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The Effect of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on the Water Resources of the Jordan River Basin

Eugenia Ferragina


Global Environment 2 (2008): 152–170

The article analyses the interaction between security and environment in the Mediterranean, focusing on the paradigmatic example of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over water resources in the Jordan River basin. Control of water can hardly be considered the main cause of conflict between Israel and Palestine, but it certainly has increased the potential for conflict and had a long-term negative effect on the environment. The article starts with an historical reconstruction of the main attempts to reach a cooperative solution to water management in the Jordan River basin. These attempts failed as a consequence of the emergence of a zero-sum game between the co-riparian countries of the basin. The lack of cooperation has had a heavy impact on water quantity and quality. Two third of the deep wells in the centre of Israel are polluted, partly due to the infiltration of untreated wastewater from West Bank sites. The level of the coastal aquifer has fallen and sea water has penetrated it. As a consequence, much of the population of the Gaza Strip now has access only to brackish water that does not meet the WHO standard for drinking water. The 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement recognised the water rights of Palestinians and the need to share water resources. Its aftermath witnessed new cooperative efforts involving offi cials, experts and people of both sides. The so-called “Second Intifada”, however, blocked cooperation in many sectors and provoked large-scale damage to the water infrastructure. The violent outbreaks of October 2000 had a serious impact on the wells, the water infrastructure and the wastewater disposal system. Reportedly, the Israeli deliberately filled up wells in Gaza as retaliation against the Palestinian attack on Israeli settlements, did not allow the Palestinians to buy spare parts for pumps, and kept water tankers from reaching the Palestinian villages. The Israeli authorities did not directly plan these acts of vandalism - they are mainly the consequences of an escalation of violence among the settlers - but were responsible for not taking action to prevent them and forbidding the use water as a weapon against Palestinians. The separation barrier Israeli has been building since 2002 does not follow the Green Line, but creates a de facto annexation of 16% of the West Bank. The wall keeps people on either side of the Wall separated from their land, water resources and socialties.
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