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You Can't Drink Mud and Salt: Hydropolitics and the Invasion of Lebanon

Reported by Marie Therese - August 7, 2006 -

ب در کوزه و ما تشنه لبان میگردیم.
"There is water in the jug, and we're going around thirsty." - Persian proverb

אל תסתכל בקנקן, אלא במה שבתוכו
"Don't look at the jar, but at what's inside it." - Hebrew proverb

"The one who tells the stories rules the world." - Hopi proverb

NEWS HOUNDS EDITORIAL

Three weeks ago I woke up.

It was a painful experience because I had always thought of myself as an educated person, well aware of what was going on politically, even in the Middle East.

I was very, very wrong.

"There is water in the jug, and we're going around thirsty."

On July 17th, I googled the words "Israel Lebanon Water".

When the results came back, my world shifted 180 degrees. There, on my computer screen, appeared a mountain of data consisting of geological surveys, erudite articles, aquifer tables and power point presentations. Numerous other searches verifed the inescapable facts. No matter whether the studies were done by European consortiums, Palestinian experts, American think tanks or Israeli university professors, the resulting scientific conclusions were the same.

Forget all the overblown tabloid rhetoric about "terrorists", "right to defend borders", "holy war against the infidels", "oil" and "the axis of evil".

Doesn't mean a thing.

That's just pure verbal drama created by the various factions in the Middle East to avoid talking about the 5,000 pound gorilla in the room.

Water.

The Middle East is in an ecological death spiral. Period.

The politicians of the countries of north Africa are so busy picking at the scabs of ancient wounds, they have successfully avoided taking a serious, regional look at the research their own hydrologists have done. That science says the warring factions in the Middle East had better lay down their weapons, shake hands and get their leaders to a conference table with a gaggle of geologists, soils engineers, ecologists and hydrologists and figure out how to manage ALL the water for the benefit of ALL the people of the mideast for the next 1,000 years.

Without an immediate, comprehensive, enforceable, multinational water conservation plan, by the end of the century the entire region will be an uninhabitable desert, baking in the sun.

Unfortunately, the nation-states of the Middle East seem incapable of putting aside their hatreds long enough to face the cold, hard science of their own experts.

Which leads me back to the current massive disinformation campaign going on regarding the Israeli incursion into Lebanon.

"Don't look at the jar, but at what's inside."

Now, whenever I hear a fiercely partisan representative of the Israeli government say they are "defending themselves against terror", I know for a fact that they mean it. They ARE afraid. They speak the truth. But it is a "truth" hidden from the rest of us, possibly even withheld from the not-so-bright, gung-ho war mongers of the Bush administration.

The "terror" Israeli politicians fear is not military. Israel has enough weapons to blow the whole Middle East off the face of the planet.

It is ecological.

The State of Israel is dependent on the West Bank and Gaza for half of its water and on the Golan Heights, claimed by both Syria and Lebanon, for another 15 - 25%.

Israel lives with the daily terror that they will lose control of their water and with it their western life-style. Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians, singly or together, could deprive Israel of water, either through mismanagement, pollution or simply by improving the water flow for their own populations.

"Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Territories receive the annual rainfall of Phoenix, Arizona, and house a combined population of almost fifteen million, while the entire state of Arizona only numbers just about more than five million. Israel relies upon aquifers, or underground rock formations that store water, that lie beneath the Occupied Territories of Gaza and West Bank for almost half its water needs.

"About a quarter comes from the Sea of Galilee, still a disputed site with Syria. Israel, which tries to make the Levant into a piece of Europe, uses four times the amount of water than the Occupied Territories, even as its population of six million is less than double that of the Palestinians (about three and a half million). In the summer of 1999, Israel suffered a severe water crisis when the region came under a drought." (By the Waters of Babylon, Vijay Prashad, 3/16/03)

In the years between the Israeli pullout (2000) and today, hundreds of thousands of civilians had relocated to the southern portion of Lebanon.

On October 28-29, 2004 representatives of ELARD, a European environmental and water management consulting firm, and the Lebanese National Center for Remote Sensing (NCRS) sponsored a meeting in Malta. The purpose of the meeting was to present a case study of the lower Litani River basin with a view towards managing the water to benefit the agricultural, recreational and industrial needs of an area Lebanon clearly assumed would become a thriving economy.

According to the 2004 report of Lebanon's National Demining Office their office was "planning to facilitate other water projects such as the Litani pipeline and Hazbani Valley" by locating and destroying land mines left in the Litani Basin by the Israelis during the 18-year occupation.

Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) is an Italian non-profit whose goal is "to promote interaction between academic, industrial and public policy spheres in order to comprehensively address concerns about economic development and environmental degradation." One of FEEM's research projects is OPTIMA (Optimisation for Sustainable Water Management). OPTIMA sponsored the Malta Conference.

Among the "stakeholders" listed in the presentation given in Malta were two international organizations.

One was UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).

The other was USAID (United States Agency for International Development).

If the name "Litani River" sounds familiar, it should. In the past 72 hours, news reports confirm that the Litani River is where Israel plans to halt its incursion into Lebanon. With its present deployment of troops, Israel will control not only the Litani River basin but the equally important Wazzani springs.

From the Christian Science Monitor, October 21, 2002:

"A tranquil stretch of shallow water some 20 yards across strewn with black basalt boulders and shaded by oleander and eucalyptus trees, the Wazzani springs seems an unlikely focus for a possible war between Lebanon and Israel.

"Yet a Lebanese plan to draw water from the springs has provoked Israel to threaten to destroy the pumping station, which was officially activated last week. And as the United States gears up for a possible war against Iraq, the water crisis between Lebanon and Israel has raised the possibility of a final showdown in the coming months between the Israeli army and its bitter foe, the Lebanese Hizbullah organization.

"Given its scarcity in the Middle East, water has a powerful strategic value. The Wazzani springs feed directly into the Hasbani river, a tributary of the River Jordan. The Hasbani crosses the border into Israel two miles downstream from the springs and runs into the Sea of Galilee, Israel's largest source of fresh water. Lebanon intends to pump some 350,000 cubic feet per day from the springs to eventually supply up to 60 impoverished villages along the border with drinking water.

"If the pumps operate 24 hours a day, they will still take less than 10 percent of the Hasbani's total annual flow, a clearly acceptable amount under international law, the Lebanese argue.

"But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has described the project as a causus bellum, adding Israel cannot allow the project to proceed."

As it turned out, the EU's Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management Unit resolved the dispute. However, this incident indicates how seriously Israel takes threats to its water supply.

According to a policy paper by Dr. Martin Sherman entitled WATER IN ISRAEL: The Dry Facts published in April 2001 by the Herzliya [Israel] Interdisciplinary Center

"Israel is facing a looming water shortage of critical proportions. This is true not only for the long term, but the intermediate - and indeed perhaps the immediate - one as well. Although the severity of the crisis has been compounded by poor administrative decision-making and shortsighted public policy, the basic fundamental origins of Israel's water problem are rooted in a dual predicament of a largely objective nature. On the one hand, the country is situated in a region of arid, at best at best semi-arid, climate. On the other hand, if adequate living standards are to be maintained, inelastic demand will, without a doubt, outstrip the entire supply of naturally occurring water available. For Israel, the maintenance of high living standards, comparable with those in the advanced industrial world, is not a question of indulgent pampering. It is rather an essential requirement for sustaining a population of the quality and qualifications necessary to ensure the survival of the state, which apart from human ability, has no other resources of consequence to draw on. Water is an essential factor in the creation of such standards of living, which include elements of high personal health and hygiene, environmental aesthetics, and water related recreational facilities."

Dr. Sherman's report, later.

"Indeed, the future of Israel's water system will be radically affected by whether it retains or relinquishes its control over such a significant proportion of its present supply. This has special relevance for the overall scale of the planned desalination facilities needed to cope with present and future shortages. For although it is undeniably true that even if Israel retains total control over all water supplies presently under its jurisdiction, it would still face a grave water problem, forgoing authority over more than half to two thirds of present sources would significantly exacerbate the predicament. To contend with the worst case scenario, the artificial production would have to be of a scale able to supply all the water in sources transferred to Arab control and which could be permanently or temporarily suspended, whether as a result of purposeful malice, objective exigencies or accidental misfortunes. This means that that artificial production would have to have an annual capacity between double to treble that required were control of resources to remain in Israeli hands. Thus, the attendant problems of storage, energy requirements and restructuring of the conveyance and distribution infrastructure would be amplified accordingly."

In 1996 an important policy paper entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm was prepared for The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies-Jerusalem by a committee consisting of Richard Perle (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, director of the Jerusalem Post), James Colbert (Communications Director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Charles Fairbanks, Jr. (Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies), Douglas Feith (Feith and Zell Associates, later Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under Donald Rumsfeld), Robert Loewenberg (President & Founder, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) Jonathan Torop (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy), David Wurmser (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, later Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs in the Office of Vice President Cheney) and Meyrav Wurmser (Johns Hopkins University, later Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute).

"A Clean Break" outlined a future strategy for the northern border of Israel:

"Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon ..."

The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) is "a Jerusalem-based think tank with an office in Washington, D. C." whose output peaked by 2002 then declined. However, many of its ideas can still be heard every day on FOX News Channel and other right-wing outlets.

Here is a sample from Right Web.

