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 U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy