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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Syria seeks to appropriate Israel's water resources

Here in Israel and in other countries around the region, this past winter was our fifth straight with less than average rainfall. It doesn't rain here in the summer, so we have to deal with a water shortage at least until the winter rains come in March. Israel is dealing with it by imposing a NIS 20 (a little more than $5) surcharge on each cubic meter of water used by households beyond their (very minimal) quota. Our lawn is completely dry (in the park next door the lawn looks beautiful and the city waters it in mid-afternoon - the least efficient way possible, but that's a separate issue). We turn off our shower water while soaping up (something we have done for years), have buckets beneath our sinks and showers to collect water to fill the toilet tanks and water the trees and bushes in the yard, and generally try to minimize flushing the toilet. We leave the bath full after the kids take baths and use the water to water the garden. We have done this since December. Our last water bill showed half the water usage of a year ago, and we barely made it within our quota. That ought to give you some perspective.

In Syria, if anything, the water situation is even worse. A combination of blocking the Euphrates River in Turkey, drying up the Aasi (Orontes) River, unrestricted drilling and a foolish decision to switch from raising sheep to growing grain in the 1960's has left Syria so short of water that farmers are abandoning their farms and moving into the cities to live in tents.

At YNet, Guy Bechor argues that giving the Syrians control over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) as they demand would ruin Israel's water supply. He further argues that given that Turkey is one of the causes of Syria's water problems, having Turkey (whose President, Tayyip Erodgan, is pictured above with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) act as a 'mediator' between us is not in Israel's interest.
Syria has an existential interest in getting its hands on the Sea of Galilee in order to get the water needed for its agricultural land. Meanwhile, the water of our poor Kinneret reaches both Israel and Jordan at this time (we provide a fixed amount every year in line with our peace treaty.) Should Syria touch the Kinneret, the amounts of water pumped out of it will be huge. As it ruined its own rivers and ground water, Syria will also ruin our main water source. It has its sights on it, even though it is uninterested in peace with Israel.

Should Israel pay for the failures and mediocrity of the Syrian Baath party? Moreover, when one realizes how badly Turkey robs Syria, should we choose Turkey as the mediator between us and the Syrians? After all, Turkey has an existential interest in seeing the Syrians get the Kinneret. It will take the pressure off.

Ahead of the possible resumption of negotiations with Syria, we should know these figures and be cautious. We should hope that the Americans, who wish to advance talks on the Syrian track, will also be aware of this information.
The Americans are likely well aware of this information. But we cannot rely on the Americans - certainly not under Obama - to protect our interests. There are many reasons for Israel to say no to a 'deal' with Syria which calls on us to forfeit the Golan Heights down to the Kinneret. What it would do to our water resources is only one of those reasons.


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

Israeli technology for water desalination works perfectly worldwide....except in Israel

nuff said....

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let them drink from the waters of Gaza.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. It should be a principle of Israeli policy not to entrust the control of the resources of life to a hostile regime. There's one thing the Middle East doesn't have in abundance and that is water. This is a topic that is rarely highlighted, let alone discussed in the Western press. For Israel, its literally a life and death issue. That is why the Golan Heights must never be handed back to Syria.


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