Water conflict is not a new issue, but it is an old problem in the life of nations, given the importance of water in economic stability, growth and development. And the so called Fertile Crescent, which its name is inferred from the Middle East region which is a base for agriculture and water, making it a center where civilizations have arose, thus making it a region for conflicts for millenniums.
The factors affecting the nature of water consumption as a result of indiscriminate and misuse of the water reserves will push the states in the Middle East to secure the urgent need of water with any of the available means and at any price. Therefore Water will constitute the single basic conflict in the region during the foreseeable future.
Since the Palestinian Nakba in 1948 and the previous events, and since the decision to partition Palestine, the Zionist danger exists. The danger extends to the whole Middle East region, and this risk is taking dimensions in multiple forms. Israel have used the pretext of historical rights of the promise land and the rights of security, thus using it as an excuse for occupation and other intimidation, all to cover the Israeli hegemony over the region and the exploitation and plundering of its resources, specially water.
However, the most important is Israel ambitions in Lebanon, ranging from Israel claim that Lebanon is religiously, historically, strategically, economically, and water resources date to the Jewish hegemony in the region dating back to the days of the Old Testament. The most serious among them is the ambitions of the Lebanese water. I will explore the risks and Zionist ambitions in Lebanese water in four sections: historical ambitions of water, the military ambitions of water, the water law, and political risks.
Historical Ambitions of water
The Zionist project for a national homeland for Jews in Palestine and its neighbors was based on the consideration that the best border is the one that fulfills the following factors, strategic, economic, historical, and water resources, which the current so called state of Israel is claiming and what the Zionist state desired since the 1948 occupation of Palestine. When we review this we will find the notes cascading since the end of World War I; in 1919 the Zionist memorandum on the Lebanese waters contained a lot of references and proposals for the domination and hegemony over these waters, “Mount Hermon is the father of water in Palestine, and can not be separated without being a serious blow to the roots of economic life in particular. And Mount Hermon not only need reforestation, but also needs other work to become eligible to be a water tank of the country. Therefore it must be subject entirely to the control of those who are passionate and have strong sufficient capacity to exploit its potential until the maximum. There also must be an international agreement protecting whereby water rights of the people who live south of the Litany River are fully protected.”(1)
These ambitions were not concealed by Zionists, especially the proposals, studies and projects carried out by the Zionist movement publicly. The Zionist movement brought in 1938 American expert Walter Clay Lowdermilk to Palestine to study conditions of the water, he took the job and published recommendations in the book “Palestine Promised Land” in 1944 and summarized water diversion of the Jordan River in the upper basin to the natural coastal region of Palestine, and transferring it to the Negev region and to seize the waters of the Hasbani River, Banias River, Litany River, in addition to the Aldan River which flows in Palestine.
He also concluded that Zionist should focus their projects on Lebanon and told Zionist Commission to work on plans for the transfer of water from the Litany River; he developed the first plan in 1943 and then followed by another in 1948. At the meetings of the International Conciliation in 1949 delegates raised the issue of Israel’s rights to the Litany River, which made the Committee recommend an investment of seven eighths of the Litany River water to Israel, since they claimed that the Litany River water was being wasted in the Mediterranean.
During the Cotton Project of 1954, a project placed by Israel in response to the Eric Johnston proposal which concluded to the investment of the Jordan River between Arab countries and Israel. Israel introduced into this project what it called a surplus of the Litany, as it was determined that Israel would get 1290 million cubic meters of water, compared to 750 million cubic meters for Lebanon and the fact that, if the Cotton Project applied, Lebanon will only get 301 million cubic meters because the true estimates of Litany River were less than the accounts of Cotton Project.
So the Litany River project was Lebanon’s response to the practically that the waters of the river can be invested all in Lebanon, without being wasted to the sea. This project needed to be completed because of its strategic importance and security.
You will not find any Israeli official that did not express a deep regret for the loss of the Lebanese water from their hands and through the statements of many Israeli officials among them was what Moshe Sharett said, “it was a huge mistake that we committed that we did not include the Litany water” and what Levy Eshkol said, “that Israel was divided three times the first time when the Hasbani and Banias rivers were left outside its territory”. (3)
It is the context of these statements that prove that Zionist were able to get what they want in the world without taking into account the interests of the countries concerned, but the reality on the other hand that the Zionist movement tried its best to get southern Lebanon including land and water since the end of the First World War but the French stubbornness and insistence on its own interests as well, prevented them from achieving this goal.
It is worth mentioning that it was not over at this partial failure, and the doors did not close at Israeli ambitions, Shimon Peres in his book “New Middle East”, noted to running water and the number of reasons for the lack of water, a natural phenomena, increase in population, exploitation of nature, and wrong policies, he concluded that the solution is to set up a regional system for the management of water development projects and for distribution on the basis of economic with an honest and fair manner.
This means that those who have water to share with others therefore, Lebanon should provide a part of its water for the benefit of Israel as the equitable distribution imposes a sharing, according to the need rather than equal sharing, and distribution on an economic base also means the cost for transporting the water, therefore Lebanon waters is closest to the Palestine and the least expensive.
Military ambitions of water
Israel has waged wars on the surrounding countries and those wars were a permanent attempt to impose its presence and existence in this region. And Israel characterized its operations toward Lebanon as what Israel described as a Lebanon threat to the Israeli existence, but the real goals go beyond that.
In 1978 Israel invaded parts of southern Lebanon under the code name Operation Litany, Israel halted the invasion quickly not because of the Israel desire but because of the Egyptian Israeli peace talks, which pushed America to give importance to these talks instead of the usual Israeli interest. It was this invasion that created a buffer zone for Israel in Lebanon and the establishment of a small state lead by Saad Haddad, and thus Israel took control of parts of the Lebanese territory and nearly fifty kilometers of the Litany River. Then came the full invasion of 1982 and one of the strategic goals for this invasion was Lebanon’s water, Israel’s buffer zone stayed until its collapse at the hands of Hezbollah in May 2000 and this period was long enough and sufficient to the transfer of water from the Litany, Hasbani and Wazzani rivers and deprived the occupied villages on those rivers that benefited from them for irrigation and drinking.
in 1986 Israel began fencing several hectares of Lebanese territory near the Wazzani spring, and expulsing Lebanese farmers, they built roads, canals, and installed pumps to draw water and dragged it through the canals under the slogans of irrigating the Arkob area, while in reality water was being transferred to Israel, which Almanar TV showed just recently in a one hour documentary. In 1989, Israel extended water pipes from Al-Ain spring which feeds the Hasbani and Wazzani rivers, so the waters of Wazzani and Hasbani were fully exploited.
Professor Thomas Naff an expert on water in the Middle East said in June 1990 during a scientific conference in Washington that Israel will not give up these territories that they occupied without obtaining the guarantees to provide them with access to water from other sources in the area, mostly from the Litany River, and Lake Tabarya. He also predicted that the water in the end will decide the future of the occupied territories, which is decided by the question of war or peace.
It is no secret that the theft of water by Israel was clear since 1983, Israel is still stealing water interests of Mount Amyl, the infringements on the water was clear during the occupation and continuing thereafter in other places. No one have the accurate numbers to the amount that is stolen. A conference organized by the Center for Lebanese Studies at Oxford University in 1991, discussed the issue but the numbers remained suspended or buried like the head of ostrich in the sand. Israel, with the continued construction of deep wells on the edge of the border with Lebanon, is draining the groundwater that floats under the Marjayoun area, the quantity of water pumped will lead to great reductions in the Lebanese underground water supply.
Ambitions of water legally
I have highlighted the Zionist memorandum to the peace conference in Paris in 1919, the Zionist ambitions was the slogan “within the Jewish borders” the Zionist movement had hoped that the parties would recognize the historic right of the Jewish people in Palestine and hoped it would be the first step, which lead by the stage of negotiations to draw the border between the British and the French occupied territories, in which it lead to the convention called “Border Agreement” and was signed at the end of 1920. If one was looking at the correspondence and official talks that took place between 1918 and 1920 one would have discovered that in what was published that the issue a priority is the subject of water. Proving that the Zionists only priority was water, they called to control the waters of the Litany and Jordan Rivers.
The Israeli ambitions may be suppressed by international laws sometimes, and positions of power through Lebanon and the resistance of Hezbollah at other times. This does prove that greed is not in doubt or debate, but it must be pointed out. What was left unresolved from the ambitions in the texts of the convention on the “Border Agreement”, this agreement is still in force between Lebanon and Israel, and thus there is still an argument that Israel can demand their rights if they wanted them.
Prior to the signing of the “Border Agreement”, the Zionists insisted on the inclusion of southern Lebanon and all that for the Litany River control, and a letter written by Weizmann to the Zionist British foreign secretary Curzon in 1920. Before the signing of the “Border Agreement”,
“I thought of the letter your Excellency sent, if at all, I probably I had not explained adequately the impossibility of protecting our rights, the use of water from the upper Jordan and Yarmouk through any measure, does not take into account the inclusion of these waters within the territorial limits of Palestine. This does include utilization engineering work to be comprehensive, but also the process of a forestation on a large scale. And it is impossible to have any pace of development for our security, natural, and process from an economic standpoint, were not areas where the works are located under the existing power in Palestine. And I am sure that you are aware of the paramount importance of the Litany for Palestine. Even if you consider the Jordan River, all of it and Yarmouk in Palestine, water in both rivers, not enough for our needs; the summer in Palestine is very dry, and evaporation is fast and heavy. The irrigation of the Upper Galilee and the power required even to economic life is limited and must be available from Litany. Experts agree that the Litany has the advantage of abundance of water …
But if Palestine was separated from the Litany River and the upper Jordan and Yarmouk, this is not to say anything about the eastern shore of the Galilee, Israel can not be economically independent “(5)
Britain could not respond to the Israeli demand, especially as France had a position, France did not give up the border drawn by the Sykes Picot agreement until long negotiations which lead to an amendment to waive the north of Palestine including Safad, Lake Hula and other territories, but France rejected the use of Lebanese water as put forward by the Zionist projects.
Experts meet to work together to study the use of waters of the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers and their tributaries for irrigation and power generation, after meeting the needs of the areas under the French mandate.
This proves to us from the above text and speech compared with the Weizmann demands, that the Zionist movement has gained what it bargained for with the exception of the Litany River, but the issue of water use and forestry all experts had agreed, but with slight modification, it did not mention the identity of the experts or the words “Zionist experts” or “engineering project Zion”, this shows that the reality and the nature of the British Mandate and the adoption of the draft of the Jewish state regardless who Britain appoints whether a committee of experts from the members of the Zionists or Jews from the Zionists or Englishmen the result is the same.
Thus, it has been agreed between British and the French to move ahead with production of electrical energy from any waters of the Jordan, Yarmouk and Hasbani and their tributaries where it was under control of the French mandate, and that for the benefit of Palestine from the excess water. And in another form the excess of water does not only go to Lake Hula, but it has become by virtue of Article VIII of the Convention a legitimate right of the Government of Palestine which later became Israel to take advantage of all that can be called the Lebanese water surplus.
Legally, there have been amendments to this Convention under the Mandate, but did not change Article VIII. Lebanon has inherited international conventions and agreements from the French mandate namely, “Boundary Agreement” and Lebanon did not submit any amendment to overturn the agreement Israel could still demand the application of Article VIII, as it pleases. It should be noted that Lebanon has been devoted to cross border agreement, the “Armistice Agreement” signed with Israel in 1949, by the first paragraph of Article V which states: “following the Armistice Line international border between Lebanon and Palestine”. The question of neglect or ostrich policy or opacity of the “Border Agreement”, it may be a political issue but also an issue at the heart of the nation by not dealing with this article or commenting and even ignoring it entirely is a matter strange reprehensible because it is sensitive and dangerous to Lebanon on the national level and security.
