppin 1936, 208). Arthur Ruppin (1936, 207-208), at the time Director of the Jewish National Fund, suggested that, to be fair, an expansion of the definition of uncultivated land was possible:
The above guidelines became a framework for the methods the Zionists would employ to increase the land's absorptive capacity over the following decades, as the projects suggested were slowly implemented. On the basis of these guidelines, Chaim Weizmann argued to the British that, unless obstructed, "we shall be able to put at least 50,000 additional families on the land, without the least injustice to its present occupants" (Weizmann to Lloyd George, 27 March 1930, Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XIV, 253)6 (see appendix I, map 13).
The British government responded to Zionist complaints about the Passfield White Paper in the form of a letter from Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald to Chaim Weizmann, dated 13 February 1931. Although not equal to the Paper in the level of legality, the MacDonald Letter was issued as an official interpretation of the White Paper. The letter reiterated the Mandate's obligation to "facilitate Jewish immigration and to encourage close settlement by Jews on the land," and suggested that State lands be made available to both Jews and Arabs (cited in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XV, xv). The letter reaffirmed the government's right to control immigration, as well as the link between immigration and economic absorptive capacity.
The Zionists regarded the letter as a restoration of the status quo ante, while the Arabs, who had greeted the limitations of the Passfield White Paper with satisfaction, called the MacDonald Letter "a black frame for the White Paper" (cited in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XV, xvi).
In 1993, Adolph Hitler and his Nationalist Socialists came to power in Germany, and immigration, still tightly controlled by the British, took on new urgency for the Jews in Palestine. That year alone, 25 per cent of the permitted 40,000 immigrants were from Germany, with an additional 15,000 arriving by the middle of 1935 (Report of the Central [Zionist] Bureau reprinted in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. BI, 44). Seeking to expand available land for the newcomers, Chaim Weizmann entered into negotiations for land in Syria (around Lake Huleh and on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee) and was told by the French Director of the Bank of Syria that the whole southern belt of Lebanon, from the Palestine border to Beirut, was for sale and badly in need of development. The French High Commissioner, Henri de Jeuvenel, vetoed the sale (Weizmann to Warburg, 5 November 1933, Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XVI, 118).
The Arabs of Palestine, alarmed at the fervour of Jewish immigration, charged that the government policies were "paving the road for driving the nation away from its homeland for foreigners to supersede it" (Esco Foundation 1947, 768). Finally, in 1936, the tensions ignited in an intensified re-enactment of the violence and policy reviews of 1922 and 1929. On 25 April 1936, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Hussein), established an Arab Higher Committee, which proclaimed a general strike throughout the country, demanded the cessation of Jewish immigration and of land sales to Jews, and called for a "National Representative Government." The strike quickly turned to violence and finally to armed rebellion against both the British and the Jews, as irregulars began to arrive from neighbouring countries in the name of "Committees for the Defence of Palestine" (Sachar 1979, 200). By July 1936, with more than 300 dead, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Nuri es-Said, managed to negotiate an end to the uprising. The British, for their part, promised a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
During what became known as the Peel Commission investigations of 1936 and 1937, Arabs and Jews reiterated their now-familar claims. Haj Amin alHussein) testified that the 400,000 Jews in Palestine were more than the country could absorb (Sachar 1979, 203). He suggested the abandonment of the "experiment" of the Jewish national home, and a cessation of Jewish immigration and land sales to the Jews (Esco Foundation 1947, 815). Chaim Weizmann, testifying for the Zionists, and backed by a recent survey of Palestine's water resources (see Bein 1971, 277-278 for details), argued that there was room for 100,000 Jewish farming families even without the Negev, and suggested an emphasis on agricultural and industrial develop ment as a means of reconciling Jewish and Arab interests (Esco Foundation 1947, 813).
When the findings of the Peel Commission were issued in July 1937, it became apparent that dramatic shifts in British policy were in the offing. The shift in thinking had been hinted at during testimony, when some of those testifying had been asked, hypothetically, of the feasibility of "two areas developing the possibility of self-government" (cited in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XVI, xxiv). The thinking of the Commission was described by Peel (1937, 767, 772) as follows:
We came generally to the conclusion as regards immigration, that economic absorptive capacity, though useful as a test, is really not sufficient, and that such matters as psychological and social effect and the impact of the new population on the old must also be considered ...
It seemed to us impossible to carry on in the country under the existing Mandate and with its limitations, and we felt that the only way to arrive at a final settlement of the matter was to divide the country into Jewish and Arab areas which would make it possible at once to give them a degree of selfgovernment ... We should be able to give to the Jews all the dignity of a State, instead of merely a Jewish National Home ... There would be no limit on Jewish immigration except what the Jews themselves think ought to be applied ... The Arab grievances, the Arab hostilities, the Arab fear of the Jews would be at once turned into other channels.
The only feasible solution to conflicting promises and needs, the Commission concluded, lay in abandoning the concept of economic absorptive capacity in favour of dividing Palestine into two self-governing communities. Perhaps neither side would be fully satisfied, but both would come to realize that "the drawbacks of Partition are outweighed by its advantages. For if it offers neither party all it wants, it offers each what it wants most, namely freedom and security" (cited in Sachar 1979, 204).
Palestine and Transjordan would be divided into three: a Jewish state along the coast and in the Galilee, an Arab state comprising the rest of Palestine and Transjordan, and a permanent British enclave around Jerusalem with a corridor to the sea and British bases along the Sea of Galilee and in the Gulf of Aqaba (Sachar 1979, 305) (see appendix I, map 14).
Although the form and feasibility of partition would undergo many variations and set-backs between 1936 and 1948, the process towards statehood gained inevitably.
After the Peel Commission Report, the Arab revolt, begun in 1936, gained momentum, as did Jewish settlement. The Jewish Agency, feeling that partition was imminent, set out on an intensive settlement programme, building 55 farm communities between 1936 and 1939 (Sachar 1979, 216). The emphasis for site location was in the northern Galilee, to reinforce the projected boundaries and to guarantee the inclusion of what Jordan headwaters were left from the Mandate process.
In response to Arab resistance, a report on partition, the Wood-head Report of 1938, suggested modifications to the borders of the two projected states. The report recommended two partition plans as alternatives to the Peel plan (see appendix I, maps 15-17). The modifications were due mostly to the mixed ethnic make-up that would have resulted from the Peel recommendations. The Wood-head Report also included a section on limitations that scarce water resources placed on the possibility of population resettlement - the first British policy paper specifically naming water as a factor limiting policy objectives in Palestine (Woodhead 1939).
A blow to Zionist plans came later in May 1939, in the form of the MacDonald White Paper. This report, a total reversal of British policy, called for a single state in Palestine, west of the Jordan River, governed by Arabs and Jews in proportion to their population (but specifying that Jews should not exceed one-third of the population), immigration based on the economic absorptive capacity but limited to 75,000 for a five-year interim period, and a prohibition of land transfers to Jews in parts of the country (Esco Foundation 1947, 901-908) (see appendix I, map 18).
Palestine's Jews reacted with shock and anger, particularly in light of exacerbating conditions for European Jewry. An oath was read in synagogues and public meetings:
The Jewish population proclaims before the world that this treacherous policy will not be tolerated. The Jewish population will fight it to the uttermost, and will spare no sacrifice to frustrate and defeat it ... The Yishuv [Jewish administrative body] will neither recognize nor admit any callous restriction of Jewish immigration into its land. (Cited in Esco Foundation 1947, 909)
Arabs also rejected the Paper, which was surprising as it seems to be an agreement to each of the demands made during prior testimony. The statement of the Arab Higher Committee read, in part:
The ultimate decision as to the fate of a people depends on its own will, not on White or Black Papers. Palestine will be independent within the Arab union and will remain Arab forever. (Cited in Esco Foundation 1947, 908)
With a return in the MacDonald White Paper to the legitimacy of the concept of economic absorptive capacity, focus on the water resources of Palestine gained in importance. The Ionides Plan, published in Amman in 1939 by the British Director of Development for the Transjordanian government, supported the Arab claim that the region's water resources were inadequate for Jewish immigration. Ionides recommended that the waters of the Jordan River be used for irrigation within the watershed, that floodwaters from the Yarmuk be stored in the Sea of Galilee, and that a canal be dug along the East Ghor parallel to the Jordan River to use Yarmuk water for irrigation (Hosh and Isaac 1992, 3).
On 3 September 1939, three and a half months after the MacDonald White Paper was issued, with the sworn enmity of both Palestine's Arabs and Jews, Britain declared war on the Axis powers.
Throughout World War II, the Zionists, while supporting Britain against Germany, set out on a campaign of resistance and illegal immigration within Palestine. Even in the face of increasingly desperate Jewish refugees, the British immigration quotas held, enforced by a naval blockade along the Palestine coast. Appeals for exceptions, including one to absorb an additional 10,000 Jewish children from central Europe, were denied (Sachar 1979, 219). By the end of World War II, and the terminal date of the White Paper interim period, 50,000 legal and illegal immigrants had been admitted to Palestine 25,000 less than had been agreed to.
With the end of World War II, as the magnitude of destruction of European Jewry became apparent, and as the British showed no sign of relaxing immigration quotas, the Zionists began a campaign of open resistance against the British. As tensions increased, the British made an offer in 1946 to repudiate the MacDonald White Paper and allow 100,000 immigrants into Palestine immediately, and to remove restrictions on land purchases - in exchange for the Jewish population turning in their arms. This demand was deemed impossible by the Zionists, who argued that, in the event of British evacuation, the Zionists would be left defenceless (Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XXII, xxi).
Facing increasing opposition to their presence on the part of both Arabs and Jews, the British began to look to other powers, first to the United States and finally to the newly created United Nations, for assistance with the problem of Palestine. Partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states increasingly became the most advocated op tion, first in an Anglo-American plan in 1946, and later, when Britain ceded the Mandate to the United Nations, in the UN Partition Plan of 1947 (see appendix I, map 19).
The Zionist position on whether partition should occur and, if so, what the minimum territorial requirement would be for a viable Jewish State, was increasingly influenced by Walter Clay Lowdermilk. Lowdermilk, director of the US Soil Conservation Service, published in 1944 Palestine, Land of Promise at the commission of the Jewish Agency. In contrast to the Ionides Plan of 1939, Lowdermilk asserted that proper water management would generate resources for four million Jewish refugees in addition to the 1.8 million Arabs and Jews living in Palestine at the time. He advocated regional water management, based on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), to develop irrigation on both banks of the Jordan River and in the Negev Desert, and building a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea to generate hydropower and replenish the diverted fresh water (Naff and Matson 1984, 32).
Referring to Lowdermilk's work, a 1945 aide-mémoire on Palestine described Zionist reservations on partition:
With the sea in the West, the Jordan and the Power and Potash concessions in the East, the chief water resources in the North, and the main land-reserves in the South, any partition scheme seems bound to disrupt the country's economic frame, and wreck the chances of large-scale development. (6 April 1945, cited in Weizmann Letters 1968, vol. XXII, 299)
At the same time, a 1944 study, "The Water Resources of Palestine," undertaken by Mekorot, the national water company for Jewish Palestine, described an "All-Palestine Project," for irrigation and hydroelectric development. The study included frontier adjustments that would be desirable for a basin-wide development scheme in Palestine. It was suggested that the Mandate border be moved upstream where it met the Hasbani, Dan, and Banias headwaters to allow for more effective drainage; eastward along Lake Hula to leave room for a conduit on the east side of the lake; and upstream along the Yarmuk to include an area of about 80 km2 of Transjordan to develop a series of impoundments along the river (Mekorot 1944). It should be noted that, although the report included plans to bring Litani water into the Jordan watershed, it was assumed that agreement would have to be reached with the Lebanese government to do so. Lebanese territory was not included in the list of desirable frontier adjustments.
In the case of partition, it became clear to the Zionists that, at a minimum, three areas were needed for a viable Jewish state: these were the Galilee region with the Jordan headwaters, the coastal zone with the population centres, and the Negev Desert, to absorb "the ingathering of the exiles."
On 2 February 1947, Great Britain officially turned the fate of Palestine over to the United Nations. The UN Special Committee on Palestine recommended partition of Palestine into two states, but included a vehicle for joint economic development, "especially in respect of irrigation, land reclamation, and soil conservation."
The Jewish state included the areas described above, and the Arab state included the remainder of Palestine, based on population centres. Jerusalem was to be an international city, and the Jewish state would pay a £4 million annual stipend to the Arab state to reflect the more advanced agricultural and industrial position of the former (UN Resolution on the Partition of Palestine 1947, chap. 4). The General Assembly approved the Partition Plan on 29 November 1947.
Though the Jewish Agency reluctantly accepted partition, the Arab states rejected it outright and, when the British pulled out of Palestine in May 1948, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia went to war against the new state of Israel.
Once the borders of the new states of the Middle East had been defined in the war of 1948, each country began to develop its own water resources unilaterally. The legacy of the Mandates, and of the war itself, was a Jordan River divided in a manner in which conflict over water resource development was inevitable. The shooting that did break out in the 1950s led, however, to two years of some of the most intense negotiations ever between Arabs and Israelis - the Johnston negotiations.
During the 1948 war, keeping the three zones described above as necessary for a viable Jewish state - the Galilee region with the Jordan headwaters, the coastal zone with the population centres, and the Negev Desert to absorb anticipated immigration - became the focus for the Israeli war effort.
Other than these general emphases, water resources played only a minor role in the strategic thinking of the combatants.
Since 1934, the bulk of Jerusalem's water had been piped from Rosh Ha'ayin, 60 km to the west and 800 m lower in elevation. On 7 May 1948, as part of a general siege of Jewish Jerusalem, the Arab forces had cut this pipeline. The Jewish population of Jerusalem, who had dug, cleaned, and filled cisterns in preparation for the war, were rationed to 10 litres per capita per day - 1 litre for drinking and 9 litres for cooking and sanitary needs. Two separate Israeli operations focused on retaking Rosh Ha'ayin on 11 July. By laying a circuitous pipeline route, using pipes abandoned from a previous project, around to the secret Burma Road, which the Israelis were building to circumvent the siege, water reached Jerusalem by the end of July (U. Dvir in Broshi 1977, 224-235).
The Israelis lost three other strategic points along waterways, though, and the repercussions would be felt through 1967 (see appendix I, maps 20 and 21). During the Mandate negotiations, the French had denied the Zionists the Banias spring because an access road that they needed crossed the waterway about 100 m downstream. However, to guarantee access to the water, a hill overlooking the stream had been included in Palestine. This hill was lost to the Syrians during fighting in 1948, as was El-Hama, a crucial access point to the Yarmuk River (Sachar 1979). Finally, although the Israeli army had occupied a strip of Lebanese territory along the elbow of the Litani, they pulled back to the Mandate borders as part of an armistice agreement, in the unfulfilled hope of gaining a peace treaty with Lebanon (Hof 1985, 31).
As a result of the 1948 war, the Jordan River was even more divided than it had been under the Mandates. The Hasbani rose in Lebanon with the Wazzani, a major spring of the Hasbani, situated only a few kilometres north of the Israeli border. The Banias flowed for five kilometres in Syrian territory before crossing into Israel. The Dan rose and remained within Israeli territory. The confluence of the three, the Jordan River, flowed along the Israeli-Syrian border, often through the demilitarized zone, until it reached the Sea of Galilee. The Sea lay wholly in Israel, with the Syrian border 10 m from the eastern coast. The Yarmuk rose in Syria, then became the Syrian-Jordanian border until its confluence with the Jordan. South of the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River formed first the Israeli-Syrian border, then the Israeli-Jordanian border below the confluence with the Yarmuk, finally flowing wholly into Jordanian territory and the Dead Sea, which was about one-quarter Israeli and three-quarters Jordanian.
The immediate demographic repercussions of the 1948 war were dramatic shifts of population throughout the region. The concept of economic absorptive capacity quietly disappeared as Israel and Jordan each absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants. Israel absorbed much of the remnants of European Jewry, many of whom had been kept in Cypriot refugee camps by the British since World War II, as well as the 700,000 Jews from Arab countries who emigrated after Israel's declaration of independence. The Israeli Jewish population increased from 650,000 in 1948 to 1.6 million in 1952 (Naff and Matson 1984, 34).
Jordan was also greatly affected by refugee immigration. Of the 700,000-900,000 Palestinian refugees of the war, 450,000 went to Jordan and the West Bank, which Jordan annexed in 1950. This influx and annexation increased Jordan's population by 80 per cent to 1.85 million (Naff and Matson 1984, 34).
Even as the dust was settling, Syria approached Israel with a secret offer which, for the first time, linked three topics that would define the negotiating issues for the coming decades - peace, refugee resettlement, and water. Colonel Hosni Zaim took control of Syria in a USsponsored military coup in April 1949, with a promise that he would do "something constructive" about the Arab-Israeli problem. That month, he sent a secret message to Israeli Prime Minister David BenGurion, offering to sign a separate peace agreement, establish a joint militia, and settle 300,000 Palestinian refugees in Syrian territory, in exchange for some "minor border changes" along the ceasefire line and half of the Sea of Galilee (Shalev 1989). Ben-Gurion was reluctant to make such an agreement and signed a limited armistice instead. Less than a year later, Zaim was overthrown.
In 1951, several states announced unilateral plans for the Jordan watershed. Arab states began to discuss organized exploitation of two northern sources of the Jordan - the Hasbani and the Banias (Stevens 1965, 38). The Israelis made public their All-Israel Plan, based on James Hays's idea of a "TVA on the Jordan," which in turn was based on the Lowdermilk proposals. The All-Israel Plan included the draining of Huleh Lake and swamps, diversion of the northern Jordan River, and construction of a carrier to the coastal plain and Negev Desert - the first out-of-basin transfer for the watershed (Naff and Matson 1984, 35).
Jordan announced a plan to irrigate the East Ghor of the Jordan Valley by tapping the Yarmuk (Stevens 1965, 39). At Jordan's announcement, Israel closed the gates of an existing dam south of the Sea of Galilee and began draining the Huleh swamps, which lay within the demilitarized zone with Syria. These actions led to a series of border skirmishes between Israel and Syria, which escalated over the summer of 1951 and prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett to declare clearly that "Our soldiers in the north are defending the Jordan water sources so that water may be brought to the farmers of the Negev" (Stevens 1965, 39).
In March 1953, Jordan and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) signed an agreement to begin implementing the Bunger Plan, which called for a dam at Maqarin on the Yarmuk River with a storage capacity of 480 MCM, and a diversion dam at Addassiyah that would direct gravity flow along the East Ghor of the Jordan Valley. The water would open land for irrigation, provide power for Syria and Jordan, and offer resettlement for 100,000 Palestinian refugees. In June 1953, Jordan and Syria agreed to share the Yarmuk but Israel protested that its riparian rights commonly recognized as being due to entities that border a waterway - were not being recognized (Naff and Matson 1984, 38).
In July 1953, Israel began construction on the intake of its National Water Carrier at Gesher B'not Ya'akov, north of the Sea of Galilee and in the demilitarized zone. Syria deployed its armed forces along the border (Davis et al. 1980, 3, 8), and artillery units opened fire on the construction and engineering sites (Cooley 1984, 3, 10). Syria also protested to the United Nations and, though a 1954 resolution for the resumption of work by Israel carried a majority, the USSR vetoed the resolution. The Israelis then moved the intake to its current site at Eshed Kinrot on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Garbell 1965, 30).
This was a doubly costly move for Israel. First, as mentioned earlier, water salinity is much higher in the lake than in the upper Jordan. The initial water pumped in 1964 was actually unsuitable for some agriculture. Since that time, Israel has diverted saline springs away from the lake and filtered carrier water through artificial recharge to ease this problem (Stevens 1965, 9). Second, the water from B'not Ya'akov would have flowed to the Negev by gravity alone. Instead, 450 MCM/yr is currently pumped a height of 250 m before it starts its 240 km journey southward (State of Israel 1988, 136).
Against this tense background, President Dwight Eisenhower sent his special envoy Eric Johnston to the Middle East in October 1953 to try to mediate a comprehensive settlement of the Jordan River system allocations (Main 1953). Johnston's initial proposals were based on a study carried out by Charles Main and the TVA at the request of UNRWA to develop the area's water resources and to provide for refugee resettlement. The TVA addressed the problem with the regional approach that Lowdermilk had advocated a decade earlier. As Gordon Clapp, chairman of the TVA, wrote in his letter of presentation, "the report describes the elements of an efficient arrangement of water supply within the watershed of the Jordan River System. It does not consider political factors or attempt to set this system into the national boundaries now prevailing" (Main 1953). This apolitical, basin-wide approach produced not only the thorough technical report that was to be the basis of two years of negotiations, but also stunning oversize maps that delineate only one border - that of the Jordan River watershed (see appendix I, maps 22 and 23).
The Main Plan had, of course, other motives on the part of the United States, and advantages other than the technical details:
The plan, designed to tempt the Arabs into at least limited cooperation with the Israelis, was a third-rate idea with at least a second-rate chance of success because it had a first-rate negotiator, Eric Johnston, to advocate it. Its only advantage was that it made sense. (Copeland 1969, 109)
The major features of the Main Plan included small dams on the Hasbani, Dan, and Banias; a medium-size (175 MCM storage) dam at Maqarin; additional storage in the Sea of Galilee; and gravity-flow canals down both sides of the Jordan Valley. The Main Plan excluded the Litani and described only in-basin use of the Jordan River water, although it concedes that "it is recognized that each of these countries may have different ideas about the specific areas within their boundaries to which these waters might be directed" (Main 1953). Preliminary allocations gave Israel 394 MCM/yr, Jordan 774 MCM/yr, and Syria 45 MCM/yr (see table 2.6).
Israel responded to the Main proposal with the Cotton Plan, which incorporated many of Lowdermilk's ideas. This plan called for inclusion of the Litani, out-of-basin transfers to the coastal plain and the Negev, and the use of the Sea of Galilee as the main storage facility, thereby diluting its salinity. It allocated Israel 1,290 MCM/yr (including 400 MCM/yr from the Litani), Jordan 575 MCM/yr, Syria 30 MCM/yr, and Lebanon 450 MCM/yr.
Table 2.6 Johnston negoliations, 1953-1955 water allocations to ripanans of Jordan River system
|Unified (Johnston) Plan|
|Jordan (main stream)||22||100||375b||497b|
|Total Unified Plan||35||132||720||400b||1287b|
Source: Naff and Matson (1984).
a. The Cotton Plan included the Litani as part of the Jordan River system. Different plans allocated different amounts in accordance with differing estimates of the resources of the system. One major variable in the reporting of the planned allocations is the amount of groundwater included in the estimates.
b. According to the compromise "Gardiner Formula," the share to Israel from the main stream of the Jordan was defined as the "residue" after the other co-riparians had received their shares. This would vary from year to year, but was expected to average 375 MCM.
In 1954, representatives from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt established the Arab League Technical Committee under Egyptian leadership and formulated the "Arab Plan." It reaffirmed in-basin use, rejected storage in the Sea of Galilee, which lies wholly in Israel, and excluded the Litani. The Arab representatives also objected to the refugee resettlement as a goal. The Arab Plan's principal difference from the Main Plan was in the water allocated to each state: Israel was to receive 182 MCM/yr, Jordan 698 MCM/yr, Syria 132 MCM/yr, and Lebanon 35 MCM/yr, in addition to keeping all of the Litani.