"One can get a glimpse at the right-wing, Zionist, and paranoid politics of IASPS when reading the contributions to its seminar on 'The Convergence of Western Elites and Islam.' Reflecting on the anti-Bush demonstrations at the [2004] Republican National Convention, IASPS adjunct scholar D. Y. Anaximander, based in Jerusalem, wrote: 'The depths to which we've come, now marked by the convergence of terrorist Islam and Western elites (represented at this moment by the Democrat candidate for president of this country) are such that we must be grateful - it is horrifying to say - that we were attacked by Muslims. Although the effectual arm of the Western Elites, in media, the Hollywood crowd, the professors, responded immediately in fellowship with the Protesters (who announced their solidarity with the Muslims and could not say "we are the Terrorists" fast enough even to satisfy arch-Hate Master Noam Chomsky - he is the Jewish anti-Semite leader of the liberal Jewish Legions within the Western Elites), Americans could not be herded quickly: the Muslim assault was too vile and too evil. America would strike back. The Elites had to wait. They have waited for such an opportunity as they have today in New York City. The opportunity is golden. It is not going to be missed.'"

"The one who tells the stories rules the world."

In the desert, where water is life, among the ancient tribes, to rob a man's well was penalized instantly by death.

The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Israel's "separation" wall, which Israel says it built to make it harder for suicide bombers to enter its borders, is in fact a cleverly disguised water grab.

On the other hand Israel accuses the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon of polluting the aquifer.

Hezbollah and other Muslim guerilla organizations have used tales of secret Israeli water siphoning to inflame their followers. (Phrases such as "Death to Israel" becomes somewhat understandable to our western minds when put in the context of a desert culture and a long-standing tradition of swift capital punishment for water theft.)

Israel has accused its Arab neighbors of siphoning water, as well.

Both sides are involved in an age-old feud, a key element of which is access to water.

In August 2005 Israel opened a reverse-osmosis desalination plant at Ashkelon, as part of the Master Plan.

"... Israel has chronic problems over water resources. Setting out to address them, in 2000, Israel launched a Desalination Master Plan.

"This strategy called for the construction of a series of plants along the Mediterranean coast ...

******

"Originally intended to produce only 50 million m³/yr, after the formal signatures were completed in November 2001, further negotiations were entered into between February and April 2002 to double the output. ...

"The Ashkelon facility operating at full capacity will itself contribute 25% of the initial target set out in the Israeli government's master plan."

Israel needs to build several more desalination plants in order to achieve 100% of the goals set forth in the master plan. This will take several years.

In the meantime, Israeli ground forces are headed for the Litani River. Once they arrive there, they will effectively control the Wazzani springs, Shebaa Farms and the Litani, three extremely valuable sources of water.

By bombing and invading Lebanon and, earlier, the Gaza strip, Israel has accomplished several strategic goals.

First, Israel now has achieved a long-term goal, de facto control of vital sources of Lebanese water.

Second, most of the 300,000 Arabs, whose use of that water threatened Israel's water, are now refugees.

Third, because Lebanon will need to spend years rebuilding, Israel does not have to worry about the completion of the Litani River pipeline and the planned resource management of the Hasbani River. This leaves Israel sufficient time to complete its remaining desalination plants, which will make the country virtually self-sufficient vis a vis water.

Fourth, Israel has reduced the United States to the position of lapdog. The Bush administration's complete lack of action and the impotence of its diplomacy have relegated the once-powerful "honest broker" to a seat in the dugout. Watch for another nation - Sweden, perhaps, or Switzerland - to emerge as the new "honest broker" as the Arab nations refuse to accept Condoleezza Rice or John Bolton as a negotiator.

In addition to accomplishing the above goals, Israel, again with the collusion of the United States, has also sidelined the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians elected Hamas as their government. Immediately the United States withdrew it USAID support. This coupled with Israel's continued military assaults on the Palestinian infrastructure has rendered the Palestinians virtually helpless. Several maps do show that the Israeli "separation wall" was constructed in such a way as to leave the bulk of the water sources in Israeli hands.

And, finally, speaking of USAID, an analysis of the website of the U. S. Embassy in Beirut reveals an interesting anomaly.

In the year 2005 USAID announced 260 projects funded by the United States.

In the year 2006 USAID funded zero projects in January, seven in February and six in March for a total of thirteen. After March, no more USAID entries appear on the website.

Is it possible that the Bush administration knew as early as March 2006 that any money spent on projects for Lebanon would be wasted, since Israel was planning to reduce the infrastructure to rubble within a short period of time? Is that why the USAID projects disappeared so abruptly?

I would really like to know.


MAPS OF THE REGION

Surface water map (too large to embed in post)


Northern Israel/Southern Lebanon Watercourses
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Golan Heights Strategic Locations
GolanHgts


Golan Heights Annexations
GolanHgtsTowns.jpg