The “Border Agreement” after signing was not to the level aspired by Zionism as the Convention did not include the Lebanese territory and the Litany River, but the Zionist joy was great to Article VIII in particular, which had a loud expressive joy of triumph, regardless of their hopes for swallowing the Litany land and water, but the right to exploit Lebanon’s water surplus considered in itself a major achievement. It is the latest writings which dealt with this point, the book which was released in 1994 by American Professor Adam Garfinkle, entitled “War, Water, and Negotiation in the Middle East: The Case of the Palestine Syria Border, 1916-23” the book explained that the Zionist did not give up on convincing France to give up the Litany land and water, he also concludes that Zionist work to earn the surplus of Lebanese water, is considered a victory.
To avoid this potential danger it is essential for lawyers to address an in depth study of the convention of the “Border Agreement” so it does not become a sword hanging over Lebanon, at this time Lebanon is still resisting in Sheba farms, Gagar village, and the water of the Hasbani and Wazzani. At this time Lebanese government should move to the process of mobilizing the nation into making use of Lebanese waters and take advantage of them completely and in an optimal way, including groundwater and rivers by returning to the proposals and integrated projects, like the Litany project and to build dams. An expert Ibrahim Abdel-Al is known for his famous “Report of Abdel-Al 1952”, which says: “Lebanon’s gift is the Litany” and “Lebanon can not be saved until an overall design of the Lebanese water sources” a lot of Lebanese are aware of this danger, as well as the importance of making use of water in the integrated projects for Lebanon and to prevent the Zionist dangers.
At the level of international law, with regard to rivers water according to the International Law Institute, which states “sovereignty of the National Rivers are rivers that flow in the territory of one state and are subject to its sovereignty”. Its followed by “that the right of the State to exploit its natural resources and powers at its discretion”.
As for the international rivers, rivers which are respectively, in different regions or between the territories of two or more countries, follow the provisions of international law and the rules known as rules of Helsinki
The International Law Association in 1966 is the one being applied so far, which states that the state where the river passes have part of the river, located between the borders. Accordingly, the State could exercise on the part located in the territory all acts of public authority and its exploitation in various aspects of agricultural, industrial, financial, and subject to similar rights to other countries that share the river, and not doing any work that could undermine these rights and the most important: the principle of distributive justice, to refrain from undertaking projects that would harm or prejudice to the rights of others, and the principle of adequate respect for acquired rights of all the beneficiary countries, based on the actual needs of each of them to the international waters of the river, and the principle of payment of appropriate compensation in case of harm to the rights of any third party states and other recipients. As I pointed earlier to the Turkish Syrian water conflict and Egypt Eritrea water conflict
From these provisions one could easily conclude several things:
First, Israel has no right to any waters of the Litany River as it is located within the Lebanese border meaning it’s not an international river. in spite of international conferences, multilateral and specialized agencies on water that began in 1992 after the launch of the Madrid talks, new theories to explain the river basins have been put forward in these conferences, including the theory of the basin complex, which includes several sectors of life, environmental affairs or economic sectors, there is no doubt if this theory is approved it will constitute a threat to what is considered internal rivers within a single state, as it gives rights to neighboring countries to take advantage of the water of the rivers. Despite what has been proven that the Litany River have nothing to do with underground water of other rivers, but some of the laws proposed, in the event of approval will be affecting the waters of the Litany. It is worth mentioning that the latest studies that constitute a real threat to Arab water is that of the study was conducted for a period of two continuous years from 1994 till 1995 by Israeli scientists, headed by economists from Harvard University and Mass. Institute of Technology, which was essentially based on the separation between the ownership of water and the use of water, so water ownership is of no importance.
Secondly, with regard to the standing problem of Wazzani and Hasbani rivers which international law applies to them as they stem and hold on Lebanese territory up to the north of Palestine, the Helsinki Rules on the right to exploitation within the bases of the international norms, and Lebanon has the right in the exploitation without being a damaging partner to any other State which these rivers flow in, and it can be argued what Israel claims and especially the rights of Lebanese Wazzani water up to about 50 million cubic meters, while Lebanon needs to implement projects to irrigate some of the villages, while Israel is taking away more then 150 million cubic meters. Lebanon should also benefit from the spring in particular, and secondly from its course and that the proportion of Lebanon’s right to have approximately one third, as there is no bilateral agreement between the two countries to organize this benefit, and Lebanon is losing its share of the water which is a violation of international law.
Third, by returning to law and international norms, the attack on the Lebanese waters and piracy, and the continuing Israeli plundering of Lebanese waters from the rivers Wazzani and Hasbani, which perhaps been going on for tens of years, is a breach of international law, they are attacking the rights of Lebanon, and Lebanon only practitioner of his right to water, it is possible to resort to international arbitration as the best way to preserve Lebanon’s right through the United Nations, as well as its commitment to resistance, and the insistence on preventing any attack on our rights but more than that Israel should be forced to pay for the damage caused to Lebanon and the deprivation of legal and natural right to benefit from the Hasbani and Wazzani water.
The multiple failures of Israel invasions to the Lebanese territory and the inability to accomplish its missions which it calls the safety for Galilee and the political objectives as the convention on the Lebanese-Israeli, which took place on May 17, 1983 and the attempt to impose Israeli hegemony through the establishment of a fragile Lebanese system which is subject of loyalty to Israel and to be separated from the Arab and peeled off the Arab issues, this agreement was eliminated by the triumphant victory of the resistance and the withdrawal of the Israeli enemy defeated, which set a precedent as the first Arab land to be freed by force.
So the data is representative of which to open the gate to negotiation in the region from topic of water and draw international attention on the other hand from what is happening in Palestine, and resettlement process in the midst of the events that are taking place in the region, whether in Palestine or in the region in general, and Israeli amplified the problem of Wazzani in an attempt to prevent Lebanon to obtain its rights from the Wazzani water , not to protect their right to water, but to cut the road to Lebanon for the benefit of the waters of the Hasbani, which may lead to a suspension of the Wazzani project pending resolution of the conflict with theme or linking to draft a comprehensive solution to the crisis in the Middle East peace process through which the installation of Israeli hegemony over the region.
The most important thing Israel wants from Lebanon is to capture the Lebanese water in general and the Litany River especially, which is the reason for instability in the region, which will halt any peace attempts as Lebanon is dyer needs for its water resources, Israel on the other hand sees it as a vital issue for peace with Lebanon. the problem is expanded to intervene in the scope of what is happening in the entire region and have realized how invested for the water rights and economic development. Hence it was the Israeli insistence on negotiations on the water issue before any other subject, and now Israel is trying to benefit from the Wazzani by placing the water as a main point with the disarmament of Hezbollah for negotiations, for the U.S. to move these negotiations forward one could predict a United States intervention in Lebanon under the title war on terrorism.
1 as contained in the happiest Razzouk _ Greater Israel: A Study in the expansionist Zionist ideology, (Beirut – the Palestine Liberation Organization – Research Center, 1968), p. 403.
2 Adam Garfinkle, War, Water, and Negotiation in the Middle East; The Case of the Palestine-Syrian Border 1916 _ 1923 (Jerusalem: Tel Aviv University, 1994) P: 126.
3 Dr. Statement Noueihed the evolution of the constitutional and political Lebanese 1920 – 1995 Beirut 1996
4 Assaad Razzouk – Israel’s major study in the expansionist Zionist ideology, Beirut: Palestine Liberation Organization – Research Center, 1968.
5 Edward Rizk, The River Jordan, New York, Arab Information Center, 1964.
6 British Documents on Foreign Affair, Part II, Series B-Vo1.2 (University Publication of America) -.
7 The Palestinian issue and the Zionist danger, Beirut: Ministry of National Defense – the Lebanese army and the Institute for Palestine Studies, 1973.
8 the Palestinian issue and the Zionist danger (Beirut: Ministry of National Defense – the Lebanese army and the Institute for Palestine Studies, 1973), p.: 526.
9 The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann: August 1898-July 1931
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below: