Starting with the Military Training and Cooperation Agreement signed on February 24, 1996, the Israeli-Turkish strategic partnership has spread to other fields of cooperation such as trade, tourism and science. After the free-trade agreement, which took effect in May 1997, the trade volume between Israel and Turkey rose in a short time to $1.2 billion. Turkey has become Israel’s most important trading partner in the Middle East. Each year about 330,000 Israeli tourists contribute to the Turkish economy, spending around $250 million. Israeli and Turkish companies have been investing individually and jointly in each other’s country. Scientific cooperation between universities and scientific institutions in both countries has increased sharply.1
Now Israel and Turkey are about to add a new dimension to their relations: water trade. Israel has been suffering from its worst water crisis, caused by severe droughts for three years in a row (19982001) and rapidly increasing water consumption due to population growth and a rise in living standards. The deficit in its water budget threatens Israel’s political and economic stability as well as the peace process in the Middle East. So, after long negotiations on the total cost, Israel and Turkey signed an agreement on August 6, 2002, that would make water trade a reality for the first time in the modern history of the Middle East.
ISRAEL’S WATER CRISIS
The immediate cause of the current water crisis in Israel was a drastic shortage of rainfall in the winter of 1998-99. In addition, Israel consumed fresh water above the replenishment rate. Since 1998, the water level in Lake Tiberias (a.k.a. the Sea of Galilee and Lake Kinneret), Israel’s only sizable reservoir, which supplies 27 percent of the country’s fresh water, has been dropping continuously. Despite the wet winter in 2003, the water level in the lake is still dangerously low. The reason for the fall in the water level is not only seasonal and periodic climate changes. It is a combination of drought and over-utilization. In the post-Cold War years, through successful aliyah campaigns, a large number of Jewish immigrants, especially from Russia, Eastern Europe and Ethiopia, have increased Israel’s total population. With rising living standards, the water consumption per household also rose. These demographic factors prevented Israel from keeping water use stable during the drought years. In the period 1998-99, 400 million cubic meters (mcm) of water were drawn from Lake Tiberias, but only 95 mcm were replenished.2
The water crisis is not limited to Lake Tiberias. Israel’s other fresh-water resources, the Upper Jordan River and its tributaries, the Mountain Aquifer (especially the western part, the Yarkon-Taninim Aquifer), whose water catchment area is the West Bank heights, and the Coastal Aquifer parallel to the Mediterranean coast are under natural and anthropogenic threats. After leaving Lake Tiberias, the Jordan River empties its waters into the Dead Sea. However, in recent years the river could not reach the Dead Sea, causing it to rapidly recede. Although not a fresh water resource, the Dead Sea is a valuable economic asset important to both Israel and Jordan for tourism and mining.
The water levels in all major freshwater sources in the Jordan River Basin including Lake Tiberias dropped below the “red lines” that are widely accepted in Israel as a “state of emergency.” The water shortage compelled Water Commissioner Shimon Tal to authorize letting them drop below the red lines. The water level was lowered to 215 meters below sea level from 212 meters within a couple of years.3 To put the figures in perspective, each 30 centimeters amounts to about 10 percent of Israel’s annual water consumption.
Shimon Tal prepared a document on long-term water policy that was approved by the Israeli government in August 2001. Depending on the assumptions of maintaining the actual level of per capita water consumption and preserving agricultural production, the total need for potable water in 2020 will be 210 mcm greater than the total need in 2002. The amount of water of lower quality (including treated sewage water) needed for agriculture and industry will be 375 mcm higher.4 Israel’s current total water demand is about 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year, whereas the average renewable fresh-water yield per year is only about 1.5 bcm. Even today, Israel cannot meet its water demand by just drawing replenishable water from the rivers and aquifers. The Water Commission’s Hydrology Department updated its estimates of available potable water for 2001, revealing that Israel had 475 mcm of water less than needed to meet its water requirements.5 A worst case scenario was released in a report by Greenpeace on the assumption that less precipitation, higher evaporation and more salination of groundwater are very likely, due to the negative impact of global warming. Taking these negative impacts into consideration, the Greenpeace report estimates that the deficit in Israel’s water budget in 2010 will be 720-900 mcm.6
Emphasizing the deficit in Israel’s water budget as an explanation of the water crisis in the country is necessary, but not sufficient. Problems regarding the quality of supplied water should also be mentioned. Because of falling levels of groundwater, seawater has seeped into the southern Coastal Aquifer. This salination causes irreparable damage to the quality of the water. Salination is also threatening the waters of Lake Tiberias and other aquifers due to higher concentrations of pollutants in the reduced amount of remaining water. High population growth, rapid urbanization and industrialization are other factors producing biological and chemical pollutants that contaminate the available water resources. In addition, the catchment areas of the aquifers have been occupied by more and more buildings and factories. These development projects prevent rainfall and floodwaters from replenishing the aquifers under them and eliminate the possibility of water harvesting. The degrading of the quantity and quality of available water may lead to a catastrophe unless precautionary steps are taken.7
Some steps were taken after serious warnings and proposals for saving water and creating new sources were given to the government by Water Commissioner Tal. The Israeli government cut agricultural use of water by one-third and farmers’ fresh water quotas by one-half. Production of some vegetables and fruits, such as citrus, which consume a great deal of water, was reduced. In order to decrease consumption and save about 200 mcm of water a year, the government raised the price of potable water by 48 percent for farmers, and by 67 percent for town dwellers in September 2001.8 A total ban on watering lawns and parts of parks and gardens for three years and the introduction of emergency measures for water supplies in cities were among the drastic proposals presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.9 Members of the Knesset prepared a 300-page report in which they recommended that the Israeli government declare a state of water emergency for two years.10 Prime Minister Sharon was advised to move responsibility for the country’s water management to the prime minister’s office and to establish an independent water authority. The report also warned that the water crisis would only worsen in the coming three years and that the lack of potable water could have a wide-ranging impact on Israel’s economy.
Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in water conservation. The Hebrew slogan “haval al kol tipa” (regret for every drop) is instilled in almost every citizen. Israeli scientists invented drip irrigation methods that have led to very effective agricultural use of water and huge water savings. Almost 60 percent of total wastewater in urban areas has been neutralized for re-use in agriculture. However, all these successful applications of conservation and allocation will not be enough to meet the growing demand. According to Water Commissioner Tal, “The water supplies of Israel have reached their gravest crisis ever.”11 All parties responsible for water management in the country agree on the necessity of developing additional water sources to overcome the water crisis, which is defined as a serious threat to national security.
The crisis has negatively affected Israel’s relations with its neighbors. Israel has water-sharing problems with the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. More than two-thirds of all available fresh water in Israel comes from the neighboring countries. The competition to maximize the use of transboundary waters is causing problems. Recent droughts have heightened the tensions.
Sharing the waters of the Mountain Aquifer, especially the western part (Yarkon-Taninim), which is fed by winter rainfall in the West Bank and runs towards the Israeli plains, is a source of problems between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The relatively high-quality waters of this aquifer have been under strict Israeli control since 1967. Every new water project, from drilling a well to laying pipe, requires Israeli approval. Israel has allowed the Palestinians to use those waters only for drinking. More than half the wells drilled for irrigation purposes have been abandoned by the Israeli authorities.12 A Palestinian uses an average of 70 liters a day, whereas an Israeli consumes 348 liters.13 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the daily minimum of water needed is 100 liters per capita. The Palestinians accuse Israel of “stealing” their water, while Israel criticizes the Palestinians for contaminating this valuable aquifer. Israel’s major concern is the possible degradation of the waters of the aquifer in quantity and quality if a Palestinian state takes full control of this resource. Israel’s dependency on the aquifer is one of the hardest questions for the peace process. This is why water-related negotiations were postponed until the final stage of the peace process during the Oslo talks.
Water is the most sensitive item on the agenda in Israeli-Jordanian relations. The waters of the Jordan River and its main tributary, the Yarmuk, are shared by both countries. The peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan on October 26, 1994, included water-related issues in its Article 6 and Annex 2, which defined the principles on allocation of the shared water resources.14 In addition, Israel promised to provide Jordan with 50 mcm of high-quality water annually. However, the agreement was not fully implemented. Especially in drought years, Israel could not supply that quantity of water to Jordan. The planned project, the Makrain (al Wahada) Dam, on 121/Adassiya point of the Yarmuk River, which would collect the waters of the river at a distance of about 40 kilometers from the Israeli-Jordanian border in order to supply water to Jordan, has not become a reality because of Israel’s recalcitrance. Moreover, the joint desalination plant that Israel and Jordan agreed to build on the Jordan River on the Israeli side of the border is still on paper.
With the goal of resolving the water dispute, the parties signed an additional bilateral agreement on May 27, 1997.15 According to this agreement, Israel would grant Jordan an additional 25 mcm of water for a period of three years until the construction of the planned desalination plant. When the three-year period ended, Israel informed Jordan that the agreement was no longer valid. Jordan has been claiming that, although the agreement has expired, Israel must continue to provide it with 50 mcm of water according to the peace treaty. Both parties have a certain degree of responsibility for this deadlock. Due to its economic problems, Jordan is not prepared to invest any money in the desalination plant, and Israel does not want to undertake the whole burden. Since the financial details were not specified in the agreements, the deadlock has not ended and the project has been suspended.
Another cause of dispute, the Makrain dam project, is not supported by Israel because of its impact on the amount of Yarmuk waters flowing into the Jordan River. Still, officials from both countries continue to negotiate and develop new joint projects for solving their water problems. At the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg on September 1, 2002, the Israeli and Jordanian delegates announced that they would plan to build the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal Project. A 186-mile pipeline, at a cost of about $ 1 billion, would be constructed to pump water from the Red Sea in order to save the rapidly receding Dead Sea and provide Jordan with desalinated water by a plant that would be built at the mouth of the canal to the Dead Sea.16
Water was one of the four major topics of the bilateral and indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. Syria is an upstream country in the Yarmuk River Basin. How Syria utilizes the waters of the Yarmuk has a tremendous impact on Jordan’s water budget as well as Israel’s. The river contributes to the Israeli water budget by about 100 mcm annually. The main dispute between Israel and Syria is the Golan Heights, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The Golan is not only a militarily strategic area; it is also vital hydrologically. Israel has been able to control the upper Jordan River, Lake Tiberias and the lower part of the Yarmuk River.17 Israel has also utilized springs in the Heights to provide Jewish settlements with water. By controlling the Golan, Israel has secured the quality as well as the quantity of the waters of Lake Tiberias, which is fed by the floodwaters and streams flowing from the Heights. The Israeli control of this territory prevents any possibility of diversion of the waters of the Banias River, which originates in the Heights. A Syrian diversion plan for the river triggered the Six-day War in 1967. Israel seems unlikely to withdraw from the Golan without guarantees from Syria about the water resources.18 Israel’s main concern is that a land-for-peace agreement with Syria will jeopardize its control over the quantity and quality of the waters of Upper Jordan River and Lake Tiberias.19
Israel has water-sharing problems with its northern neighbor Lebanon, too. Recent droughts have forced the countries in the Jordan River Basin to maximize their uses of transboundary water resources regardless of the amount of water those resources have. The Hasbani River, which provides only 10 percent of Israel’s water budget, became the cause of a major diplomatic crisis between Israel and Lebanon in September 2002, when Lebanon built a pumping station in order to divert a small amount of water for drinking and irrigation. The Hasbani runs 20 kilometers, and its tributary, the Wazzani, flows 50 kilometers in southern Lebanon before entering Israel. After Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon ended in May 2000, Lebanon initiated plans to develop its poor southern region by using the waters of these rivers for agriculture. This development project was not welcomed by Israeli officials, who wanted the Lebanese government to stop it.20 Furthermore, Israel has warned Lebanon that if it went ahead with its plan, Israel would treat the project as a casus belli.21 Despite Israeli warnings, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud stressed that Lebanon’s decision to benefit from the water resources was “final.”22 The United States sent Jim Franckiewicz, an American water expert, to southern Lebanon as a mediator in order to ease tensions.23 Lebanon’s desire to divert more waters from the Hasbani and Wazzani is likely to escalate the tension between the two countries.24
OPTIONS FOR SOLUTION OF THE WATER CRISIS
Related ministries, government agencies, universities and civil-society organizations in Israel have prepared reports and proposals, organized meetings and exchanged views in order to find a solution for the water shortage. In almost all these efforts the most underscored options have been conservation, desalination and imports from Turkey. It is also accepted that Israel should create new and additional water sources in the fight against the crisis, because even maximum water savings would not be enough to end the crisis under pressures of rapidly growing demand, contamination of available resources, responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan in terms of providing water, and the agricultural use of water (which has not been more restricted due to Israel’s powerful agricultural lobby). The urgency for the implementation of desalination projects and water imports is widely shared. Meanwhile, all are hoping for a wet winter.
Water Commissioner Tal presented his proposal, which included building two major seawater-desalination units, each capable of producing 50 mcm of purified water a year, increasing the quantity of treated sewage available for irrigation purposes, constructing smaller units for desalination of brackish and saline water, and importing water from Turkey.25 Tal also warned that any bureaucratic delays which would slow the implementation of major projects would only worsen an already critical situation and jeopardize the quality of the country’s water sources and the ability to provide fresh water for even basic requirements.
