Mismanagement, occupation and overuse of already scarce water resources in the Middle East are increasingly becoming one of the main contributing factors towards conflict in this region. Most especially, in respect to the conflict between Israel and its neighbouring Arab countries. Usually conflict in this region is associated with religion, terrorism and oil, however, it is becoming gradually more apparent that one of the major driving forces behind heightened conflict in the Middle East is resource scarcity. Fresh water resources, in particular, are becoming a crucial aspect in the tension and any future resolution of the conflict.
Israel’s need for securitising water is not a recent phenomenon and can even be traced back to before the Balfour Declaration. This need to achieve environmental security for its people, by occupying land and restricting Arab access to water is having devastating effects on water resources in the region. It’s not only effecting the environment, the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza strip ‘are receiving well below the recommended 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organisation (WTO).’ (Amnesty 2009: 4). This inequality of access to water is created and controlled by Israel, who uses it as a way of achieving security when, in fact, it is only likely to inflame widespread anger towards Israel and its policies. This could in turn increase the hostility towards Israel amongst Arabs and create greater sympathy for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel’s quest for water security is essentially positioning them in further risk of conflict and even war.
Fresh water is the most essential resource on the planet; fundamental to all ecological and societal activities, including food and energy production, industrial development, transportation and sanitation. However, fresh water resources are unevenly and unfairly distributed, and some regions of the world suffer from significant water-shortag
Water-shortage can have a direct link to conflict, as access to basic resources can trigger violence as human populations increase, standards of living increase and environmental changes affect water-supply and create future uncertainty. Regions where water is scarce can often generate competition and conflict for limited resources; nations view access to water as a matter of national security. ‘Issues of water security have played a role in regional instabilities.’ (Giordiano and Wolf 2002: 293).
One of the longest ongoing water disputes relating to resource scarcity and resource dependence is the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially in relation to the water resources in the Jordan River.
The importance of this issue is under-researched; the continued occupation of the West Bank guarantees the State of Israel control over vital water resources that originate in the West Bank but are consumed in the most part by Israel. This is a non-negotiable prerequisite for the survival of a Jewish national homeland, a fundamental pledge of the Zionist movement. Concerns for economic viability of a Jewish state in arid Palestine drove the World Zionist Organization to be adamant that it was “of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to be able to conserve and control them at their sources.” (Kelly and Homer-Dixon 1995).
This reveals the importance of water control to Israel, it exposes one of the major, if not the main reason as to why Israel will not surrender control over the territory. Israel’s survival is dependent on its occupation of the West Bank. Relinquishing control of the territory could potentially be an act of suicide for the State of Israel.