Back to Index

Violence in the Middle East--Israel

Another very long statement has come from Tim Brown. Here are some of the points he makes:

"Despite the current sharp upsurge in violence, what strikes me most is the progress that has been made towards its resolution. In the 1980s, during the run-up to the Madrid conference, a problem that almost sank the process was Israeli refusal to meet face-to-face with any Palestinian. Today the PLO's Arafat and Israel's prime Minister Barak meet, talk, and occasionally scream at one another at high level public sessions.Then it was anathema for an Israeli official publicly to entertain thoughts of possible Palestinian autonomy much less sovereignty over territory.Today Israeli security forces share many public safety responsibilities with Palestinian Authority police within Israel's borders. Then Israel's neighbors denied its very right to exist and it was subject to a Pan Arab economic boycott. Today several have formally recognized Israel's right to exist, extended diplomatic recognition, and exchanged ambassadors. Yet violence persists. Why?

The issues are Jerusalem, and water. Jerusalem, as we all know, is the sacred heart of three faiths. And faith, by definition, is a matter of belief not proof, a matter of identity and survival. Many once hoped Jerusalem could be placed under international jurisdiction. But the most obvious guarantor, the United Nations, is a creature of Israel's enemies that has too often supported one-sided anti-Israeli positions. Dividing the city into a Holy Land version of Cold War Berlin with separate religiose-ethnic ghettos governed by a tripartite commission of Rabbis, Bishops and Imams seems an even worse idea. I have no solution, although possible a mixed non-religious commission comprised of regionally appointed individuals with international guarantors from among interested non-regional powers might work.

Thankfully, at least the second problem, water, does have a solution. While rarely mentioned in the press, water is the key to physical survival, especially in dry regions such as the Middle East. And Israel is the most water dependent country in the region on water because it is the most dependent on irrigated agriculture. Today Israel's consumption exceeds its water balance, that is to say it consumes more water annually than enters its underground aquifers and surface sources. There are two viable solutions, large scale desalination or importation from third countries. As to the latter, the only sustainable source of sufficient third country water in the region is Turkey. But Turkish water, even if available, would have to be transported via a currently hostile Syria and probably Lebanon, or via a Mediterranean seabed pipeline. Desalination has its own problems, not the least of which is that given current technology production costs make water too expensive for efficient use in all but high value agriculture. It also involves environmental risks. Nonetheless, if Middle East peace is the true objective, not one but both alternatives must be pursued.

Both piping water from Turkey and desalination are expensive options. But they are cheaper than the alternatives."

My comment: Tim rightly believes that money spent on destructive weapons could be better spent of solving this basic problem. Unfortunately human arrogance, stupidity and selfishness are such that sensible collaboration on basic problems seems impossible. How much better Africa would be if its nasty war leaders would cooperate to solve its problems.We must use all the pressure we can to make this happen.

Ronald Hilton - 10/07/00