In light of the proposals and warnings, Prime Minister Sharon’s ministerial economics committee prepared a new plan aiming to achieve a savings of at least 200 mcm of water per year over the next three years. Both urban and agricultural water use would be reduced at equal levels in order to reach the goal. Desalination plants that are able to produce 200 mcm of water annually would be constructed. The cost of water for home users would also be increased, depending on the water used by each individual household. Accessories and appliances would also be promoted to encourage water savings on a residential basis.26 A team of local experts prepared their plan after spending two years weighing important scientific and technological discoveries, strategic and international factors, and budgetary and political woes. The plan was presented at a conference entitled “Efficient Use of Limited Water Resources: Making Israel a Model State,” which was organized by Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. According to the plan, the country’s water problems can be solved by a combination of accelerating desalination projects, getting water from Turkey and improving conservation. The plan also says the nation’s agricultural resources must be protected, even though subsidies must be ended.27
In dealing with water shortages, demand-oriented options such as water conservation are the first attempts because they are economical and short-term. However, in severe conditions characterized by long drought periods and overutilization of limited available water in arid countries such as Israel, supply-oriented measures like desalination and water imports are a must — although they are expensive and long-term. It is clear today that Israel has to create new water sources along with trying to save almost every drop. Israeli scientists are working on cost-effective ways of desalination by using solar energy or sea currents as renewable and cheap energy sources and innovative methods of desalination, such as reverse osmosis, in order to decrease the cost of desalinated water to less than a dollar per cubic meter. The Israeli government is planning to build a major desalination plant on the Mediterranean coast at Ashkelon. However, some water experts think that desalinated water will not be enough to narrow the gap between the demand and supply. Amikam Nachmani of Bar-Ilan University says that, with Israel’s annual natural growth necessitating an additional 50 mcm of water per year, Israel needs to build a new desalination plant every year, since each plant can produce no more than 50 mcm of water. Shaul Arlosoroff, chairman of the Water Engineers Association and the Public Committee for the Management of Water Resources in Israel, believes desalination, which is expensive, could be postponed for a few more years. According to Arlosoroff, to supply an equivalent 20-25 percent increase in water through desalination would mean building 10 plants at a cost of more than $2 billion. Because of the high cost of the desalinated water, it won’t solve the problem of agriculture, which needs a relatively inexpensive alternative to fresh water for irrigation.28
THE MANAVGAT PROJECT AND WATER TRADE
The other option for supplying additional water to Israel is importing water from Turkey through its Manavgat Project. The Manavgat River empties to the Mediterranean Sea at a point about 80 kilometers east of the province of Antalya, Turkey. The total volume of the Manavgat River amounts to about 4.7 bcm per year. On this waterway Turkey’s State Hydraulic Works (DSI), the governmental agency responsible for supplying water, built the Oymapinar and Manavgat Dams in 1984 and 1987, respectively. Both dams produce a total of 1,840 GW of electrical power and irrigate 10,600 hectares of agricultural land. In order to benefit from 180 mcm a year of surplus water from the Manavgat River, the DSI initiated the Manavgat Project at a total cost of $116 million. The Manavgat Water Supply Plant, with its water-purification and treatment plant, terminals and pipeline network, was inaugurated on December 8, 1998, with a ceremony in which then-Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit participated. With this project, DSI was planning to supply water to cities in southern Turkey, the populations of which are almost tripled during the summer by tourists. The agency has also planned to export the surplus water of the Manavgat River to the arid countries in the eastern Mediterranean region. The terminals at the mouth of the river were built to receive 500,000 cubic meters per day from the Manavgat Dam. Half this amount can be supplied as drinking water after processing in the purification and treatment plant. The terminals can load 15.6 cubic meters of water per second to 250,000-ton tankers.29 The Turkish Cypriots became the first beneficiaries of the project, which supplies about seven mcm of water to the island a year.30
Israel had been interested in the Manavgat Project even before it became a reality. Israel’s water planning and research institution, Tahal, had water engineer Abraham Shemtov prepare a report on the project in June 1990. According to Shemtov’s report, in the first phase 250 mcm of water would be transported yearly to Israel via huge plastic balloons; in the second phase that amount would be increased to 400 mcm.31 In November 1993, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Perez told Turkish journalists that Israel purchased natural gas, so it could purchase water too. He emphasized that Israel was open to every project regarding water import.32 The Israeli government’s 1996 report, entitled “Development Alternatives for Cooperation in the Middle East and East Mediterranean Region,” recommended that Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority cooperate on water imports from Turkey in order to overcome shortages.33 Turkey’s former president, Suleyman Demirel, on an official visit to Israel on July 14, 1999, said that Manavgat waters could remedy Israel’s chronic water shortage. Demirel projected that Turkey could supply Israel with 180 mcm of water per year, increasing that to 4 bcm annually in the future. According to him, that would meet Israel’s needs “several times over” at a total cost much lower than desalination.34