Johnston worked until the end of 1955 to reconcile these proposals in a Unified Plan amenable to all of the states involved. His dealings were bolstered by a US offer to fund two-thirds of the development costs, and given a boost when a land survey of Jordan suggested that that country needed less water for its future needs than was previously thought.
Johnston addressed the objections of both sides, and accomplished no small degree of compromise, although his neglect of groundwater issues would later prove an important oversight. Though they had not met face to face for these negotiations, all states agreed on the need for a regional approach. Israel no longer insisted on integration of the Litani and the Arabs agreed to allow out-of-basin transfer. The Arabs objected, but finally agreed, to storage at both the Maqarin Dam and the Sea of Galilee, as long as neither side would have physical control over the share available to the other. Israel objected, but finally agreed, to international supervision of withdrawals and construction. Allocations under the Unified Plan, later known as the Johnston Plan, included 400 MCM/yr to Israel, 720 MCM/yr to Jordan, 132 MCM/yr to Syria, and 35 MCM/yr to Lebanon (unpublished summaries, US Department of State 1955,1956).
The technical committees from both sides accepted the Unified Plan, and the Israeli Cabinet approved it without vote in July 1955. President Nasser of Egypt became an active advocate because Johnston's proposals seemed to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian problem simultaneously. Among other proposals, Johnston envisioned the diversion of Nile water to the western Sinai Desert to resettle two million Palestinian refugees. President Sadat would make this offer again 22 years later on his historic trip to Jerusalem in 1977.
Despite the forward momentum, in October 1955 the Arab League Council decided not to accept the plan, and the momentum died out. In a 1955 letter lobbying against acceptance of the plan, the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine explained part of the underlying reluctance to enter into agreement:
The scheme is another step made by imperialists and Zionists to attain their ends, territorial expansion in the heart of the Arab homeland, under the attractive guise of "economic interests." (Cited in Medzini 1976, 487)
Although the agreement was never ratified, both sides have generally adhered to the technical details and allocations, even while proceeding with unilateral development. Agreement was encouraged by the United States, which promised funding for future water development projects only as long as the Johnston allocations were adhered to (Wishart 1990). Since that time to the present, Israeli and Jordanian water officials have met two or three times a year at so-called "Picnic Table talks" at the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers to discuss flow rates and allocations.
However, as individual projects progressed, and hydrologic limits began to be approached, the pressures quickly went from possible cooperation to impending conflict.
As each state developed unilaterally, their plans began to overlap (see appendix I, maps 4 and 24). The resulting tensions helped lead to a cycle of conflict, which, exacerbated by other disputes, in turn led to war in 1967. Water also emerged as one possible strategic issue in the war in Lebanon in 1982.
A 1963 agreement between Jordanian King Hussein and Ya'akov Herzog, envoy to Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, had spelled out an agreement on the allocation of the Jordan River water in return for Israeli acquiescence to US tank sales to Jordan (Kershner 1990, 11). By 1964, Israel had completed enough of its National Water Carrier for actual diversions from the Jordan River basin to the coastal plain and the Negev to be imminent. Although Jordan was also about to begin extracting Yarmuk water for its East Ghor Canal, it was the Israeli diversion that prompted President Nasser to call for the First Arab Summit in January 1964, including heads of state from the region and North Africa, specifically to discuss a joint strategy on water.
The options presented to the Summit were to complain to the United Nations, to divert the upper Jordan tributaries into Arab states (as had been discussed by Syria and Jordan since 1953), or to go to war (Schmida 1983, 19). A military assessment revealed that the Arabs were unprepared for this last option and might be incapable of defending their own river diversions, should they proceed (Stevens 1965, 76). However, the decision to divert the rivers prevailed at a Second Summit in September 1964, and the states agreed to finance a Headwater Diversion project in Lebanon and Syria and to help Jordan build a dam on the Yarmuk. They also made tentative military plans to defend the diversion project (Shemesh 1988, 38).
A two-stage plan, the first full formula for a campaign against Israel, was laid out:
The first stage would involve the diversion of the sources of the Jordan River and the establishment of an effective Arab defense force through the strengthening of the Arab armies. The building up of this (United Arab Command) force would take two and a half to three years, until late 1967 to early 1968. During this period, there would be no full-scale war with Israel.
The second stage would see, "... the liberation of Palestine from imperialism and Zionism." The commander-in-chief of the United Arab Command was ordered to prepare a detailed military plan for Israel's destruction which was approved at the Third (September 1965) Arab Summit. (Shemesh 1988, 39)
The Arab Diversion had its roots in a 1953 agreement between Syria and Jordan for the allocation of water diverted from the Hasbani and/or the Banias into a proposed dam on the Yarmuk. Syria would get three-quarters of the hydropower produced at a dam at Adassiye, and Jordan would get the water, "instead of it going to the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, or the Jews" (interview, Haddad, November 1991).
An additional strategy was decided upon at the First Summit. The delegates agreed to establish a Palestinian entity to "carry the banner of Arab Palestine" (Stevens 1965, 76), and to mobilize the Palestinians themselves for the eventual "liberation of Palestine" (Shemesh 1988, 37). Yasir Arafat later combined this Palestine Liberation Army with his own Fatah and other groups to form the Palestine Liberation Organization (Cooley 1984, 15). Given its roots, it is not surprising that the nascent PLO's first action was an unsuccessful attempt to sabotage the Israeli National Water Carrier on 31 December 1964. As one associate of Arafat's put it, "The water issue was the crucial one. We considered our impact on this to be the crucial test of our war with Israel" (Dr Nabil al-Shath, cited in Cooley 1984, 15).
In 1964, Israel began withdrawing 320 MCM/yr of Jordan water for its National Water Carrier, and Jordan completed a major phase of its East Ghor Canal (Inbar and Maos 1984, 21). In 1965, the Arab states began construction of their Headwater Diversion Plan to prevent the Jordan headwaters from reaching Israel. The plan was to divert the Hasbani into the Litani in Lebanon and the Banias into the Yarmuk, where it would be impounded for Jordan and Syria by a dam at Mukheiba. The diversion was possible, in part, because of the two strips of land, at the Banias Heights and at el-Hama next to the Yarmuk, which Israel had lost in the fighting in 1948. The plan, to be financed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, was technically difficult and economically inefficient, with water to be pumped as high as 350 m. The diversion would divert up to 125 MCM/yr, cut by 35 per cent the installed capacity of the Israeli Carrier, and increase the salinity in Lake Kinneret by 60 ppm (United States Central Intelligence Agency 1962; Inbar and Maos 1984, 22; Naff and Matson 1984, 43).
Although a 1964 US State Department memorandum concluded that the Arab Diversion seemed "unlikely to cause large-scale hostilities" (US Department of State memorandum 1964), Israel declared the impending diversion as an "infringement of its sovereign rights" (Naff and Matson 1984, 44). To a visiting US delegation, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol declared that "Israel was not trigger-happy, but if it came to it, we would have to fight for our waters" (US Department of State memorandum 1965).
The United States had supported the Israeli Water Carrier within the Johnston allocations and had both opposed the All-Arab Diversion and expressed doubt that it would be completed - Lebanon had stopped work on the diversion project in July 1965 (Hof 1985, 36). It was made clear to Israel, however, that the United States "would oppose you if you take preemptive action" (US Department of State memorandum 1965). Nevertheless, in March, May, and August of 1965, the Israeli army attacked the diversion works in Syria. Partly because of the US warning, however, Israel tried to avoid a full-scale war, using long-range "sniping" with tanks rather than calling for artillery or the air force. This represented a new doctrine for the Israeli Tank Corps, which would lead to important lessons for the impending war (Argaman 1990) (see appendix I, map 25).
These events set off what has been called "a prolonged chain reaction of border violence that linked directly to the events that led to the (June 1967) war" (Professor Nadav Safran, cited in Cooley 1984, 16). Border incidents continued between Israel and Syria, finally triggering air battles in July 1966, and April 1967.
Even as tensions were leading to the following week's outbreak of the SixDay War, the US Departments of Interior and State convened an "International Conference on Water for Peace" in Washington, D.C., during 23-31 May 1967. Building on advances in nuclear energy and the possibility of inexpensive nuclear desalination, President Johnson had, in 1965, announced a "massive, cooperative, international effort to find solutions for Man's water problems, which he dubbed the Water-for-Peace Program" (cited in Skolnikoff 1967, 157). In the 1967 Conference, there were 6,400 participants from 94 countries, including Israel, Egypt (then the "United Arab Republic"), Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia (United States Departments of Interior and State 1967).
In the same month, President Nasser, who had earlier formed the "United Arab Republic" with Syria, demanded the withdrawal of UN forces from the Sinai, announced a blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, cutting off the Israeli port of Eilat, and declared that "the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel." On 5 June, Israel attacked the airfields of Egypt, Jordan,
Iraq, and Syria. Six days later, the war was over and Israel gained possession of the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
Aside from territorial gains and obvious improvements in geostrategic positioning, Israel had also greatly improved its "hydro-strategic" position (see appendix I, map 4). With the Golan Heights, it now held all of the headwaters of the Jordan, with the exception of a section of the Hasbani, and a commanding position over much of the Yarmuk, together making the Headwater Diversion impossible. The Mukheiba Dam was destroyed and the Maqarin Dam abandoned. The West Bank not only provided riparian access to the entire length of the Jordan River but also overlay three major aquifers, two of which Israel had been tapping into from its side of the Green Line since 1955 (Garbell 1965, 30). Jordan had once planned to transport 70-150 MCM/yr from the Yarmuk River to the West Bank; these plans, too, were abandoned.
In the wake of the 1967 war, former President Eisenhower, who, 10 years earlier, had sent Eric Johnston to the Middle East to negotiate a regional water plan, made public a new cooperation scheme that he, former Atomic Energy Commissioner Lewis Strauss, and Alvin Weinberg, Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, had formulated and which they called simply "A Proposal for Our Time." Their plan called for three nuclear desalination plants - one each on the Mediterranean coast in Egypt and Israel, and one on the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan - producing a combined output of about 1,400 MCM of fresh water a year (roughly the usable flow of the entire Jordan River) as well as "an enormous amount" of electric power (Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Summary Report 1971; Strauss 1967).
Recently declassified documents show that an additional site was considered, at Gaza (Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Gaza Area 1970). At this site, a major consideration was the possibility of refugee resettlement, although sections of the report dealing with that aspect were excised from declassification (see appendix I, map 26).
As Eisenhower saw it, the availability of these new sources of energy and water would make possible entire "agro-industrial complexes," making an additional 4,500 km2 of barren land arable, and providing work and agriculture to help settle more than a million Arab refugees (Eisenhower 1968). The project, which would cost about US$1,000 million (in 1967 terms), would be funded by an international corporation set up for the purpose, and be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, Eisenhower predicted that
... the collaboration of Arab and Jew in a practical and profitable enterprise of this magnitude might well be the first, long step toward a permanent peace. (Eisenhower 1968, 77)
In the summer of 1967, Eisenhower communicated his project to President Lyndon Johnson. On 28 July, the State Department announced the appointment of an interim Director of Water for Peace (Strauss 1967, 1008). On 14 August 1967, Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee introduced Senate Resolution 155, which read, in part:
Whereas the security and national interest of the United States require that there be a stable and durable peace in the Middle East; and the greatest bar to a long term settlement of the differences between the Arab and Israeli people is the chronic shortage of fresh water, useful work, and an adequate food supply;
Be it resolved that . . . (providing) large quantities of fresh water to both Arab and Israeli territories and, thereby, will result in -
The resolution was approved unanimously by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and adopted without dissent by the Senate. The project was studied in detail over the course of the next five years by a technical group made up of Arabs, Israelis, and Americans centred at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Although joint US-Israeli studies on nuclear desalination dating back to 1964 had looked promising (US Department of State memorandum, 14 December 1977, unpublished), the "Proposal for Our Time" eventually faltered on economic grounds, along with the dangers of introducing nuclear technology to the region, but the effort was finally called off because of political resistance. Nevertheless, two years of cooperative research in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, along with lessons learned during the Johnston negotiations 12 years earlier, showed that, on the technical level at least, cooperation over regional water resources and planning was possible. The Agro-Industrial Complex, which was to be the last attempt at region-wide water cooperation, was finally shelved in the early 1970s. Even after diplomatic ties were established between Egypt and Israel in 1977, an invitation was sent in 1980 by Israeli nuclear scientists to their Egyptian counterparts to renew the research effort. The response was, in effect, "Not yet. Let's wait for closer ties."
As the 1960s came to a close, the PLO mounted an intensive guerrilla campaign against Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Israeli retaliation raids led to occasional conflict with Jordanian and Iraqi troops stationed in the eastern part of the valley. In April-May 1969, Israeli water authorities measured the Jordan River's base flow to be 686 mm below its average for that period. Suspicion that Jordan was over-diverting the Yarmuk may have combined with Israel's policy of holding the host country partly responsible for Palestinian attacks and led to two Israeli raids in June and August 1969, to destroy one of the most vulnerable targets in Jordan - the East Ghor Canal. The political rationale was that damage to the country's irrigation would pressure King Hussein into action against the PLO.
At the same time, the Jordanian Army, which saw too much latitude in PLO behaviour in Jordan, was putting pressure on the King in the same direction. Secret negotiations in 1969-1970 between Israel and Jordan, mediated by the United States, led to an agreement. Israel was persuaded that the drop in Jordan base flow was natural and Jordan would be allowed to repair the Canal. In exchange, Jordan agreed to adhere to the Johnston Plan allocations and "pledged to terminate PLO activity in Jordan" (Naff and Matson 1984, 55). In "Black September" 1970, the Jordanian Army expelled the PLO from Jordan. Estimates of the number of Palestinians killed in the process are as high as 5,000.
After the expulsion of the PLO, Jordan set out on a two-stage Jordan Valley Development Plan with Crown Prince Hassan, the King's 23-year-old Oxford-educated brother, taking charge (Cooley 1984, 19). The first stage, which included a small "King Talal Dam" on the Zarqa River, new irrigation networking, and catchments on several wadis, was built during the late 1970s, partially with US financing.
During the war between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt and Syria in 1973, water played only an incidental strategic role. Touring the Golan Heights with the then Water Commissioner Menahem Cantor in the fall of 1973, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan expressed concern that Israel's development of small-scale dams on the Golan Heights was proceeding so slowly. Dayan saw the strate gic potential of these dams as tank barricades against Syrian forces. Cantor cited budget limitations, and was given encouragement and budget to proceed more quickly. Dayan was scheduled to tour the sites again on Sunday 7 October, but the war broke out on the previous day. It is unclear how the dams performed in their strategic function (interview, Menahem Cantor, November 1991).
In the mid -1970s, water rationing in large Jordanian cities such as Amman and Irbid pointed to the need for a major water project. The 1975 "seven year plan" included "Stage II" - the revived concept of a large (486 MCM storage) dam on the Yarmuk at Maqarin. The dam would store winter run-off to provide irrigation water to the Jordan Valley, 20 MW of hydropower, and a more even downstream base flow year-round. The total cost of the project, as estimated in 1979, was US$1,000 million (S. Taubenblatt in Starr and Stoll 1988, 48).
The Carter administration became interested in the plan and in 1980 pledged a US$9 million USAID loan for development in addition to US$10 million that had previously been allocated. Also in 1980, Congress committed US$150 million over three years to the plan on one condition - that Israel, Jordan, and Syria resolve their riparian problems before funds would be appropriated. The dam would straddle the Syria-Jordan border and relations between those countries had been deteriorating throughout the 1970s. Downstream, Israel asked for an increase in its Yarmuk allotment from 23 MCM/yr to 40 MCM/yr, as well as an additional 140 MCM/yr for the West Bank (Davis et al. 1980, 11; Kahhaleh 1981, 46).
In 1977, Jordanian water officials approached their Israeli counterparts through US intermediaries and requested a high-level meeting to discuss rebuilding the low dam at Mukheiba. One meeting was held that year in a Zurich hotel with three ministerial-level representatives from each side present. Israeli representatives expressed approval of the dam, the northern side of which would abut on Israeli territory - a more even year-round flow would benefit both sides and agreed to further discussion on this and other regional water planning issues (unpublished minutes, 6 May 1977). In elections that year, however, the Israeli government shifted from Labour- to Likud-led for the first time, and the new ministers did not pursue the dialogue with the Jordanians. Direct ministerial negotiations were not held again on water issues except for a brief meeting in Jericho in 1985, although the "Picnic Table talks," on allocations of the Yarmuk River, continued at the technical level.
Water-related conflict between Jordan and Israel came close to breaking out two years later. In July of the drought year 1979, Jordan sought American mediation to gain Israeli permission to service the intake of the East Ghor Canal, which had been silting up. Days after having cleared the intake, Jordan charged the Israelis with replacing the rocks so that more water would flow downstream, and brought military forces up to the cease-fire line. The Israelis responded by mobilizing their own forces in the area. An armed conflict was averted only with urgent American mediation.
According to the Israeli officer responsible for that sector at the time, although initial preparations took on the scale of a full military operation, the discussions that followed the stand-off felt less formal. If, for example, an Israeli negotiator wanted to contact his Jordanian counterpart, he would simply shout across the river to the Jordanian forces and a meeting, usually taking place on the rocks in midstream, would be arranged (interview, October 1991).
Philip Habib was sent to the region in 1980 by the US State Department to help mediate an agreement. Although Habib was able to gain consensus on the concept of the dam, on separating the question of the Yarmuk from that of West Bank allocations, and on the difficult question of summer flow allocations - 25 MCM would flow to Israel during the summer months negotiations ran into difficulties regarding the winter flow allocations, and final ratification was never reached. The plan was indefinitely postponed late that year, but has very recently been revived by Jordan and Syria as the "Unity Dam."
One other conflict between Israel and Jordan was solved by technology and hydrology, rather than by the military. In 1983, a Jordanian well along the Yarmuk just across the border from Israel struck water with such force that a drilling rig 400 m high was toppled. Initial output of the well was close to 700 m3/h. Hoping that the aquifer was hydrologically connected on both sides of the Yarmuk, but fearing that, if it were, the Jordanians would deplete Israel's share, Israel launched its own drilling operation on its side of the river. Both sides would be disappointed: it turned out that the aquifers were not intricately connected, and the Israeli well produced only 200 m3/h, while the Jordanian well quickly lost most of its head and today produces only about one-third of its assumed capacity (press reports, February 1983; interview, Elias Salameh, November 1991).
Meanwhile, tensions were being somewhat reduced along other borders. In 1978, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David peace accords - the first between Israel and an Arab country. At a meeting in September 1979 with Israeli newspaper editors, President Anwar Sadat discussed plans for a pipeline to bring Nile water to the recently returned Sinai Peninsula. "Once we bring it to Sinai," he asked, "why should we not bring some of this water to the Negev?" (Spector and Gruen 1980, 10). The offer was reiterated and elaborated upon in discussions with Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1981. Israel would be provided with 365 MCM/yr in exchange for "solution of the Palestinian problem and the liberation of Jerusalem" (R. Krishna in Starr and Stoll 1988, 32).
The offer was immediately rejected by almost all parties concerned. Prime Minister Begin objected to the quid pro quo, stressing that Israel would not trade its sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem for economic gain. Nationalists on both sides were also opposed to the idea: Egyptians did not want to share this vital resource with Israel, and Israelis did not like the idea of being vulnerable to upstream control. Israeli Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon is quoted as saying "I would hate to be in a situation in which the Egyptians could close our taps whenever they wished" (Spector and Gruen 1980, 10).
Interestingly, the strongest opposition to the offer came from another region entirely. Ethiopia, 2,500 km up river, charged that Egypt was misusing its share of Nile water. In a sharp retort, President Sadat warned against Ethiopian action:
We do not need permission from Ethiopia or the Soviet Union to divert our Nile water ... If Ethiopia takes any action to block the Nile waters, there will be no alternative for us but to use force. Tampering with the rights of a nation to water is tampering with its life and a decision to go to war on this score is indisputable in the international community". (R. Krishna in Starr and Stoll 1988, 33-34)
President Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Although technical and economic details of a Nile River diversion have since been developed (see, for example, Kally 1989; Dinar and Wolf 1991), the plan was never implemented except for a small irrigation diversion into the western Sinai.
In 1982, Israel for the second time mounted an operation against the PLO in Lebanon. The first time, during "Operation Litani" four years earlier, Israel had stopped its advance at the Litani River and, before withdrawing, had turned over portions of southern Lebanon to the South Lebanon Army under the command of Major Sa'ad Haddad. Haddad was reportedly to protect Israeli interests in the region, par ticularly defending against attempted Palestinian incursions through the area to Israel. In addition, the militia is reported to have protected the Jordan headwaters of the Hasbani by closing some local wells and preventing the digging of others. As a result, some or all of the 35 MCM allocated to Lebanon in the Johnston Plan now flows to Israel (Naff and Matson 1984, 49).
Israelis involved in these issues contest these reports. Israeli hydrologic records, for example, show that the flow of the Hasbani into Israel exceeded the average flow only three times in the last 10 years, during particularly wet years (stream gaugings, Israel Hydrologic Survey 1981-1991). More to the point, an officer in Israel's Northern Command, who dealt with Haddad extensively, claims that the Lebanese major made perfectly clear to the Israelis that "We will cooperate with you, but there are two subjects which are taboo - our land and our water" (interview, October 1991). Nevertheless, the then Chief of Staff Ezer Weizman (Chaim Weizmann's nephew) was berated by a member of the Knesset after the operation for not seizing the Litani: "Your uncle knew at the time the historic significance of the Litani," M.K. Cohen shouted (cited in Hof 1985, 24).
In the 1982 operation, the Litani was again the initially stated objective, but, by July, Israeli forces had surrounded Beirut. This war, as in 1967, had clear military and political objectives, and water may, again, have played a minor role.
The Litani River has a natural flow of about 700 MCM/yr. A dam at Qir'awn in the Beka'a Valley and irrigation and hydropower diversions completed in the mid-1960s reduce the lower Litani flow to 300-400 MCM/yr (Kolars 1992). This lower section, flowing within kilometres of the Hasbani and the Israeli border, historically had presented the possibilities of diversions in conjunction with the Jordan system. The Israeli Cotton Plan and the Arab Headwaters Diversion Plan envisioned water diverted into and out of the Jordan basin, respectively. In fact, even before 1982, Israel had carried out seismic studies and received intelligence reports on the feasibility of a Litani diversion (Naff and Matson 1984, 76). These reports concluded that a diversion would be economically unattractive and, in any event, would be politically infeasible until cooperation could be developed with Lebanon (interviews, Haim Paldi, October 1991; Menahem Cantor, November 1991).
After the invasion was launched by the then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, a 'water hawk" who had frequently spoken of seizing the Litani, Israel captured the Qir'awn Dam and brought hydrographic charts and technical documents relating to the Litani and its installations back to Israel (Cooley 1984, 22).
During the years of Israeli occupation from 1982 to 1985, several analysts developed and elaborated on a "hydraulic imperative" theory, which described water as the motivator for Israeli conquests, both recently, in Lebanon, and earlier, in the West Bank and Golan Heights (see, for example, Davis et al. 1980; Kahhaleh 1981; Stauffer 1982; Cooley 1984). The speculations for likely Israeli actions in Lebanon by proponents of this theory ranged from a simple diversion of the 100 MCM/yr available at the lower Litani to elaborate conjectures of a permanent occupation of the entire Beka'a Valley south of the Beirut-Damascus Highway, which (according to Stauffer 1982), along with a hypothetical destruction of the Qir'awn Dam and Marhaba Diversion Tunnel and forced depopulation of southern Lebanon, would allow diversion of the entire 700 MCM/yr flow of the river into Israel.
More is mentioned in a later section about this "hydraulic imperative" theory, which has already been critiqued on political, technical, and economic grounds (Naff and Matson 1984, 75-80; Wishart 1989, 14). The strongest rebuttal, however, at least with regard to Lebanon, comes from the fact that, despite method, more than eight years of opportunity, and (given a serious drought since the mid-1980s) ample motive, the Israelis are not now diverting the Litani River. However, the "Security Zone" that Israel retains since its withdrawal does still include the most likely diversion point at Taibeih. Moreover, former Technology Minister Yuval Ne'eman has mentioned in the past that, if the Lebanese ever cared to sell some of the Litani waters, "we could make good use of them in the Northern Galilee" (Cooley 1984, 25).
In the meantime, the opposite is true. Cut off from their water supply partly because of strained relations with Beirut, the villagers of Bint Jbil and five other villages in central southern Lebanon approached the Israelis for help in 1985. Israel, which since 1979 has had a "good fence" policy of influencing the residents of southern Lebanon in its favour with a combination of military and humanitarian aid, responded to the request for water by building a pipeline from a pump at Shtula, on the Israeli side of the border. Since that time, an average of 50,000 m3/month has flowed from Israel into Lebanon (Mekorot maps; interview, Avner Turgeman, December 1991).
Ever since the 1973 war, the regional conflict focus has shifted from being Israeli-Arab to Israeli-Palestinian. This is true regarding water conflicts, as well. In fact, while earlier periods were marked by major water projects and region-wide water conflicts, this most recent period has mostly been one of internal adjustments within each state to optimize existing water resources. Israeli water policy, however, also includes territory and populations under military occupation, the final status of which has yet to be determined. Because of the hydrography of these areas, the focus has also shifted from a surface water to a groundwater conflict (see appendix I, maps 4 and 5).
As mentioned earlier, Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967, including the recharge areas for aquifers that flow west and northwest into Israel (at about 320 MCM/yr and 140 MCM/yr, respectively) and east to the Jordan Valley (about 125 MCM/yr) (Kahan 1987, 21). The entire renewable recharge of these first two aquifers is already being exploited and the recharge of the third is close to being depleted as well. Because any overpumping would result in salt-water intrusion into Israeli wells, Palestinian water usage has been severely limited by the Israeli authorities.
In 28 years of occupation, a growing West Bank population, along with burgeoning Jewish settlements, has increased the burden on the limited groundwater supply, resulting in an exacerbation of already tense political relations. Palestinians have objected strenuously to Israeli control of local water resources and to settlement development, which they see as being at their territorial and hydrologic expense (see, for example, Davis et al. 1980; Dillman 1989; Zarour and Isaac 1992).
In 1967, Israel nationalized all West Bank water and limits were placed on the amount withdrawn from each existing well. Since that time, the only permits for new Palestinian wells that have been granted are for domestic needs. Agricultural usage was capped at 1968 levels and all subsequent extension of land under irrigation has been through increased efficiency (Richardson 1984). At the same time, 17 wells were drilled to provide water to the new Israeli settlements. Some Palestinian wells were undercut and became desiccated, notably at alAuja and Bardala, because of the deeper, more powerful Israeli wells (Dillman 1989, 56-57). Of the 47 MCM/yr pumped in the mountain area, 14 MCM/yr, or 30 per cent, goes to the Jewish settlements. The eastern aquifer, which flows into the Jordan Valley, is the only one not being overexploited, but Palestinians have not been allowed to expand their water resources in this region either (Dillman 1989, 57). Currently, a total of 150 MCM/yr is consumed by its residents - 115 MCM/yr by Palestinians and 35 MCM/yr by Jews.
Israelis argue that Palestinian agriculture can expand using water saved through more efficient agricultural practices. For example, modern methods of irrigation have helped Palestinian farmers in the Jiftlik Valley to increase vegetable production tenfold without significantly increasing water needs (Rymon and Or 1989). They argue further that any limits imposed on pumping have depended on the situation of each aquifer at the time that the permit was requested - not on whether the applicants were Arabs or Jews and that, with only one exception, desiccated Palestinian wells have been supplied with alternate sources (Info Briefing 1986; interviews, Zeev Golani, October 1991; Shmuel Cantor, December 1991).
One factor exacerbating tensions between the sides is that legal ownership of water originating on the West Bank (and consequent drilling rights) is still under dispute. Under pre-1967 Jordanian law, water on the West Bank had been considered a private resource and, although approval for any irrigation schemes was required from the Department of Irrigation and Water, permission was routinely granted (Dillman 1989, 52). Under the law, each landowner in the West Bank had the right to drill a well on his land, although the government had final authority to distribute permits and to determine pumping limits and allocations. After the 1967 war, one of the first Israeli Military Orders enacted was one necessitating permission from an area commander to operate a water installation (IDF Military Order 158, cited in Dillman 1989, 53). The following year, Military Order 291 brought all surface and groundwater under public ownership to be managed by Israeli water authorities in conjunction with the Israeli hydrologic network (Dillman 1989, 52). Technically, Israeli authorities did not significantly alter the structure of groundwater law in the territories, retaining the wording of Jordanian law, but transferring final authority from the Kingdom of Jordan to the Israeli military administration. In practice, however, day-to-day operations became increasingly controlled by the Israeli Water Commissioner to the point where, today, almost all water is metered, limited, priced, and allocated by that body.
Israeli authorities viewed these actions as defensive, of a sort. Hy drogeologically, Israel is down-gradient of the West Bank aquifers. In essence, groundwater flows (albeit extremely slowly) from the recharge areas and upland aquifers of the West Bank down to those on the Israeli side of the Green Line on its way to the sea. Israel had been tapping up to 270 MCM/yr of this groundwater from its side of the Green Line since 1955 (Garbell 1965, 30). Any uncontrolled, extensive groundwater development in the newly occupied territories would threaten these coastal wells with salt-water intrusion from the sea, causing serious damage (Jaffee Center 1989, 200).
With about 30 per cent of Israeli water originating on the West Bank, the Israelis perceive the necessity to limit groundwater exploitation in these territories in order to protect the resources themselves, and their wells from salt-water intrusion. To this end, they have even imported surface water from the National Water Carrier to the Ramallah and Hebron hill region for Arab domestic use, rather than allowing additional drilling (Spector and Gruen 1980, 10). Further, four or five Israeli settlements built in the late 1970s around Elkanna, near the Green Line, may have been sited to guarantee continued Israeli control of some of the contested water (State of Israel memoranda June 1977; Pedhatzor 1989).
Palestinians have objected to this increasing control and integration into the Israeli grid. Legal arguments often refer, at least in part, to the Fourth Geneva Convention's discussion of territories under military occupation (see, for example, Dillman 1989; El-Hindi 1990). In principle, it is argued, the resources of occupied territory cannot be exported for the benefit of the occupying power. Israeli authorities reject these arguments, usually claiming that the Convention is not applicable to the West Bank or Gaza because the powers these territories were wrested from were not, themselves, legitimate rulers (El-Hind) 1990). Egypt was itself a military occupier of Gaza, and only Britain and Pakistan recognized Jordan's 1950 annexation of the West Bank. In addition, it is pointed out that the water that Israel uses is not being exported but, rather, flows naturally seaward, and, because Israel has been pumping that water since 1955, it has "prior appropriation" ("first in time, first in right") rights to the water.
Although Jordan gave up all claims to the West Bank in 1988 in favour of the "State of Palestine," Jordanian water from the Yarmuk is still the most likely source of surface water for the area, with Jordan still "owing" the West Bank 70-150 MCM/yr from the Johnston proposals. During the Maqarin Dam negotiations and subsequently, the Israelis have urged construction of the project and the sharing of water resources with the West Bank and, naturally, Israel, "in the context of regional agreement and cooperation" (cited in Richardson 1984, 122).
It is clear that Israel would hope to keep control over some water usage in the West Bank, even in the event of Palestinian autonomy. When talks were held under the auspices of Camp David, the Israeli Committee determined that
. . . the water resources of the State of Israel inside the Green Line originate in the West Bank and that incorrect application of drilling in the West Bank could salinize the water reservoirs of the State of Israel ... The State of Israel must continue to control the water resources in the territories, both because of the danger to water reserve inside the Green Line and because (otherwise) it would be impossible to establish new settlements in these territories. (Cited in Davis et al. 1980, 4)
Although this position softened somewhat with negotiations to where, in 1980, Israel proposed a joint water committee of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, they made it very clear that "all decisions would have to be unanimous" (Spector and Gruen 1980, 11). As late as 1989, however, an official goal of the Israeli government has been
... to prepare legal and political bases which will guarantee Israeli control and administration of water resources in Judea and Samaria, regardless of the future political status of these areas. (State of Israel, cabinet minutes, 14 May 1989)
On 15 September 1993, the Declaration of Principles on Interim SelfGovernment Arrangements was signed between Palestinians and Israeli, which defined Palestinian autonomy and the redeployment of Israeli forces out of Gaza and Jericho. Among other issues, the Declaration of Principles called for the creation of a Palestinian Water Administration Authority. Moreover, the first item in Annex III, on cooperation in economic and development programmes, included a focus on
... cooperation in the field of water, including a Water Development Program prepared by experts from both sides, which will also specify the mode of cooperation in the management of water resources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and will include proposals for studies and plans on water rights of each party, as well as on the equitable utilization of joint water resources for implementation in and beyond the interim period.
Annex IV describes regional development programmes for cooperation including:
The Declaration of Principles also included a description of the mechanisms by which disputes might be resolved. Article XV describes these mechanisms:
Eventually, the final political and hydrographic status of this region will have to be determined. Aside from politics or nationalisms, hydrologic reasoning would seem to dictate that this determination should be done sooner rather than later. As one UN report notes,
The present integration of the basic water services in the occupied territories with those of Israel is about to lead to the complete dependence of the former services on those of Israel and will eventually make the separation of the two very costly and difficult. (Cited in Dillman 1989, 63)
By the mid-1980s, each of the countries riparian to the Jordan River began to approach its hydrologic limits, and the potential for either conflict or cooperation took on new urgency, both in the region and abroad.
The fundamental tenet of ecologic systems is "Everything is connected to everything else" (Holling 1978, 26). An addendum, for those dependent on a watershed approaching the limits of available water, might be "Everything you do will affect someone else." As the riparians to the Jordan River watershed began to run out of hydrologic room to manoeuvre, this tenet became increasingly apparent.
In 1985, plans for a deep well near Herodian in the West Bank were made public. This project, funded by an American fundamentalist Christian group, would have brought 18 MCM/yr to both Arabs and Jews on the West Bank. Wary that the size and depth of the project might undercut their wells, some Palestinians had international pressure brought to bear on the Israelis and Americans involved, and the project was halted (Caponera 1991).
Meanwhile, the Syrians, who had lost access to the Banias springs in 1967, began a series of small impoundment dams on the headwaters of the Yarmuk in its territory in the late 1970s. By August 1988, 20 dams were in place with a combined capacity of 156 MCM/ yr (Sofer and Kliot 1988, 19) (see appendix I, map 27). That capacity has since grown to 27 dams with a combined storage of about 250 MCM/yr (Gwen 1991, 24; interview, Shmuel Cantor, December 1991). According to George Gruen (1991, 24), the Syrians have plans to expand this storage to 366 MCM/yr by 2010. These Syrian impoundments are in contradiction to their 1953 agreement with Jordan, which allocates seven-eighths of the water of the Yarmuk to Jordan in exchange for two-thirds of the hydropower from the planned Maqarin Dam (Caponera 1991, 10).
Because the Maqarin, or Unity, Dam was never built, winter runoff, most of which Jordan cannot now capture for use in its East Ghor Canal, flows almost unimpeded downstream to Israel. This situation has allowed Israel to use more than the 25 MCM/yr allocated to it from the Yarmuk by the Johnston accords.
Against this backdrop, Jordan in 1989 approached the US Department of State for help in resolving the dispute. Ambassador Richard Armitage was dispatched to the region in September 1989 to resume secret indirect mediation between Jordan and Israel where Philip Habib had left off a decade earlier. The points raised during the following year were as follows:
By fall of 1990, agreement seemed to be taking shape, by which Israel agreed to the concept of the dam, and discussions on a formal document and winter flow allocations could continue during construction, estimated to take more than five years. Two issues held up any agreement: first, the lack of Syrian input left questions of the future of the river unresolved, a point noted by both sides during the mediations; second, the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991 overwhelmed other regional issues, finally pre-empting talks on the Yarmuk. The issue has not been brought up again until recently in the context of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Agreement on this issue is a prerequisite to building the Unity Dam. The World Bank has agreed to help finance the project only if all of the riparians agree to the technical details.
With these developments during the 1980s, the United States, which had initiated both the Johnston negotiations in the 1950s and the water-for-peace process during the 1960s, became convinced anew of water's potential for conflict. By the end of the 1980s, comprehensive studies on the strategic aspects of water in the Middle East and the potential for conflict had been conducted by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (Naff and Matson 1984), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Starr and Stoll 1987; 1988), and the Israeli Foreign Ministry (Sofer and Kliot 1988); in addition, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East had held a hearing on Middle East water issues (US Department of State, House of Representatives, June 1990). Each concluded not only that the water resources of the region had great potential for conflict but also that, of the Middle East water basins, the Jordan presented the most likely flashpoint.
In the thinking of the Defense Intelligence Agency:
Water ignores artificial political boundaries; in an undeveloped environment it flows according to the terrain. When man - in order to make better use of water for himself - changes the natural distribution system' he also changes traditional use patterns. This can be extremely disruptive and upsetting to other riparian users. The result is often political conflict if not outright military action. Military factors are often the de facto determinants in resolving riparian relationships in the Middle East. (Personal communication, 3 July, 1991)
By 1991, several events combined to shift the emphasis on the potential for "hydroconflict" to the potential for "hydrocooperation."
The first event was natural. Three years of below-average rainfall in the Jordan basin caused a dramatic tightening in the water management practices of each of the riparians, including rationing, cutbacks to agriculture by as much as 30 per cent, and restructuring of water pricing and allocations. Although these steps placed short-term hardships on those affected, they also showed that, for years of normal rainfall, there was still some flexibility in the system. Most water decision makers agree that these steps, particularly regarding pricing practices and allocations to agriculture, were long overdue.
The next series of events were geopolitical in nature. The Gulf War in 1990 and the collapse of the Soviet Union caused a realignment of political alliances in the Middle East that finally made possible the first public face-to-face peace talks between Arabs and Israelis, in Madrid on 30 October 1991.
While the region was still in the throes of drought, water was mentioned as a motivating factor for the talks. Jordan, as has been mentioned, is squeezed hydrologically between two neighbours attempting to reinterpret prior agreements, but otherwise has no major territorial disputes with Israel. A researcher at the Middle East Studies Center in Amman therefore suggested that "Jordan is being pushed to the peace talks because of water" (interview, Mohammed Ma'ali, November 1991). Mohammed Beni Hani, the head of Jordan's water authority, is one of Jordan's 12 delegates to the peace talks. At the opening ceremonies in Madrid, Dr Haidar Abdel-Shafi, the head of the Palestinian delegation, included in his opening remarks a call for "the return of Palestinian land and its life-giving waters."
During the bilateral negotiations between Israel and each of its neighbours, it was agreed that a second track be established for multilateral negotiations on five subjects deemed "regional." These subjects included ecology, energy, economic cooperation, arms reduction, and - water resources.
With the opening of peace talks, the emphasis in international arenas quickly went from the potential for conflict over water to its potential as a vehicle for cooperation. Seminars and conferences were held throughout the early 1990s in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East on the possibilities for cooperation over water resources. The World Bank held a seminar on the topic, as did the US Department of State, and the Center for Foreign Affairs. Increasingly, both Arab and Israeli academics and policy makers have taken part together in these conferences.
Nevertheless, old patterns have been slow in changing. As part of the Global Water Summit Initiative, Joyce Starr, who two years earlier had organized a "water summit" for African states, attempted a similar summit in the Middle East, scheduled for November 1991. Despite early signs of participation on the part of several states in the region, and despite official invitations to 50 countries, including 22 Arab nations, from Turkish President Turgut Özal, Syria refused to attend if Israel were invited, and called for other Arab countries to follow its position. The US State Department suggested that, if Israel were not invited, the United States would not attend either. Faced with this impasse, the summit was finally cancelled (press reports, August-November 1991).
In Israel, at the same time, the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University asked two researchers (Yehoshua Schwartz, the director of Tahal, Israel's water planning agency, and Aharon Zohar, also at Tahal at the time) to undertake a study of the regional hydrostrategic situation and the potential for regional cooperation. The result, a 300-page document entitled Water in the Middle East: Solutions to Water Problems in the Context of Arrangements between Israel and the Arabs (Schwartz and Zohar 1991), was one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind. It examined a number of possible scenarios for regional water development, including possible arrangements between Israel and Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza. Scenarios were included both for regional cooperation and for its absence. Evaluations included hydrologic, political, legal, and ideological constraints. The impacts of potential global climatic change were also considered. The study showed, in the words of Joseph Alpher, the Director of the Jaffee Center, "the potential beauty of multilateral negotiations" (interview, Joseph Alpher, December 1991).
Some of the findings of the study contradicted government policies at the time, however. In the sections on possible arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria, maps of the West Bank and Golan Heights included lines to which Israel might relinquish control of the water resources in each area, without overly endangering its own water supply. The line in the West Bank, which was based on studies dating back to the late 1970s (as is discussed in the next section and in chapter 4), suggested that Israel might, with legal and political guarantees, turn control of the water resources of more than twothirds of the West Bank over to Palestinian authorities without threatening Israel's water sources from the Yarkon-Taninim (western mountain) aquifer (see appendix I, map 29). These maps contradicted the position of the Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Rafael Eitan of the right-wing Tzomet party. The Ministry's position was that, to protect Israel from threats to both the quantity and quality of its water, Israel had to retain political control over the entire West Bank. (The apparent contradictions in these positions are examined later in this chapter and in chapter 4.)
On 12 December, 1991, 70 copies of the report were sent throughout Israel for review, including copies to the Ministry of Agriculture. Calling the maps mentioned above "an outline for retreat," Rafael Eitan and Dan Zaslavsky (whom Eitan had recently appointed Water Commissioner) insisted on a recall of the review copies and a delay in the release of the report. In January 1992, the Israeli military censor backed the position of the Ministry of Agriculture and, citing sensitivity of the report's findings, censored the report in its entirety (interviews, Yehosua Schwartz, October 1991; Joseph Alpher, Aharon Zohar, December 1991; personal communication, Aharon Zohar, January 1992).
Entrenched positions notwithstanding, the two sides have continued to move towards cooperation with increasing momentum. In Jerusalem, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) began holding round-table discussions and simulated negotiations on water in December 1990. In October 1992, IPCRI cosponsored, with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Applied Research Institute in Bethlehem, the "First Israeli/Palestinian International Conference on Water."
On a larger scale, the first round of multilateral negotiations on water were held in Vienna in May 1992. At that meeting, each party agreed to compile a programme for regional development, which would then be examined in the United States for any commonalities that could be exploited to induce cooperation. This same approach is being taken by the World Bank, which commissioned similar studies from the states in the region. In conjunction with the peace talks, less-public and less-official dialogues, called the "Track 2 talks," have been held between Israelis and Arabs in the United States.
These breakthroughs in water talks may have repercussions on negotiations on other topics as well. In the words of Munther Haddadin, a Jordanian delegate, "Water seems to be leading the Peace Talks."
As in 1919, the peace talks of the 1990s have included the mutual impact of water on political decision-making. Seventy years of regional water development, however, have both heightened the political stakes of water issues and left less hydrologic room for manoeuvrability. However, given that an important political precedent has been set in Madrid - public face-to-face negotiations, the lack of which has precluded explicit cooperation in the past and given the lessons learned through 70 years of "hydrodiplomacy," a new potential for regional planning and cooperation may have been reached. One can hope that, after 70 years, the lessons have been learned.
As mentioned in the introduction to this section on history, I have culled instances of water-related conflict and cooperation from the vast geopolitical forces at work in the region. If one were not wary of this fact, and in view of the extensive history of the linkage between Middle East water resources and strategic thinking, it would not be difficult to develop and "prove" a theory citing water as the motivating factor for regional conflict. Two historic themes that have found favour among some authors in academic literature and the popular press do just that. Both themes, the "hydraulic imperative," ("Israel's territorial conquests have actually been quests for greater water resources") and that of "hydronationalism" ("Israeli water security depends on retention of the entire West Bank and Golan Heights in perpetuity"), are described and critiqued more fully below.
The hydraulic imperative
Proponents of a "hydraulic imperative" theory - which describes the quest for water resources as the motivator for Israeli military conquests, both in Lebanon in 1979 and 1982 and earlier, on the Golan Heights and West Bank in 1967 - usually point to some combination of the following to support their argument for Lebanon (see, for example, Davis et al. 1980; Stauffer 1982; Schmida 1983; Stork 1983; Cooley 1984; Dillman 1989):
Particularly during the years of Israeli occupation from 1982 to 1985, several analysts developed and elaborated on the "hydraulic imperative" theory. The speculations for likely Israeli actions in Lebanon by proponents of this theory ranged from a simple diversion of the 100 MCM/yr available at the lower Litani to elaborate conjectures of a permanent occupation of the entire Beka'a Valley south of the Beirut-Damascus Highway, which, along with a hypothetical destruction of the Qir'awn Dam and Marhaba Diversion Tunnel and forced depopulation of southern Lebanon, would allow diversion of the entire 700 MCM/yr flow of the river into Israel.
Many have been convinced that Israel is, in fact, diverting water from the Litani into Israel. According to John Cooley, "It was small wonder that the first Israeli diversion plans for the Litani have come into being" (cited in Sofer 1991, 6). More recently, Fred Pearce (1991, 39) described tensions in southern Lebanon, "where Israel is widely reported to be diverting the flow of the River Litani south into Israel," and Thomas Naff, who had sharply critiqued the hydraulic imperative in his 1984 study (Naff and Matson 1984, 75-80), has noted that
Although water may not have been the prime impetus behind the Israel acquisition of territory, as the "hydraulic imperative" alleges, it seems perhaps the main factor determining its retention of that territory. (Frey and Naff 1985, 76)
Professor Naff testified to Congress in 1990 that "owing to serious shortages, Israel is presently conducting a large-scale operation of trucking water to Israel from the Litani River ..." (US House of Representatives 1990, 24). He has since modified the contention to "water, it seems, was instead trucked to units of the Israeli-supported Lebanese Army of South Lebanon in the 'security zone' and, perhaps, to some Shi'i villages in the same area as a reward for their cooperation" (Naff 1992, 6). Lebanese diplomats, however, on hearing the original charges, were prepared to bring the matter to a UN Security Council resolution against Israel (press reports, September 1990).
