Paul Likoudis / The Wanderer – 2006-09-14 22:57:02
Israel/Lebanon ‘Water War’
Paul Likoudis / The Wanderer
(September 9, 2006) — What if the recent wars in the Mideast — and by recent, (this) means the last 20 years or so — were not about oil, or “terrorism,” but water?
Hilaire Belloc’s 1936 study of the Mideast, The Battle Ground, a history of “Syria,” when Syria was that geographical area that ran from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Even though Belloc wrote his book after England and France carved up the region, creating Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq out of the old Ottoman Empire following World War I, he still referred to the region as “Syria” — for that is what it is.
“Syria,” he wrote, “the battleground of great empires and of much more important religions, was, at its beginnings, and remains to this day, a battleground of nature: the battleground between the desert and the rain.
“Syria is a fringe of life established precariously and artificially, as it were, on the edge of death’s empire. It is a frontier occupation by an invading power — the power of moisture and fertility which has attacked the dominion of sterile sand and stone. That invading power has never been able to reach more than a few miles from the seacoast. Over those few miles it has entrenched itself and it holds them permanently. That is Syria. That, at least, is habitable Syria, for the name is extended over the whole vast desert land behind the fields and the harvests of the coastal hills.”
It is water, particularly the winter rains, wrote Belloc, that determines the fate of empires.
The San Francisco Chronicle‘s top foreign affairs reporter, Matthew Kalman, wrote that Israel began planning for its invasion of southern Lebanon more than a year ago. He reported, in part, in a July 21 dispatch from Jerusalem:
“Israel’s military response by air, land, and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago. . . .”
‘Of all of Israel’s wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared,’ said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. ‘In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel.
By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we’re seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it’s been simulated and rehearsed across the board.’ “More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists, and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.
“In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah’s heavier long range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.”
Lifeblood of a Nation
Israel is facing a severe water shortage, and the sources of some of the best water in the mideast are in the region secured by Hezbollah after Israel invaded Lebanon 1982 — which gave birth to Hezbollah.
One recent article posted on the Internet and making the rounds now to many other web sites is the earthchamber11 blog spot’s “The Israeli-Lebanon Water Wars,” which begins:
“If the water resources in your country are rapidly decreasing, and the neighboring country has an intact water supply…and if you think that in the future you will need the other country’s water supply…then you will not attack that country saying you need their water. If you attack that country you will do so for another reason, hiding your real objective behind a wall of deception and lies.
“Israel has always had water problems. Today, in 2006, Israel lives with increasing water shortages and a rapidly decreasing supply of fresh water. The river Jordan may run dry within the next two years, because of the vast amount of water being drawn from the river by the people living in the area. People cannot survive without water, towns and cities cannot survive without water, and past civilizations have died out as water became scarce. You cannot grow crops without water, which means you cannot store food. Water is the lifeblood of a nation.
“In the [Mideast], the supply of water is much less than its demand, thereby resulting in conflict over it. This is true for Israel and Lebanon, where there have been struggles, although not always armed, for the waters of the Litani River. At this point, Israel remains in southern Lebanon. Part of the Litani is located in this region.
“Israel seemingly is tempted to reach beyond its border to get access to the needed water. Almost half of the water currently used in Israel is captured, diverted, or preempted from its neighbors. This is understandable, given water can be described as ‘Israel’s vulnerable and fragile source of life.’
“Historically, Israel has been interested in the Litani, and conflict with Lebanon over the Litani is more likely given this….Israel hoped that it would have use of the Litani by the mid-1980s, when it projected that it would have fully used up the waters captured in the 1967 war. Israel hoped to meet this goal by securing the Litani in 1978. Israel had even included the Litani in calculations of their water resources.
“Israel’s significant sources of water are currently exploited, and the only other source is the Litani, which, in order for Israel to use it, would have to be in Israel’s possession, which could possibly happen through seizure. The only other source of additional water would be recycled water.
“Israel could increase its annual water supply by 800 MCM [million cubic meters] (approximately 40% of its annual water consumption in 1993) if it had continued access to the Litani through continued/permanent occupation of southern Lebanon. Another reason for Israel to want the Litani is that, especially along the Israeli coast, many aquifers are stressed and their water is increasingly brackish.”
Natural and Man-Made Causes
Israel’s water crisis is more than severe:
The Jordan River, which originates in southern Lebanon and is fed by springs on the West Bank — which Israel seized after the 1967 war — is now little more than a “sewage canal,” reported the BBC earlier this year, with Israel tapping off more than 90% of the annual flow, which has had a destructive effect on the Sea of Galilee — which is now so polluted, and so over-pumped, that many Israeli experts predict it may no longer exist within ten years.