Two views on creating new water sources were argued in Israel during the 1990s. The conservative view led by the ministries of Agriculture and Infrastructure supported desalination rather than water imports. The conservatives do not want to be dependent on another country for such a vital natural resource. Commercial enterprises in Israel also supported this view, thinking that they could benefit from a new market for desalination plants. The progressive view, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, backed water imports from Turkey, not only for gaining access to high-quality water in a short time, but also for strengthening Israel’s strategic partnership with Turkey. Governmental agencies responsible for water management, like the Office of the Water Commissioner and Mekorot, the national water company, supported that view. In light of the disagreements, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak formed a commission to look into the matter. It concluded that, due to the severity of the water crisis, immediate action was necessary.35 Thus, the Israeli government directed the building of a desalination plant in Ashkelon while it was reviewing the plans on importing water from Turkey. Prime Minister Barak’s adviser on water issues, Noah Kinarti, presented the government on April 17, 2000, with a plan on water import. According to the plan, Israel would purchase 50 mcm of water per year from Turkey to be transported to Israel in two giant tanks and placed in a special terminal in Ashkelon. From there, the water would be channeled to a reservoir in Zohar to be used for irrigation in the Negev Desert. Kinarti’s plan estimated the cost of imported water at just under a dollar per cubic meter, the same price as desalinated water.36
Following the discussion of plans on water import, a top-level interministerial delegation visited Turkey on June 19, 2000, to assess arrangements for fresh-water imports in summer 2001 as an emergency measure. The water would be offloaded at a jetty in Ashkelon and from there piped into the National Water Carrier. It was estimated that at least $20 million would have to be spent preparing the jetty and laying a new 13-kilometer pipeline from Ashkelon to a reservoir in the Lachish area.37 The Israeli delegation and Turkish officials met once more on June 30 over details of the price of Turkish water and transport costs. The Israeli party wanted to reduce the original price of 23 cents per cubic meter by 5-10 cents, not including transport and purification costs.38 Israeli officials were pushing for a selling price of 15 cents and put out tenders for tanker transportation bids that pointed towards an end price of 50-55 cents per cubic meter. In November 2000, Israel’s minister of finance, Avraham Shochat, ordered formal negotiations to begin with Ankara after Turkish officials purportedly agreed to reduce the original price.39
After these negotiations, the countries agreed to a water trade in a preliminary deal during a high-level Israeli team’s visit to Ankara on January 22, 2001. Over the 10-year contract, Israel was to buy 50 mcm of Turkish water annually. Israeli embassy spokesman Gilead Cohen said that a discussion protocol was signed, and that a Turkish team would travel to Israel in order to work out details of the cost of transporting the water.40 A tender would be opened in March to select the best offer from among the 15 competing companies. The operational part of the deal was expected to start in May 2001.
However, Israel’s insistence that the price be reduced even more prevented the final step in the negotiations and disappointed Turkish officials. At the meeting on May 24, 2001, both sides agreed to postpone a final decision until after the completion of the international tender for the project in Israel.41 Turkey’s then-State Minister Tunca Toskay said that Turkey would not strike a water deal in a hasty way. Toskay concluded that, as water would be the most critical issue in the next 20 years, Turkey had to be careful in making decisions.42 The deadlock on the price of the Manavgat waters could not be broken. Moreover, in June 2001, Israel canceled the international tender. The competing companies had opposed a clause in the tender that would allow the Israeli government to cancel the project without compensation for up to a year after signing the deal.43 This suspension of the deal was criticized not only by Turkish officials but also by those Israelis who had been supporting the project as a necessary measure for overcoming the country’s water crisis.44
In order to clear the uncertainty, Israel’s former minister of defense, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, offered a deal in his visit to Turkey in the first week of July 2001: Turkey could pay the cost of modernization of the Turkish Army’s military tanks by Israel in water rather than cash.45 Although early responses to this offer by Turkish officials were positive, it did not lead to a resolution.
