Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East

Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East

Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East

Water Wisdom: Preparing the Groundwork for Cooperative and Sustainable Water Management in the Middle East

Synopsis

Israel and Palestine are, by international criteria, water scarce. As the peace process continues amidst ongoing violence, water remains a political and environmental issue. Thirty leading Palestinian and Israeli activists, water scientists, politicians, and others met and worked together to develop a future vision for the sustainable shared management of water resources that is presented in Water Wisdom. Their essays explore the full range of scientific, political, social, and economic issues related to water use in the region; acknowledge areas of continuing controversy, from access rights to the Mountain Aquifer to utilization of waters from the Jordan River; and identify areas of agreement, disagreement, and options for resolution. Water Wisdom is model for those who believe that water conflict can be an opportunity for cooperation rather than violence.

Excerpt

For too long the professional literature characterizing the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians over water issues has suffered from the twin transgressions of excessive generalization and alarmism. Books and articles did not engage experts on the two sides and encourage them to systematically identify those areas about which they agree and disagree. There has been an unfortunate shortage of focused academic frameworks in which to explore pragmatic solutions to overcome existing controversies. Only when differences are clearly mapped can they can be addressed. Indeed, sometimes, when the two positions are laid side by side, there is less discord than originally anticipated. At the same time, there has been no shortage of academics, politicians, and diplomats who broadcast disquieting and defeatist scenarios about the conflicts that emerge from the region’s growing water scarcity. “The next Middle East war will be fought over water” is a commonly heard platitude. But we believe this perspective to be simplistic and detached from the actual dynamics in the field. As friends and colleagues who have worked together in the field of water science and policy for over a decade, we are more optimistic.

The Palestinian and Israeli experts who join us in this book were selected based on their experience, expertise, and positive approach toward a coordinated water policy for the region. Each agreed to increase the level of resolution regarding the water management challenges that they face. Each of the central areas that make up the heart of the “water conflict” is addressed in an essay by an authority from each side or in a joint presentation. These dispassionate “twin” analyses, with a Palestinian perspective followed by an Israeli view, enable us (and readers) to better consider the specific areas of dispute and agreement. Our work as editors and mediators who seek to say something constructive and new was made much easier after we convened a gathering of the authors in Amman Jordan in May 2008.

Draft essays were presented, and an informal but intense practical discussion ensued about the implications of the two positions. Based on the dialogue and the ideas which arose, we offer a series of summaries on each subject that constitute a consensus about the present situation and what a comprehensive accord needs to contain so that water might constitute a catalyst for cooperation rather than conflict. In the final essays, common visions of cooperative institutional and management frameworks are set forth by Palestinian and Israeli experts in single essays about the role of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) in resolving water conflicts and joint management frameworks. Given their longtime involvement in the field, discussions in Amman especially benefited from the individual perspectives of retired British diplomat Robin Twite and Hillel Shuval, who has been a leading . . .

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