As the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs observed following a special Knesset report on Israel’s water crisis in 2002, in a paper titled, “Israel’s Chronic Water Problem”: “Water is considered as a national resource of utmost importance. Water is vital to ensure the population’s well-being and quality of life and to preserve the rural-agricultural sector. Israel has suffered from a chronic water shortage for years.
“In recent years, however, the situation has developed into a crisis so severe that it is feared that by the next summer it may be difficult to adequately supply municipal and household water requirements. The current cumulative deficit in Israel’s renewable water resources amounts to approximately 2 billion cubic meters, an amount equal to the annual consumption of the state. The deficit has also led to the qualitative deterioration of potable aquifer water resources that have, in part, become either of brackish quality or otherwise become polluted.
“The causes of the crisis are both natural and man-made. Israel has suffered from four consecutive years of drought. The increase in demand for water for domestic uses, caused by population growth and the rising standard of living, together with the need to supply water pursuant to international undertakings have led to over-utilization of its renewable water sources. . . .
“The current crisis has led to the realization that a master plan for policy, institutional, and operational changes is required to stabilize the situation and to improve Israel’s water balance with a long-term perspective.”
Israel is not the only Mideastern country facing a serious water crisis. Iraq also is. Turkey’s building of dams on the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates, is causing severe environmental problems in Iraq, and its ground waters are diminishing rapidly after years of drought.
Other geopolitical hotspots — areas which we have been taught to think are “terrorist hotspots” or “oil-rich” regions sought by the Europe and the United States, or India and China — are, according to a study by Peter Allison for ITT Industries, prepared in March 1999, really “water wars”:
• Egypt/Sudan/Ethiopia: “It is hard to see if a solution will ever be reached between the Nile basin states. The 1959 agreement is a non-negotiable issue for Egypt and Sudan. But for the upstream states its renegotiation is a precondition for future basin agreements. Thus Egypt and Ethiopia are on a collision course. Ethiopia will inevitably start to use more Nile water, especially as population increases in the new century. But the strength of Egypt’s resistance to any upstream development is huge, and Egypt has made it perfectly clear that it will go to war to protect its share of the Nile waters.”
• Turkey/Syria/Iraq: “One of the world’s major hot-spots which could easily erupt in violence. Turkey holds the dominant position since both the Tigris and Euphrates rise in its eastern mountains. Both rivers then flow through Syria and Iraq before draining to the Persian Gulf. Syria and Iraq are thus dependent on Turkish cooperation for the amount of water they receive.
“However, Turkey is in the midst of a $32 billion water development scheme called the Grand Anatolia Project (GAP). GAP includes the construction of over 20 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates and aims to irrigate large tracts of land in Turkey’s underdeveloped southeast region as well as providing billions of kilowatt hours of hydroelectricity.
“GAP is bad news for both downstream states as it reduces the flow of the Euphrates into Syria, and subsequently into Iraq. . . .Tensions erupt nearly each time Turkey begins to fill up a new dam built as part of GAP. . . . And when Turkey started construction of the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates in the mid-1990s, Syria and Iraq threatened to blacklist and seek compensation from the U.S. and European companies — including the Chase Manhattan Bank — building and financing it.
“Syria and Iraq continue to lobby the Arab League states to unite against Turkey on the GAP issue. As a form of retaliation, both states have also supported the minority Kurdish Workers Party in its struggle against the Turkish government. This has prompted Turkey to threaten to cut off the flow of water to Syria and Iraq on more than one occasion. Actions like these could well escalate into more serious conflicts.”
• Mozambique/South Africa: “One of several regional disputes in southern Africa which still remains unresolved. Mozambique’s rivers all originate outside its borders in South Africa, Zimbabwe, or Swaziland. By the time they reach Mozambique, rivers like the Limpopo, Injaka, and Incomati are substantially drained or else polluted.
“The Mozambican government has become particularly concerned that South Africa has increased its agricultural withdrawals from tributaries of the Incomati which flow through the Kruger National Park along the border with Mozambique, so depriving Mozambican irrigation in the process.”
• Kazakhstan / Turkmenistan/Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan/Uzbekistan: This is the “one to watch.” “The Aral Sea in central Asia is in danger of drying up and disappearing completely because water from the two major rivers which drain into it is being diverted through irrigation channels to feed the region’s enormous cotton fields.
“The Amu Darya river, which originates in the mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and the Syr Darya river, which originates in Kyrgyzstan, used to replenish the Aral Sea but now neither can provide enough water to even reach the sea shoreline. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest inland lake in the world but since the 1960s the water volume in the lake has diminished rapidly. Even worse, saline intrusion and pollution in the Aral Sea, Amu Darya, and Syr Darya rivers, as well as the surrounding groundwater has meant that many of the villages in the former Soviet republics which make up the basin have no clean drinking water.”
Moreover, the Texas-Mexico border is another global water hotspot.
Wells with No Water
“Water” — not counting related words such as “watered,” “waterest,” “watering,” waterpot,” “waters,” “waterspots” and “watersprings” — is one of the words that appear most frequently in the Old and New Testaments, and, of course, there is this warning from 2 Peter on false prophets:
“They are wells with no water in them, clouds driven before the storm; the lot that awaits them is darkness and gloom. Using fine phrases that have no meaning, they bait their hook with the wanton appetites of sense, to catch those who had but a short respite from false teaching. What do they offer them? Liberty. And all the time they are enslaved to worldly corruption; whatever gets the better of a man, becomes his master.”
Paul Likoudis is a staff writer for The Wanderer
Reprinted ‘From the Mail’ column of The Wanderer August 3, 2006 issue
Israel’s War to Capture ‘Litani River’ Water
Paul Likoudis / The Wanderer
On August 2, as the latest conflict between Israel and Lebanon moved into its fourth week, and Israel’s response to the capture of two Israeli Defense Force soldiers in southern Lebanon has been to pulverize southern Beirut, and destroy towns and villages in southern Lebanon, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force, Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, said that Israel was prepared occupy southern Lebanon, to the north of the Litani River, indefinitely.
In an exclusive interview with the Jerusalem Post, published August 2, Gen. Kaplinsky said that Israel was determined to control southern Lebanon, above the Litani, “for a long time.”
Disregarding pledges by both Lebanon and Syria that an Israeli military invasion of southern Lebanon would not be tolerated, Gen. Karpinsky moved up to 20,000 infantrymen and paratroopers as part of its Operation Change of Direction in Lebanon and mobilized thousands of Israeli reservists for action on the new front.
According to the Jerusalem Post: “Signifying, however, that the IDF might also try to send troops north of the Litani, IAF fighter jets dropped tens of thousands of leaflets over villages north of the river on Tuesday calling on the residents to flee further north in anticipation of IDF operations in the area.
“Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, deputy commander of the Northern Command, said Tuesday evening [Aug. 2] that while it would take until the end of the week for the IDF to take up positions within southern Lebanon, it could take over a month to destroy Hezbollah terror infrastructure in the area.
“‘If we will need to operate north of the Litani,’ Friedman said, ‘we will also operate there.’
A high-ranking officer said the IDF was slightly disappointed with the progress of the ground operations in southern Lebanon and was hoping that the current incursion would bring the results. ‘We would have liked things to go faster,’ the officer said. ‘The enemy, however, had six years to get ready and infantry units can only go as fast as they can walk.'”
Israel’s decision to re-conquer southern Lebanon, in defiance of U.N. resolutions, fulfills the vision of the latter Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who in March 1978 launched Operation Litani, to seize southern Lebanon as a security zone or buffer from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been operating there since Israel seized Palestinian lands on the West Bank in the 1967 war.
However, Begin’s dream to capture one of the richest sources of water in the Middle East – after the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq – has long been a part of the Zionist vision for Israel.
In a 1997 study on the Litani River prepared by the Inventory for Conflict & Environment study group at American University in Washington, D.C., written by Angela Joy Moss, “Case No. 7: The Litani River: Israel and Lebanon,” Moss predicted that the very survival of both Israel and Lebanon depended upon who controlled the Litani, and it was likely that an armed conflict would determine who enjoyed the water and who didn’t, for the Litani was an insufficient supply for the water needs of both countries.
The Litani rises in Lebanon’s northern Biqa’a Valley, and empties into the Mediterranean some 105 miles later, two-and-a-half miles north of Israel’s border.
“The river’s proximity to Israel may make it even more tempting for Israel to exploit,” wrote Moss.
“In the Israeli-Palestinian context, water is a central ingredient, perhaps only second to land, of the wider conflict between the two sides…the water conflict is not just about water; it reaches to the recesses of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to questions of land and annexation. Those are abnormal in a water conflict, and render the Israeli-Palestinian water conflict more complex and acute than others in the region.
“Israel seemingly is tempted to reach beyond its border to get access to the needed water…. Historically, Israel has been interested in the Litani, and conflict with Lebanon over the Litani is more likely given this. Essentially, control of the Litani has long been a dream of Israel in hopes of establishing a greater Zion from Sinai to ancient Babylon.
“Israel has considered diverting the Litani southward, first proposed in 1905 because it seemed ‘the waters of the Jordan basin would be insufficient for the future needs of Palestine.’
“The Litani, because of its water, was suggested to become part of the ‘national Jewish entity’ in 1919 but this was rejected by the League of Nations, and the Litani became part of Lebanon. There were also pre-statehood Jewish interests in the Litani. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, suggested the inclusion of the Litani in the Jewish state.
The 1941 international commission to whom this was suggested recommended seven-eighths of the Litani be ‘leased to Israel.’ Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan advocated Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the Litani. In 1945, Professor Lowdermilk proposed a comprehensive water plan for the region, which would have included changing the course of the Litani toward the Jordan, and used its water for irrigation along the Jordan Valley and in central Eretz Israel (Palestine) where the electricity produced could be transferred to Lebanon. This was never implemented because the Arabs did not want to cooperate with Israel. In 1947, Ben Gurion thought the Litani should be Israel’s northern border. In addition, water was a source of conflict in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
“In fact, in the war in 1967, water resources were ‘perhaps the prominent factor in Israeli strategic calculations’….
“Captured water is the most important part of Israel’s total water supply. The four most important sources of Israel’s water are, ground water; the Jordan watershed; lesser surface waters; and recycled water and water from desalinization plants,’ for a total of just less than 2,000 million cubic meters (MCM) per year.
“Israel’s significant sources of water are currently exploited, and the only other source is the Litani, which, in order for Israel to use it, would have to be in Israel’s possession, which could possibly happen through seizure. The only other source of additional water would be recycled water…. ‘It is therefore becoming increasingly evident that the only feasible solution, in terms of water quality, volume, and proximity of the resource, to Israel’s growing water problem is to tap a nearby source, namely the Litani River.’ In addition, declining water quality in the form of seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers is a critical issue in Israel. To Israel, therefore, it seems that use of the Litani is the best way to meet its water needs….”
For Lebanon, the Litani is also crucial, for it provides drinking water to Beirut, 35 percent of the country’s total electrical power, and irrigates much of the country’s farms.
“International law,” continues Moss, “establishes that water ought not to be diverted from this area. It states ‘water within one catchment area should not be diverted outside that area – regardless of political boundaries – until all needs of those within the catchment area are satisfied’….
“Israel could increase its annual water supply by 800 MCM (approximately 40% of its annual water consumption in 1993) if it had continued access to the Litani through continued/permanent occupation of southern Lebanon. Another reason for Israel to want the Litani is that, especially along the Israeli coast, many aquifers are stressed and their water is increasingly brackish.
“Chain Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organization, wrote (around 1919-1920) to Prime Minister David Lloyd George that Lebanon was ‘well-watered’ and that the Litani was ‘valueless to the territory north of the proposed frontiers. They can be used beneficially in the country much further south.’ He concluded the Litani was ‘essential to the future of the Jewish national home’…”
In view of the recent destruction of numerous towns and villages in southern Lebanon, as well as the bombardment of the Shi’ite suburbs of Beirut which have left the region looking like Stalingrad during the Nazi siege, as video clips from Middle East news reports indicate, Moss’ prognostications on the Litani dispute between Lebanon and Israel shed much light on the current conflict.
“It is easy to see that if Lebanon gave Israel the waters of the Litani,” Moss wrote, “opposition from anti-government forces, especially the fundamentalist movement, would be strengthened, and there would be continued instability in Lebanon.
“For instance, if Lebanon gave the Litani to Israel and denied the Shia Muslims, who are predominate in the area, use of the water for agriculture and domestic purposes, they would be increasingly frustrated with the Lebanese government. An example of this is that in 1974 there were rumors that water from the Litani were being diverted to Beirut to meet predicted shortages, which caused large anti-governmental demonstrations.
“If Lebanon allowed Israeli diversion of the Litani, the economic development of Lebanon would be adversely affected, and groups calling for the canonization or Islamization of the country would be strengthened. Also, much of southern Lebanon would become desert, and irrigation would be nearly impossible.
“A further reason for concern is that for water, ‘stated in terms relative to their income level, Palestinians pay a minimum of 15 times more than Israeli settlers – a phenomenal difference for water systems managed by the same company.’ In addition, Elmusa also argues that water stress is relative, and the Palestinians are much more water stressed than the Israelis.
“In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Lebanon had a plan, presented by Dar al-Hendesah to irrigate the Shi’ite territories in southern Lebanon through ‘a series of dams and weirs.’ But the US and Israel blocked this plan by pressuring project lenders….”
If Israel succeeds in capturing the Litani, which seems highly likely at this writing, not only will the Palestinians remain homeless, but so too will the Lebanese, because there simply is not enough water to meet the needs of Jews and Arabs.
Paul Likoudis writes for, The Wanderer, a National Catholic Weekly. St. Paul, MN This feature appeared in the August 17, 2006 edition
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