Israeli and Turkish delegates met in Ankara once more during the last week of April 2002 to negotiate the final price of Manavgat waters.46 Israel was looking to reduce the total cost. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, David Sultan, said that Israel might not buy the water, due to the high cost of transporting it to Israel.47 Israel was expected to announce the final decision on purchasing water by June 2002, after Cabinet discussions on the issue.48 The final decision was announced during the visit of Turkey’s previous energy minister, Zeki Cakan, on August 6, 2002. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Zeki Cakan reached the deal at a meeting in Jerusalem. Israel would buy 50 mcm of water from Turkey every year for the next 20 years. The final price has not been reached, but a joint committee was set up “to discuss and finalize the issue of water transportation from Turkey to Israel,” according to a joint statement released after the talks. Raanan Gissin, an official in the office of the Israeli prime minister, said that Israel and Turkey had a “very large, complex strategic and commercial relationship,” so both were interested in reaching an agreement. He added that because Turkey was an important part of Israel’s overall regional policy, Israel had agreed to buy water at a higher price than it would have cost to desalinate. According to Gissin, Israel would not have desalination facilities for at least another five years.49
The operational part of the deal was expected to start in 2004. The first water trade on this scale in the history of the Middle East will help to remedy chronic water shortages in the Jordan River Basin. It is likely to be instrumental in the settling of water disputes in the region and in finalizing the Middle East peace talks.
A STEP TOWARDS MIDDLE EAST PEACE
It will be a relief for authorities responsible for water management in Israel to have an additional 50 mcm of high-quality water every year for the next 20 years, enough to meet the annual natural growth in demand. In wet years, the imported Manavgat waters will be used to recharge the underground reservoirs, which are already degraded. Every drop of the high quality water will stop further deterioration of the southern Coastal Aquifer, into which seawater has already seeped. Manavgat waters are meant to ensure the country’s main reservoirs balanced in quality and quantity. Moreover, the stored Manavgat waters in the underground reservoirs will be utilized to meet the growing demand in severe drought years. Since the capacity of the Manavgat Project is well over 50 mcm a year, Israel will be able to demand more water to balance its water budget in conditions of acute water shortage. The Manavgat Project will play the role of a water bank for Israel, relieving its water stress. It will also give Israel time to develop the most cost-effective and efficient desalination plants.
Israel’s attempt to maximize its water share in the transboundary river basins in order to overcome its water crisis has heightened tensions in the region, leading to further belligerence among the riparian countries of the Jordan River Basin. Relieved by Manavgat waters, Israel could reduce the tensions over the water disputes in the basin. Furthermore, Israel could cooperate with its neighbors to develop common projects based on the Manavgat Project.
Israel’s dependence on the transboundary waters of the rain-fed Mountain Aquifer is the main reason for Israel’s unwillingness to withdraw from the West Bank. Sharing the waters of the aquifer is complicating Israeli-Palestinian relations and creating a heavy burden for a potential peace settlement. The Manavgat Project would decrease Israel’s dependency on the aquifer and, in addition, lead to common projects between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The project could supply water to the Gaza Strip, one of the water-poorest areas in the world, if there were cooperation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. By this means, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are suffering acutely from lack of fresh water, would have a high-quality supply without Israel’s having to actually provide it out of its own water budget.
Israel has not been able to provide Jordan with the annual 50 mcm of water that it committed itself to in the peace treaty. This has caused a serious problem in Israel’s relations with its “best” neighbor. Manavgat waters will enable Israel to keep its promise to Jordan and also allow time for the two to solve the financial and political obstacles to their joint projects, such as the planned desalination plant. Besides that, the Manavgat Project is likely to be another common endeavor for both countries; Jordan wants to benefit from the project too.50 Manavgat waters can be transported via pipelines from Ashkelon to Amman, which desperately needs new water sources.
Israel’s unwillingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights is in large part based on the same factor as its unwillingness to leave the West Bank: water. During the peace talks with Syria, Israel sought a guarantee on water resources and made it clear that without one it would not withdraw from the Golan, where Israel has controlled the Banias River, the Yarmuk River and Lake Tiberias since 1967. An Israel restored by Manavgat waters might resume peace talks with Syria to reach the political stability and border security that are more valuable than water itself. The cost of creating additional water sources is certainly less than the cost of military actions for securing the same amount of shared water.
A diplomatic crisis between Israel and Lebanon occurred after Lebanon decided to divert the transboundary waters of the Hasbani and Wazzani Rivers to develop its poor southern region. Some hawkish Israeli leaders even proposed military action to stop the diversion, which would become more costly than the total price of the diverted 11 mcm of water a year. Moreover, such military action would destabilize the region politically and provoke belligerent responses. Again, an Israel with additional water sources would not have to fight for every possible drop of water and could lessen tensions in order to resolve not only the water disputes but other problematic issues also.
1 The Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2000; Milliyet, July 13, 2001.
2 Cited from Serge Schmemann’s interview with Dr. Doron Markel, the official in the state Water Commission responsible for coordinating the monitoring of Lake Tiberias. The New York Times, September 10, 2002.
