A New Water-Sharing Agreement Will Benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians

July 17 2017

On Thursday, the American Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt announced that the concerned parties had reached an agreement for Israel to proceed with constructing a canal that will run through Jordanian territory to connect the Red and Dead Seas. Desalinated water from the canal will be directed to Israeli farms; in exchange, a new pipeline will bring water from Israel to Jordan, and Jerusalem will also increase the amount of water it provides to Palestinian areas in the West Bank. As Seth Siegel writes, the deal marks an important shift in the Palestinian Authority’s policies, and will bring much good:

The strategic genius of the plan is that it weaves vital economic interests of these sometimes-antagonists together. Even should Jordan or the West Bank someday fall to radical rejectionists, it would be nearly impossible for those leaders to break their water ties entirely . . . without creating substantial hardship for their populations.

But the biggest news out of the press conference isn’t what amounts to an update on the Red Sea-Dead Sea project [which has been in the works since 2013]. It is that senior water officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority shared a stage and warmly engaged with each other. It is, so to speak, a highwater mark in Israeli-Palestinian history regarding this precious resource. . . .

[B]eginning in 2008, the Palestinian leadership decided to turn water into a political tool to bludgeon Israel. The claim, which gained currency among some in the human-rights community and the news media, was that Israel was starving Palestinians of water to oppress them and to break their economy. Never mind that Israel was scrupulously . . . providing more than half of all the water used by Palestinians in the West Bank. . . . To keep this manufactured water crisis from being exposed as a sham, it was necessary to have Palestinian water projects grind to a halt. Palestinian academics, hydrologists, environmentalists, and others were strongly discouraged from doing water research or working on water projects with Israelis. . . .

Quietly, the Palestinian business community made clear that the value of blackening Israel’s name in some quarters was not worth the price being paid in quality of life and lost business opportunities.

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More about: Dead Sea, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Red Sea, Water

 

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy