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The need for water and the continuing hostility between Israel and the surrounding Arab states has placed the Jordan River as a central bargaining chip since Israel’s establishment in 1948. The Israeli War of Independence was rooted in the fact that the Arab countries considered the State of Israel to be illegitimate. Connected to these declarations, the Arab states have persistently denounced the unilateral diversion of the Jordan River as completely illegal. The Israeli response has been that the surrounding Arabs nations were never willing to let Israel exist in peace.

These historical disagreements intertwine with the dispute between Israel and Jordan in which the Jordan River plays a main role. Known for its ideological, religious and geo-political differences, the scarcity of water in the extremely arid Middle East region can be attributed to the meteorological, geographic and demographic factors. Israel, Jordan, Palestine Syria and Lebanon all share the waters of the Jordan River, where the various attempts to use said water for projects other than what has been already agreed have resulted in constant friction among countries involved.

This dispute however has been remedied through peace agreements that provide for supply of water by Israel to Jordan, as well as a joint development of water resources. Israel pumps water from the Sea of Galilee through the Movil Artzi water carrier for irrigation purposes in the Negev and other areas of Jordan and Israel. Jordan, however, is facing another environmental problem which increases the state’s dependency on the water of the Jordan River, (Abu-Taleb, 1994).

As the population of Israel grew, the reliance on the supply from Jordan River grew to over 50 percent. In the early 50’s when Israel created the National Water Carrier which paved way for the cultivation of their dessert soil, the Arab nation took upon this as a bold move for aggressive expansionism thus starting the conflict. To settle said dispute, American President Eisenhower appointed Eric Johnston as mediator (Cooley, 1984) to negotiate water sharing between two states that continued for more than two years with out actual success beyond a cease fire.

Following more than 10 years of silent tensions, the conflict flared again when the Syrian government attempted to divert the Banyas River, followed by three Israeli army and air-force attacks on the site of the diversion. It resulted to a Six-Day War in June 1967 between Israel against Syria, Jordan, and Egypt which led to the captured of the Golan Heights and the site of the Banyas headwaters enabling Israel to prevent the diversion and gained control over the West-Bank, the Jordan River as well as the northern bank of the Yarmouk (Cooley, 1984).

After that war, Israel increased its water use 33 percent while Jordan lost significant access to water from the Jordan River consequential to the termination of their plans to expand usage of the river and its cannel system. Palestinians also took control over large sectors of the Jordan Valley that held these source waters (Berman, et. al. 1999). The West Bank became a key water source due to its underground flow of water and wells which provided supply to the north and central parts of Israel (Cooley, 1984).

Israel, has recently sought several solutions to this dispute by applying advanced technology and environmental research in its efforts to bring water to the entire country. One of which is the Israeli refined drip irrigation system that delivers water directly to the root of the plant, the use of cloud seeding aiding conservation efforts as well as the use of Mediterranean water through the process of desalination. Desalination involves removing the impurities from seawater by using either heat or pressure (Tal, 1992).

The water problem in the Middle East is somehow similar to that of China, where political and environmental factors dictate the frequency of the turmoil. While China resorted to a clever move of unifying the great Yangtze River, like Israel, it does not address the scarcity of water and neither put an end to the conflict over water. Similarly, the disadvantage outweighs the advantages in the sense that more and more conflicts are expected arise, and the effects of these conflicts would only defeat the original purpose.

If political agreements and treaty can not resolve the issue, then other more pressing, politically motivated selfish reasons and greed must got to do with the failure and refusal of either two parties to acknowledge that treat. I believe that this conflict springs from a much deeper religious cause, because if their aim could have been for economic advancement, then they could just easily set aside their political or religious differences in favor of acquiring equal opportunity to water supply.

I most certainly believe that this conflict can be best solved by teaching both countries on technological breakthroughs so that they can innovate and make do with what they have.


Page Abu-Taleb, F. Maher, “Environmental management in Jordan: Problems and recommendations”, Environmental Conservation, Vol 21, spring 1994, pp:35-40 Berman, I. , & Wihbey, P. (1999). The New Water Politics of the Middle East. Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies webpage.

Retrieved online on 22 Jan 2007 from Coooley K. John, “The war over water”, Foreign Policy, No 54, spring 1984, pp:3-26 MidEast Web. Water in the Middle East Conflict. [Online]. Retrieved on 22 Jan 2007 from: http://www. mideastweb. org/water. htm Tal Lawerence, “On the banks of the stormy Jordan: The coming Middle East water crisis”, Contemporary Review, Vol 260, No 1515, April 1992, pp:169-174.

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