3 The red line for Lake Tiberias is 213 meters below sea level.
4 S. Deconinck, “Israeli Water Policy in a Regional Context of Conflict: Prospects for Sustainable Development for Israelis and Palestinians?,” February 2002, online: http://waternet.rug.ac.be/waterpolicy1.htm.
5 Amiram Cohen, “Report: Water Crisis Worse than Predicted – Seawater Has Penetrated Coastal Aquifer,” Haaretz special for the Online Edition, “Water Crisis,” September 4, 2001, online: http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng. 6 The Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2000.
7 The Israel Cancer Association announced that Israel’s drinking water contains carcinogenic chemicals. Baruch Modan, the chairman of the association’s Environmental Carcinogenics Committee, warned that individual municipalities should tell their costumers whether or not their drinking water is safe. The Jerusalem Post Radio, June 27, 2000, Lexis-Nexis, online: http://www.lexis-nexis.com. The Israeli Ministry of Health has announced such warnings, too.
8 Haaretz, September 4, 2001.
9 The Jerusalem Post, March 6, 2001.
10 Xinhua News Agency, May 29, 2002.
11 The New York Times, September 10, 2002.
12 Before the year 1967 there were 774 wells which were drilled for irrigation purposes in the West Bank. Today only 328 wells are still operating. The rest have been abandoned, either because they dried up due to their shallowness or because the areas they were located in were declared as “restricted military areas” by the Israeli Army. In 1976, the Israeli civil administration for the occupied territories imposed and enforced regulatory measures to restrict the quantities of water to be extracted from the operating wells for agricultural use. The Palestine Media Center, “Fact Sheet: Development of Water Resources,” March 26, 2001, online: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/; B’Tselem-The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Summer 2002 in the West Bank: Especially Severe Water Shortages,” August 1, 2002, online: http://www.btselem.org/English/Special/020801_Water.asp.
13 Gideon Levy, “The Long, Dry Summer,” Haaretz, June 24, 2001.
14 For the full text of the peace treaty, visit the website of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at http:// www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00pa0.
15 Ze’ev Schiff, “The Water Dispute Reawakens,” Haaretz special for the online edition, “Water Crisis,” September 4, 2001, online: http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng.
16 The New York Times, September 2, 2002. Dureid Mahasneh, the Jordanian delegate in the peace talks and water expert, had already informed about the planned project. Dureid Mahasneh, “Diplomatic Efforts Focus on Water,” Jordan Times, September 6, 2000.
17 For a detailed map, visit Le Monde Diplomatique’s website at: http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cartes/ israelnorddpl2000.
18 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during a visit to the Golan Heights, said that Israel would not withdraw from the area. Sharon said to the Jewish settlers: “There will be no real peace if we’re not here.” He stressed the importance of residing in the Golan. Israel Line, July 11, 2001; Maariv, July 10, 2001.
19 If Israel withdraws from the area within the framework of a final settlement on the Golan Heights, it will lose about 60 million cubic meters of water annually.
20 When Lebanon started to build a new pumping station, just across the Lebanese-Israeli border, to draw water from the Hasbani River in March 2002, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the plan intolerable, and Michael Kleiner, member of Knesset, demanded the station be bombed forthwith. Erik Shechter, “Brief Encounter: Amikam Nachmani, Water Expert,” Haaretz special for the online edition, “Water Crisis.” Despite Israeli protests, the Lebanese government intensified its efforts to carry out the development project. Israeli officials claimed that about 30 percent of the Hasbani flow was being diverted. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said at a cabinet meeting: “Israel cannot agree to allow Lebanon to divert essential water sources.” Israel Line, September 11, 2002.
21 Eyal Zisser, “Israel and Lebanon: The Battle for the Wazzani,” Tel Aviv Notes, No. 50, October 14, 2002, p. 1.
22 Lebanese President Emile Lahoud announced that “Israel’s threats” would not stop them from implementing international laws regarding water and rivers flowing from their territories. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon warned Lebanon not to divert water from the resources, telling Army Radio that he saw the attempt to do so as “a pretext for war.” Haaretz, September 15, 2002. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry’s director-general, Mohammed Issa, urged the envoys of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to seek their countries’ intervention in preventing Israel from resorting to military action over water. The Daily Star, September 13, 2002. Lebanon inaugurated the new pumping station on the Wazzani River a mile (1.6 km) from the border on October 15, 2002, with a high-profile ceremony in which Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and cabinet ministers attended along with representatives of the EU and Russia. BBC News, World Edition, October 16, 2002. The Lebanese government argues that it is within its rights to use the new station, which it says will add an extra four million cubic meters a year to the seven million cubic meters it currently draws from the Hasbani River.
