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close this bookHydropolitics along the Jordan River. Scarce Water and Its Impact on the Arab-Israeli Conflict (UNU, 1995, 272 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the document1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. Hydrography and history
Open this folder and view contents3. Towards an interdisciplinary approach to water basin analysis and the resolution of international water disputes
Open this folder and view contents4. Interdisciplinary analysis and the Jordan River watershed
View the document5. Summary and conclusions
View the documentAfterword: Parting the waters
Open this folder and view contentsAppendices
Open this folder and view contentsSources

1. Introduction

All of the countries and territories in and around the Jordan River watershed - Israel, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza - are currently using between 95 per cent and more than 100 per cent of their annual renewable freshwater supply. In recent dry years, water consumption has routinely exceeded annual supply, the difference usually being made up through overpumping of fragile groundwater systems. By the end of the century, shortages will be the norm. Projected water requirements for the year 2000 are 2,000 million cubic metres (MCM) annually for Israel, approximately 130 per cent of current renewable supplies, and 1,000 MCM/yr, or 115 per cent of current supplies, for Jordan. Syrian water demand is expected to exceed available supply by 2010.

Superimposed on this regional water shortage are the political boundaries of countries that have been in a technical, when not actual, state of war since 1948. In fact, much of the political conflict has been either precipitated or exacerbated by conflicts over scarce water resources. Water-related incidents include the first Arab summit, with the consequent establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, armed escalation between Syria and Israel leading up to the Six-Day War in 1967 and, according to some, the war itself, as well as the current impasse over the final status of the West Bank. Israel's incursions into Lebanon and its continued presence there have also been linked to a "hydraulic imperative."

With only 1,400 MCM of usable flow annually flow 1992), the Jordan River is the smallest major watershed in the region, compared with the Nile with 74,000 MCM/yr or the Euphrates at 32,000 MCM/ yr. But, because of its geopolitical position, the Jordan has been described as "having witnessed more severe international conflict over water than any other river system in the Middle East ... and ... remains by far the most likely flashpoint for the future" (E. Anderson in Starr and Stoll 1988, 10).

In addition to a natural increase in demand for water due to growing populations and economies, the region can expect dramatic demographic changes from at least three sources. Israel expects about a million additional Soviet Jewish immigrants over the next decade (Bank of Israel 1991) - a 25 per cent increase over its present population. Jordan, meanwhile, recently absorbed 300,000 Palestinians expelled from Kuwait in the wake of the Gulf War. Finally, talks are being initiated over a greater level of autonomy of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Presumably, an autonomous Palestine would strive to absorb and settle a number of the 2.2 million Palestinians registered worldwide as refugees (Jaffee Center 1989, 206). The absorption of any or all of these groups of immigrants would have profound impacts on regional water demands.

Given the important role of water in the history of the Middle East conflict, and given imminent water shortages in this volatile region, the future can appear full of foreboding. Two recent American studies of the links between water resources and politics in the Middle East were sponsored by agencies whose primary interests are strategic or defence-related. Naff and Matson (1984) were commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a study by Starr and Stoll (1987; 1988) was carried out under the auspices of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The executive summary of the latter report begins, "Before the twenty-first century, the struggle over limited and threatened water resources could sunder already fragile ties among regional states and lead to unprecedented upheaval within the area." There is, however, some room for optimism. Along with being an impetus to conflict, water has also been a vehicle for cooperation. Throughout the 42 years of hostilities, water issues have been the subject of occasional secret talks and even some negotiated agreements between the states in the region. In regional peace talks, cooperation on regional water planning or technology might actually help provide momentum toward negotiated political settlement. According to Frey and Naff (1985, 67), "Precisely because it is essential to life and so highly charged, water can perhaps even tends to - produce cooperation even in the absence of trust between concerned actors." Finally, the pressures to cooperate might very well come from a clear understanding of the alternative. "If the people in the region are not clever enough to discuss a mutual solution to the problem of water scarcity," Meir Ben-Meir, former Israeli Water Commissioner, is quoted as saying, "then war is unavoidable" (cited in The Times, London, 21 February 1989).

What follows is an overview of the interplay between the waters of the Jordan River and the conflict between the states through which they flow. Included are sections on the natural hydrography of the watershed, a history of waterrelated conflict and cooperation in the region, and a survey of some resource strategy alternatives for the future.

The underlying premise is that the inextricable link between water and politics can be harnessed to help induce ever-increasing cooperation in planning or projects between otherwise hostile riparians, in essence "leading" regional peace talks. To show how this might be accomplished, a threepronged approach is taken.

In chapter 2, I present the hydrology of the Jordan River watershed, and the long and tempestuous hydropolitical relationship between the riparians, their water resources, and each other. I suggest that, throughout the history of the region, water has influenced settlement patterns, attitudes towards immigration, and political tensions. I also examine the rare instances of cooperation, albeit small-scale and secret, for lessons we might apply to the future of the basin.

In chapter 3, the literature of several disciplines that address various aspects of conflicts over water is surveyed. The disciplines included are the physical sciences, law, political science, economics, game theory, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). I suggest that, although each discipline provides useful guidelines to analysing different aspects of a watershed, no one discipline is capable of sufficiently evaluating watershed development and conflict analysis. I therefore develop an integrated interdisciplinary framework for analysis of water conflicts. Borrowing from the disciplines listed above, I provide steps for a preliminary watershed analysis; a framework for evaluating technical and policy options that might be available to a particular basin dependent on values for technical, economic, and political viability; and a process for "cooperation-inducing design" for development plans and projects.

In chapter 4, I apply the framework for analysis to the Jordan River watershed. By determining, in general terms, which options are more viable than others for the Jordan basin, I suggest a four-stage process for watershed development by which cooperation can grow from "small and doable" planning, through steps incorporating guidelines for cooperation-inducing measures, to ever-increasing cooperation and integration of the watershed. The four steps include negotiating an equitable division of existing resources; emphasizing greater efficiency for water supply and demand; alleviating short-term needs through interbasin water transfers, if available and politically viable; and developing a regional desalination project in cooperation-inducing stages. By including feedback within the evaluation framework between the hydrologic and political aspects of hydropolitics I suggest that water issues can remain on the cutting edge of political relations, in essence "leading" a peace process.

As might be surmised, the approach that I take does not follow the traditional pattern of a unidisciplinary study of resources management. It is suggested that, by its very nature, water is an interdisciplinary topic. By acknowledging, and even embracing, the relationship between the disciplines that analyse water issues, I argue that the field of resource management is broadened. In the process, some of the disciplines themselves are broadened. It is argued, for example, that "dispute systems design," a relatively new subfield of ADR that offers guidelines for incorporating vehicles for conflict resolution within organizations and institutions, can be applied equally well to resource plans and even physical projects for resource development. I call the process that I advocate - separating control of existing resources, examining bargaining mixes for clues to systems design, and designing for ever-increasing cooperation - "cooperation-inducing design.',

The emphasis of this study, however, is not necessarily to broaden disciplines. My interest is water and people, and the question to be answered is, "What works?" for assessing international water basins in general, and for attempting to resolve the conflicts in this especially contentious basin in particular.

This work could not have been completed without a tremendous amount of help from many people - academics, policy makers, staff people, and friends. Although I cannot possibly thank them all, I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few.

My greatest debt is to Professor John Ross, recently my academic adviser and now my colleague and good friend. Throughout this lengthy and sometimes trying process, John helped guide me through university bureaucracies, kept me funded, was a helpful presence when one was needed and backed off when I had to find my own way. Mostly, though, he kept me as intellectually honest as possible, without being dogmatic or preachy. For his quiet but firm guidance, and for his friendship, I am grateful.

I also owe special thanks to Professors Jerry Kaufman, Erhard Joeres, Jean Bahr, Joe Elder, and Nancy Wilkinson, whose student I was fortunate enough to be; and to Professors Tom Naff, John Kolars, Arnon Sofer, Hillel Shuval, Steve Lonergan, and Elias Salameh, all of whom were exceedingly generous with their time although I was not, strictly speaking, their job. I owe a particular debt to Professors Ariel Dinar and Asit Biswas, both of whom went out of their way to be helpful, always had time for advice, and never considered even the most trivial question out of line.

A study of this nature would not have been possible without the assistance and openness of water policy makers throughout the US and the Middle East, Special thanks are due to Jerome Delli Priscoli, Allen Keiswetter, Fred Hof, Joyce Starr, Steve Lintner, John Hayward, and Ulrich Kuffner, in Washington; Yehoshua Schwartz, Menahem Cantor, Yossef Elkanna, Shmuel Cantor, Zeev Golani, Avner Turgeman, Reuven Pedhatzor, Irv Speiwak, and Generals Avraham Tamir, Aryeh Shalev, and Moshe Yisraeli, in Israel; Jad Isaac, Nader El-Khatib, and Hisham Zarour, in the West Bank; and Jamil Rashdan, Sweilem Haddad, Munther Haddadin, and Mohammed Maali, in Jordan.

Special thanks are due also to those in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who first coined the concept "water-for-peace," and who were so open in sharing their experiences: Alvin Weinberg, Cal Burwell, and Senator Howard Baker. The Center for Environmental Policy Studies, the University of Wisconsin Graduate School, and the US Institute of Peace each provided funding and technical support for various stages of this project, for which, of course, I am particularly grateful. I would like specifically to mention Barbara Borns of the University of Wisconsin, and Otto Koester and Ambassador Sam Lewis of the USIP for their advice and assistance. Thanks, too, to Ofra Perlmutter of the Weizmann Archives in Rehovot, for teaching me how to say "serendipity" in Hebrew.

I am likewise indebted to the staff at the United Nations University Press for their assistance in seeing this manuscript through to its present form. Special thanks are due to Heather Russell for her meticulous editing.

I am, of course, grateful to all of the interviewees listed throughout this volume. I am particularly grateful to those interviewees who could not be named but who, through sharing their information, showed their belief that open information is a prerequisite to fruitful dialogue.

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to a very special couple David Shutkin and Connie Friedman - the former for allowing me to bounce even the most far-fetched ideas off him over a game of chess and a beer, and the latter for taking pen in hand to read a draft when need be.

Finally, this project would not have been possible, nor the past eight years of my life quite so enjoyable, without the constant support of my wife, Ariella. Our respective, and now collective, families were also tremendously patient and supportive. But for putting up with late-night typing sessions, the shifting piles of paper sprawled around the apartment, and a honeymoon squeezed between the second and third drafts, it is to Ariella that I dedicate this volume, with love.

A note on terminology and sources. In a region as politically volatile as the Middle East, the language one uses for subjects as seemingly innocuous as geographic locations takes on grave political implications. I have tried to steer what narrow middle road there is in usage. For example, I use West Bank, rather than Occupied Territories or Judaea and Samaria, and Sea of Galilee, rather than Lake Tiberias or Lake Kinneret. The "Green Line" refers to the armistice line that held between Israel and her neighbours between 1948 and 1967. Other place names vary between English, Hebrew, and Arabic usage.

Also, in investigating a somewhat sensitive topic, I have discovered some sources that cannot be cited and encountered some interview subjects who prefer to remain unnamed. In my research, I tried to verify every point of information with at least two, and preferably three, independent sources. In some cases, however, I am able to cite only one source, or, on rare occasions, none at all.