Building retroactively on the Lebanon experience, Israel's conquests in 1967 also were included in the "imperative." It is clear that tensions between Israel and Syria over water since 1964 had contributed to the developments leading to fighting in 1967, that Israel was approaching its hydrologic limits, and that it made tremendous hydrostrategic gains in the war itself. Making the link between the three, it has now become common to claim that water resources were one of the strategic goals for Israel during the war. Many of the authors cited above make such claims, as does Peter Beaumont:
To avoid each of the states (Lebanon and Syria) controlling their own water resources, Israel invaded southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights of Syria in 1967. The pretext given was strategic reasons, but the control of the water resources of the area seems a more compelling and realistic reason. (Beaumont 1991, 8)
One might expand a conspiracy theory, if one were so inclined, to include information that has not yet appeared in the literature. For example, one might include the taking, by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, of the Awali town of Ghajar, at the junction of borders between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Ghajar had no strategic importance in the military sense in that it neither contained combatants nor was situated in a strategic position, but it does directly overlook the Wazzani springs, which contribute 20-25 MCM/yr to the Hasbani's total annual flow of 125 MCM/yr. During dry summer months, the Wazzani is the only flowing source of the Hasbani. Ghajar was the site of the projected dams for the 1964 Arab Diversion.
Moreover, after the 1979 "Operation Litani," engineers from Mekorot developed plans to divert from 5 to 10 MCM/yr from the Wazzani springs for irrigation in Shi'ite southern Lebanon and in Israel. To allow the project to flow on gravity alone, a slight northward modification of the Israeli-Lebanese border was considered (Khativ and Khativ 1988; interviews, Haim Paldi, Avner Turgeman, October 1991).
One might add the backgrounds in both water and security issues of many Israeli policy makers, dating back to the 1920s, as proof of a deep-rooted plan linking the two: Aaron Aaronsohn, who formulated Zionist borders for the 1919 peace talks, was both an agriculturalist and a spy against the Turks for the British; Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister during the 1967 war, was one of the founders of Mekorot, the Israeli water company; Moshe Dayan, Defence Minister during the war, was Agricultural Minister immediately beforehand; Ariel Sharon, Defence Minister during the Lebanon war, was also a Minister of Agriculture; Rafael Eitan, a recent Minister of Agriculture, is a retired Army Chief of Staff; and Nahum Admoni, current Director of Mekorot, is the retired Director of the Mossad, Israel's secret service. One would have to add, however, that in a country where every citizen does military service, axgenerals are found in any number of civilian roles, including those of the Mayor of Tel Aviv and the Director of the Archaeological Service.
As mentioned earlier, the hydraulic imperative has been critiqued for political and technical weaknesses by Naff and Matson (1984, 75-80), as well as on economic grounds by Wishart (1989, 14). Nevertheless, because a thorough analysis of the region's options for the future depends in part on a clear understanding of what has happened in the past, it is worth investigating the theory in greater detail. To examine the validity of the hydraulic imperative, two questions must be answered: was the location of water resources a factor in the military strategy of Israel in 1967, 1978, or 1982, and is Israel now diverting water from the Litani River?
MILITARY STRATEGY AND HYDROSTRATEGY.
It is occasionally difficult to distinguish between military strategy, defined concisely by one officer as "from where are they shooting and from where will we shoot back," and hydrostrategy, the influence of the location of water resources on strategic thinking. A river, for example, is also an ideal barrier against tanks and troop movements, and, as clear landmarks, rivers often delineate borders. High ridges, ideal for military positioning, are also often local watershed boundaries. Nevertheless, by examining the strategic decision-making of those involved in a particular event, some distinctions can be made.
In the events leading up to the 1967 war, it has already been noted in some detail how conflict over water resources between Syria and Israel contributed to tensions leading to the fighting. The war itself, however, started in the south, with Egypt expelling the UN forces in the Sinai and blocking Israeli shipping to Eilat. The Sinai Desert was the first front when war broke out on 5 June 1967, with the straits of Sharm-el-Sheikh the primary objective.
The hydrostrategic points over which Israel gained control during the war were on the West Bank, including the recharge zones of several aquifers, some of which Israel had been tapping into since the 1950s; on the Golan Heights, including the Banias springs, which Syria had attempted to divert in 1965; and, further south, at El-Hama and at an overlook on the proposed site of the Maqarin Dam (the former was controlled by Jordan, and the latter by Syria).
Before the war, and even in its first days, Israel had agreed not to engage in combat with Jordan, as long as Jordan did not attack. However, Jordan did launch several artillery barrages in the first days of the war, which opened up the West Bank as the second front (Sachar 1979).
Finally, despite attacks from Syria, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan was extremely reluctant to launch an attack on the Golan Heights because of the presence of Soviet advisers, and the consequent danger of widening the conflict (Slater 1991). For the first three days of the war, Dayan held off arguments from several of his advisers, including the Commanding Officer of the Northern Command, David Elazar, to launch an attack on the Golan Heights. Finally, a delegation from the northern settlements, which had often experienced Syrian sniping and artillery barrages, travelled to Tel Aviv to ask Dayan to take the Heights to guarantee their security. Only then, on 9 June, did Israeli forces launch an attack against Syria (Slater 1991, 277).
In the taking of the Golan Heights, the water sources mentioned above were incidental conquests as Israeli forces moved as far east as Kuneitra (see appendix I, map 28). Below the Heights, Israeli troops stopped directly outside Ghajar. They reportedly did this because, on Israeli maps, Ghajar was Lebanese territory, and Israel did not want to involve Lebanon in the war. Ghajar, it turned out, was Syrian - it had been misplaced on 1943 British maps. As Ghajar had been cut off from the rest of Syria during the war, a delegation had travelled to Beirut to ask to be annexed: Lebanon was not interested. Three months after the war, another delegation travelled to
Israel and asked that the village become Israeli; only then did Israeli control extend north through Ghajar (Khativ and Khativ 1988; interview, Gamal Khativ, October 1991). Only the village itself was included, however, and most of its agricultural land remained in Syria. Mekorot engineers did install a three-inch pipe for drinking-water for the villagers from the Wazzani springs, which, although literally a stone's throw from the village, was left under Lebanese control (interviews, Gamal Khativ, Haim Paldi, October 1991).
Extensive literature exists on the detailed decision-making on the events before, during, and after the 1967 war. What is noticeable in a search for references to water resources, either as strategic targets, or even as a subject for propaganda by either side, is the almost complete absence of such references. In International Documents on Palestine, 1967, a compilation of documents, statements, and speeches by Israelis, Arabs, Americans, and Soviets for all of 1967, the only reference to water is in a document submitted by Israel to the United Nations after the war, which includes mention of the successful resumption of water works in Jerusalem (Institute for Palestine Studies 1970, 327). In Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy, Michael Brecher (1974) includes chapters on both "Jordan Waters," and "The Six Day War," but mentions no link. In a detailed study of the roots of the 1967 war, Walter Laqueur mentions that "in 1967, [water] was not among the major causes of Arab-Israeli conflict, certainly not one of the immediate reasons for hostilities" (Laqueur 1967, 50). Stein and Tanter (1980) do not mention water at all.
The same absence of documentation is true for Israeli reasons for launching operations in Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 (see, for example, MacBride 1983). As noted previously, Israel's ally in southern Lebanon, Major Sa'ad Haddad, had made clear to Israel in 1979 that water was a taboo subject. It was Haddad, too, who quashed Israel's plans in 1979 for a diversion of the Wazzani springs. Both Major-General Avraham Tamir, who helped to outline Israel's strategic needs in 1967 and in 1982, and an officer who acted as the liaison officer between Israeli and South Lebanese forces, have described in detail the military strategy of both the 1967 war and of the 1982 war in Lebanon, the former participant in his book A Soldier in Search of Peace (1988), and both in interviews (October and December, 1991). Again, mention of water is conspicuously absent, although the liaison officer acknowledges that plans were investigated, but never used, to cut water to Beirut to enforce a siege. Furthermore, although Israeli studies have been conducted on the possibility of integrating the Litani and Jordan watersheds, each concludes that such a project can proceed only with international (especially Lebanese) assent.
It should also be noted that, immediately after the wars in 1967 and 1982, strategic needs (none of which related to water) were spelled out by the Israeli government; these needs, if met, would result in Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory. According to Moshe Dayan, the Golan Heights were negotiable even without a peace treaty and, with such a treaty, so was the rest of the territory captured in 1967, except East Jerusalem (Slater 1991, 286290). The same strategy of holding conquered land as an inducement to peace talks was followed immediately after the 1982 war in Lebanon. In 1983, an Israeli-Lebanese agreement was signed that called for an Israeli withdrawal from all of Lebanon. The agreement was abrogated in 1984, however, and consequently Israel justifies its continued presence in the "security zone" (Tamir 1988).
Althought the official line of the Israel Army Spokesman is that "water is a political issue, not military" (personal communication, August 1991), the Israeli army planning branch, which Tamir developed, does have one officer whose responsibilities include evaluating the strategic importance of water resources. Both the officer with those responsibilities during the 1982 war and Tamir insist that water was not, even incidentally, a factor in the war. When pressed on the subject, Tamir replied:
Why go to war over water? For the price of one week's fighting, you could build five desalination plants. No loss of life, no international pressure, and a reliable supply you don't have to defend in hostile territory. (Interview, December 1991)
DOES LITANI WATER REACH ISRAEL?
While one of the most difficult tasks is to prove the absence of something, an extensive search for any evidence of a diversion or trucking operation has turned up nothing to suggest that any Litani water enters Israel at the time of waiting. My search took the following tracks.
First, it is clear that Zionist and Israeli plans for regional development have often investigated the possibility of integrating the Litani and Jordan basins. However, since 1944, all of these plans have concluded that such integration would be impossible without Lebanese approval. To gain such approval, some plans have included provisions for an exchange of hydropower for water, or even buying ex cess water outright. Recent studies also question the economics of a diversion: with 300 MCM/yr available below the Qir'awn Dam, only 100 MCM/yr would be available for export after considering the needs of southern Lebanon.
It should be mentioned that both Syria and Jordan have also expressed interest recently in diverting or buying Litani water. In fact, because of the proximity of the two watersheds - one with water surplus, the other overextended - it is hardly surprising that any number of plans have been put forward to integrate the two watersheds since a British plan first proposed the idea in 1918 (Dane and Benton 1918). The Lebanese position was (and continues to be) that rights to Lebanese water should be retained for future Lebanese development.
Second, reports of a secret diversion tunnel were investigated by UN forces, as well as by members of the international press, to no avail (Sofer 1991). Satellite photos (LANDSAT and SPOT), air photographs (Israeli Air Force), Mekorot maps, and field investigations (June 1987; June, October, December 1991), all show only the two water pipelines previously mentioned crossing the Lebanon-Israel border - a 3-inch pipe to the town of Ghajar and a 10-inch pipe from Israel into the Lebanese village of R'meish.
Third, hydrologic records show neither any unaccountable water in the Israeli water budget after 1978 nor any increases in the average flows of the Ayun or the Hasbani, the most likely carrier streams for a diversion. Because of three years of drought, on 14 October 1991 the Israeli Water Commissioner asked the Knesset to allow pumping of the Sea of Galilee below the legal "Red Line," the legal water level below which the entire lake is in danger of becoming saline. On the same day, a field investigation showed that both the Ayun and the Hasbani above the Wazzani springs were dry.