23 BBC World, September 18, 2002. Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other members of the “Madrid Quartet” to discuss diplomatic solutions to the water dispute. According to Peres, both Hezbollah and the Syrian government have played a role in the conflict. Israel Line, September 17, 2002. Secretary Powell said the expert was trying to determine if the pumping was consistent with rules, regulations and agreements made over the years. He added: “We understand the sensitivity of the issue but we don’t want to see a new crisis developing over the diversion of water out of the river.” Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Asad told Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri that Syria would support the Lebanese stand in its water dispute with Israel. AP Worldstream, September 17, 2002. Also, Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his group would retaliate “within minutes” if Israel attacked a controversial water pumping station in southern Lebanon. BBC World, October 15, 2002.
24 American pressure recently led to a Lebanese decision to reduce the amount of water pumped to supply drinking water for 25 villages in the area, rather than for irrigation purposes as well. Israel Line, October 16, 2002. The Israeli-Lebanese water dispute is reminiscent of the water conflict between Israel and Syria in the 1960s. In 1964 Israel shelled Syria after it moved to divert water from the Banias River – a conflict which grew into all-out war in 1967.
25 The Jerusalem Post, March 6, 2001.
26 Ibid, April 18, 2001.
27 Ibid, December 20, 2001.
28 Ibid, October 5, 2000.
29 Hüseyin Yavuz, “The Manavgat Project of Turkey: Water, an Economic Good,” International Journal of Water Resources Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, December 1997, p. 562.
30 Manavgat waters were transported via huge plastic balloons, with a capacity of 10,000 cubic meters, to the northern part of the island. Milliyet, July 26, 1998.
31 Konuralp Pamukcu, Su Politikasi (Water Politics) (Istanbul: Baglam Yayinlari, 2000), p. 295.
32 Mine G. Saulnier, “Turkiye Buyuk Guc” (Turkey, Great Power), Milliyet, November 8, 1993.
33 Zaman, February 13, 1996.
34 Israel Line, July 15, 1999.
35 The Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2000.
36 Israel Line, March 30, 2000.
37 The Jerusalem Post, June 19, 2000.
38 The Jerusalem Report, July 5, 2000.
39 Ed Blanche, “Mid-East Water Crisis: Time is Running Out,” The Middle East, April 2001, p. 19.
40 The Jerusalem Post, January 29, 2001.
41 Turkish Daily News, May 25, 2001.
42 Anatolian News Agency, May 26, 2001.
43 Two companies, Universe Water and Anatalia, declared that such a clause in the tender was unacceptable. Both companies had planned to bring the water in Turkish ships or through subsidiary companies registered in Turkey. Anatalia, a Turkish-Greek joint venture, had decided to transport water through a subsidiary which would buy or lease container ships. Universe Water, part of the Swedish Stena group, had planned to commission three 400,000-tons tankers, each scheduled to make 65 round trips a year. Representatives of both companies said that they could not afford to invest millions of dollars in refitting oil tankers for water transport without receiving compensation if the project is called off. Global Water Intelligence, “Setback in Israeli-Turkish Water Deal,” January 2002.
44 Isaac Herzog wrote in his article in The Jerusalem Post that the Finance Ministry’s decision on cancellation of the tender totally ignored the tremendous water shortage in Israel and the serious damage caused to Turkish-Israeli relations by this act. Isaac Herzog, “Where Will We Get Water?,” The Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2001.
45 Israel has modernized 170 Turkish tanks for the amount of one billion dollars according to an agreement between the two countries’ military forces. Turkish officials have tried to create a financial source to pay this amount to Israel. If that offer had been accepted, Turkey would have paid only $600-700 million in return for selling its water to Israel with a price of 10 cents per cubic meter. Milliyet, July 31, 2001.
46 Turkish Daily News, June 7, 2002.
47 Ibid, July 9, 2002.
48 Middle East Economic Briefs, June 3, 2002.
49 AP Worldstream, August 6, 2002. Turkish Daily News, August 9, 2002. However, the Israeli government has signed three contracts with private companies to build desalination plants. The desalination plants – which will be built in Ashkelon, north of Acre and near Palmahim Beach – will supply 190 million cubic meters of water a year. An additional facility in Ashdod has been contracted to Mekorot to treat 45 mcm a year. Israel Line, June 27, 2003.
50 Jordan’s then-Prime Minister Abdul Kerim el-Kabariti told Turkey’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Tansu Çiller and Minister of Energy Recai Kutan in their visit to Amman in November 1996 that Jordan wanted to purchase Manavgat waters to overcome its chronic water shortage. Milliyet, November 12, 1996.