Water Key Element In Mideast Peace


Water Key Element In Mideast Peace

Excerpt:

'Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must address the vital issue of water in the West Bank if meaningful peace talks are to take place. Israel's leaders said nothing, but Abbas had touched on one of the most sensitive issues in the seemingly endless negotiations, which have been in abeyance for the last few years, and one on which any expectation of a comprehensive settlement will probably ultimately rest.Israel's unilateral control over rivers and aquifers meant scarce water resources were not being shared equitably "as required by international law," he declared. "It is with dismay that I see 9,000 Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley utilize one-quarter of the water that the entire Palestinian population in the West Bank utilizes," he told the World War Forum in Istanbul.

In the largely arid Middle East, water is more valuable than oil and has been a source of conflict since time immemorial. As the world's resources, from oil to timber and minerals, dwindle, the prospect of more water wars in the Middle East in the decades ahead increase with each passing day. The crisis is deepened by rapidly expanding populations across the Arab world. This, coupled with industrial growth and a relentless drive for food self-sufficiency, is draining water supplies faster than they can be replenished. Global warming accelerates the damage.

Climate experts warn that one-third of the Earth's surface may be at risk of extreme drought by the end of the century, triggering mass migrations of "environmental refugees." Many of those will be in the Middle East and North Africa. The region has been hit by a severe drought for the last five years, making the water issue all that more critical, aggravating a dispute between the Israelis, whose own water resources are dwindling, and the Palestinians, who sit on a major aquifer under the West Bank that Israel covets as much as its ever-expanding archipelago of settlements.Israel views the water from the West Bank -- as it did the water it siphoned off from the Litani River in Lebanon during its 1978-2000 occupation of that country's southern zone -- as vital to its national security. The Palestinians will not be able to sustain a viable independent state without water.
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How hard is this for Israel or any oher country to understand? Water is the lynchpin to peace.

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