Fourth, a hypothetical trucking operation is even more difficult to prove or disprove. Both officials in Mekorot (interview, Avner Turgeman, October 1991) and Israeli officers responsible for southern Lebanon acknowledge that witnesses may have seen Israeli military water trucks in southern Lebanon. Each has suggested that the most likely explanation is that the trucks were carrying drinking water from Israel for Israeli troops stationed in the "security zone." Israeli military code, they point out, insists that soldiers drink water only from official collection points, all of which are in Israel.
An officer who has acted as liaison officer between Israeli and South Lebanon forces doubts that anyone saw Israeli trucks filling at the Litani, pointing out that the 20-ton "Rigs" that are used to carry water could not make the grade of the military road that leads away from the Litani, if the trucks were full (interview, October 1991). Sofer (1991, 7) has calculated that a cubic metre of water trucked from the Litani into Israel would cost about US$4-US$10, compared with about US$1.50 for a cubic metre of desalinated water.
The use of water resources to bolster political claims has not been restricted to questioning Israel's motives towards its neighbours. Nationalists within Israel have also claimed water as an overriding incentive for their political ends.
In August 1990, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Rafael Eitan of the right-wing Tzomet party, took out full-page advertisements in the international press, subheaded "The Question of Water - Some Dry Facts." The advertisement described the hydrologic relationship between Israel and the West Bank and emphasized the danger to both water quantity and quality of territorial compromise. The advertisement concluded that Israeli control over the entire West Bank was necessary to protect Israeli water sources:
It is important to realize that the claim to continued Israeli control over Judea and Samaria is not based on extremist fanaticism or religious mysticism but on a rational, healthy and reasonable survival instinct.
Attacked for using Ministry funds for political purposes, the Ministry issued a five-page position paper expanding on the hydrologic argument and suggesting that Eitan was within his rights to publish the advertisement (see appendix III).
The questions raised by the incident go beyond the validity of the advertisement or the position paper, but rather point to one primary issue: how much of the territory over which Israel took control in 1967 will it view as necessary to retain to guarantee its water supplies? Although not as prevalent in the academic literature as the "hydraulic imperative," Israeli proponents of holding West Bank territory to control Israeli water resources are prevalent and cross political boundaries, as explored previously in this work in the section on Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. In order to allow for greater flexibility in negotiations, as is described in chapter 4, it is worth investigating the hydrologic validity of the claim.
As mentioned above, and in the previous section on history, several points have been identified by Israel historically as strategically important to its hydrologic security. On the Golan Heights, these include the Banias springs, El-Hama, and some strategic overlooks over the Yarmuk River and the Sea of Galilee. The West Bank is somewhat more convoluted.
As mentioned earlier, Israel has been tapping into the Yarkon-Taninim, or western mountain, aquifer since 1955. It also relies on two other aquifers that recharge on the West Bank - the north-east and the eastern mountain aquifers; the former discharges into the Jezreel Valley and the latter into the Jordan Valley. The three aquifers combine to provide about 30 per cent of Israel's water supply.
The claims of the Ministry of Agriculture cloud the issue somewhat by combining the three aquifers into one political argument. It is clear from examining hydrogeologic maps (e.g. Goldschmidt and Jacobs 1958; Weinberger 1991), for example, that, provided with an alternate source of water, Israel might be able to relinquish control over most of the eastern mountain aquifer without endangering its supply on the west side of the Judaean hills.
The western mountain aquifer is a more complex case, however, and most of the quotations used in the Ministry's position paper refer to this problem. Again, a historical perspective might be useful. In 1977, as Israeli Prime Minister Begin was preparing for negotiations with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he asked the then Water Commissioner Menahem Cantor to provide him with a map of Israeli water usage from water originating on the West Bank (see appendix I, map 29) and to provide guidelines as to where Israel might relinquish control, if protecting Israel's water resources were the only consideration.
Because of the disparate depths to water for the western mountain aquifer in the coastal plain and in the Judaean hills (about 60 m in the plain, 150-200 m in the foothills, and 700-800 m in the hills) (Gold-Schmidt and Jacobs 1958; Weinberger 1991), and the resulting differences in the cost of drilling and pumping wells in these areas, Cantor concluded that a "red line" could be drawn, beyond which Israel should not relinquish control, north to south, following roughly the 100-200 mm contour line. This still left control over water on about two-thirds of the West Bank open for negotiations.
Some settlement plans for the late 1970s referred in part to this line, and about five settlements around Elkanna were reportedly sited in part to guarantee continued Israeli control of the water resources on its side of this "red line" (Pedhatzor 1989; State of Israel memoranda, April-June 1977) (see appendix I, map 30).
Israeli water planners still refer to this "red line" as a frame of reference (interviews, Zeev Golani, October 1991; Shmuel Cantor, December 1991), and inclusion of a discussion along similar lines was one of the reasons for the censorship of the 1991 Jaffee Center Study by the Minister of Agriculture, as mentioned earlier.
My purpose in this discussion has not been to enter into the fray of political charges on either side. Rather, I feel that it is helpful to agree on a common history before planning for the future. Furthermore, as I examine, later in this work, a series of possible negotiating scenarios, it is important to examine the hydrologic facts behind the bargaining position for each entity. I therefore offer some conclusions regarding the "hydroconspiracy" theories of each side.
First, water resources were not a factor in Israeli strategic planning in the hostilities of 1967, 1978, or 1982. By this I mean that the decision to go to war, and strategic decisions made during the fighting (including which territory it was necessary to capture), were not influenced by water scarcity or the location of water resources. The location of water resources was not considered to constitute a strategic position (except in the purely military sense), nor was it a factor in retaining territory immediately after the hostilities. In the mid-1970s, however, a narrow band of the West Bank did begin to be claimed as crucial to retain for hydrologic reasons. This is true also of the Banias springs, El-Hama, and some strategic overlooks on the Golan Heights.
Second, there is no evidence that Israel is diverting any water from the Litani River, either by pipe or by truck. In fact, since 1985, when central southern Lebanon lost its own water supply, an average of 50,000 m3/month has been piped into that region from wells in northern Israel.
Third, the claim that Israel requires the entire West Bank for its water security is not hydrologically sound. Israeli technical and government officials have, since the mid-1970s, developed a "red line" informed by the watershed boundary and population centres, as well as by security needs, beyond which Israel probably would not withdraw control of the water resources, even in the event of an exchange of "land for peace." This amounts to a narrow band of the most western part of the West Bank, drawn approximately along the 100-200 m contour line (see appendix I, map 29).
In 1876, John Wesley Powell, the leader of the first organized expedition down the Colorado River, submitted his Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States to Congress. Among his observations on US settlement policies in the desert south-west was his belief, as described by Marc Reisner, that state boundaries were often nonsensical ... In the West, where the one thing that really mattered was water, states should logically be formed around watersheds ... To divide the West any other way was to sow the future with rivalries, jealousies, and bitter squabbles whose fruits would contribute solely to the nourishment of lawyers. (Reisner 1968, 49)
The same might belatedly be said about the national boundaries of the Middle East. The difference, of course, is that, in that region, conflicts between states have deep historical roots and are more often settled on the battlefield than in the courtroom.
The Jordan River watershed, with all its competing national and economic pressures, provides a clear example of the strategic importance of water as a scarce resource. What follows is a brief summary of the history of water conflict and cooperation between the riparians of the Jordan River, as presented in previous pages.
1915-1926. As the Ottoman Empire crumbled, the location of water resources, particularly the headwaters of the Jordan River, helped to influence the boundaries of the French and British Mandates, later the borders between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
1930s and 1940s. As populations and economies grew against hydrologic limits, so, too, grew the dangers of conflict over water. In the 1930s and 1940s water was a focus of several reports that tried to determine the economic absorptive capacity of the land. These reports influenced British, Arab, and Jewish attitudes and policies towards immigration and land settlement.
1948-1953. Unilateral development, occasionally infringing on demilitarized zones, led to brief armed conflict between Syrians and Israelis.
1953-1955. Johnston negotiations. Eric Johnston, special envoy to US President Eisenhower, worked for two years to hammer out a water-sharing agreement between the riparians of the Jordan River. Although unratified for political reasons, the allocations agreed to by Arab and Israeli technical committees have generally held, with recognized modifications. Moreover, both Israel and Jordan agreed to send technical representatives to regular "Picnic Table talks" to determine day-today hydrologic operations. These talks, named for the site at the confluence of the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers where the meetings reportedly take place, have proved fruitful over the years in reducing minor tensions.
1964-1967. "Water Wars." Beginning with the Arab decision to build an AllArab diversion of the Jordan headwaters to preclude the Israeli National Water Carrier, and ending three years later when Israeli tank and air strikes halted construction on the diversion, this was a period of the most direct water-related conflict.
May 1967. Even as tensions were leading to the following week's outbreak of the Six-Day War, the US Departments of Interior and State convened an "International Conference on Water for Peace" in Washington, D.C., which attracted 6,400 participants from 94 countries, including Israel, Egypt (then the WAR), Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
June 1967. The Six-Day War changed regional riparian positioning. Israel acquired two of the three Jordan River headwaters, riparian access to the entire river, and the recharge zone for mountain aquifers that currently constitutes about 40 per cent of Israel's freshwater supply. Israel also destroyed the "All-Arab" diversion scheme of the Jordan headwaters, which would have reduced Israeli water by 35 per cent.
6 May 1977. Only ministerial-level meeting between Jordanians and Israelis to discuss joint watershed planning.
June 1982. The Israeli war in Lebanon reportedly had a minor hydrologic component.
1980s. Philip Habib helped to renegotiate Johnston allocations based on political and demographic changes, and tried to reach arrangement over "Unity Dam."
1967-Present. Ownership and management conflicts between Israel/West Bank, Israel/Gaza, Israel/Jordan, and Jordan/Syria.
1989-1990. Richard Armitage led US State Department indirect mediations to reach arrangement over "Unity Dam."
1991-Present. Impetus towards cooperation grows as regional peace talks develop.
Again, it should be kept firmly in mind that none of the events described above in this historical section happened in a political vacuum. Of all the geopolitical and strategic forces surrounding each of these events, only those relating water resources to strategic decisionmaking have been culled for inspection in this work. However, in an analysis of this sort, one must be careful of overzealous reductionism. It is not being suggested that water is the prime motivator in the history of the people of the Jordan River watershed, nor even that water, of itself, has been the cause of conflict. In a section on "hydroconspiracy" theories, I examined two theories, "the hydraulic imperative" and "hydronationalism," and found both lacking in hydrologic (and therefore in political) legitimacy.
My contention is only as follows:
If emphasis is placed on easing regional water tensions, some breathing space might be gained, allowing for more complex political and historical difficulties to be negotiated. In fact, because the water problems to be solved involve all of the parties at conflict, and because these issues are so fundamental, the search for regional solutions may actually be used as a tool to facilitate cooperation. It has been shown that people who will not talk together about history or politics do, when their lives and economies depend on it, talk about water.
Before proceeding to examine possible solutions to the Middle East water conflict, we might look to history for lessons that may be applicable to the future. The above discussion of regional hydropolitics offers several lessons that could be useful in helping to formulate options for solutions to waterinduced tensions, as follows:
If one accepts that conflict can come about in part because of scarce water resources, and understands that, as populations and economies continue to grow against hydrologic limits, so do the dangers, the logical question is, "What is to be done?" In the following chapter, I survey the literature of several disciplines to develop an interdisciplinary model for evaluating water basin development and international water conflicts. In chapter 4, I use the model developed in chapter 3, and incorporate the guidelines from history outlined above, to suggest a process of ever-increasing cooperation for development of the Jordan River watershed.