Time for another blog about what we – and, in this case, very especially Arab countries in the Middle East – lose if we lose Israel.
Yesterdat;s New York Times op-ed page had an article by Seth M. Siegel which talks about Israel\’s extraordinary advances in water management, and how its successful technology might become a factor in promoting middle east peace: not because Arabs – particularly Palestinian Arabs – like Israeli Jews, but because, as a practical matter, they need the technology Israeli Jews have implemented to become an agricultural power in a land with little usable water.
Here is a link to the entire article. Below are a few key excerpts:
Nuclearproliferation, religious militancy and income inequality are allmajor threats to Middle East stability. Sadly, a new one is brewing:water scarcity.
Thehuman causes are clear: rapid population growth, antiquatedinfrastructure, the over-pumping of aquifers, inefficient croppractices and pollution from fertilizer and pesticides. Then thereare the factors that climate change is accelerating, like evaporationof lakes and rivers and diminished rainfall.
Onecountry in the region might have a solution to these water woes:Israel.It shares the same problems of climate and desertification as itsneighbors, but it has mastered the management of water resources,such that it can endure periodic droughts while supporting a growingpopulation. Its water management can not only be a model but can evenreduce regional tensions.
Wastefulfarming practices – in particular, flooding a field to irrigate it- are the biggest factor behind the regional water shortage.Starting in the 1960s, Israeli farmers abandoned this technique infavor of drip irrigation, which reduces the loss of water toevaporation, gets water to roots more efficiently and, critically,produces crop yields vastly greater than those with conventionalirrigation. Israel also treats household sewage as a preciousresource, reusing more than 80 percent of it for agriculture. In Iranand many Arab countries, sewage is dumped, which can threaten publichealth by contaminating wells and aquifers.
Warsover water have been forecast as a coming threat worldwide, and thegeopolitical risks can\’t be discounted. Syria, ruined by civil war,and Iraq, still an epicenter of religious violence, will suffer evenmore, as Turkey accelerates its diversion of the Tigris and EuphratesRivers to make up for its shortsighted over-pumping of once-massiveAnatolian aquifers. Egypt, with 10 times Israel\’s population butnearly 50 times the water available, uses water inefficiently,despite the age-old centrality of agriculture to its economy.Ethiopia, upriver to Sudan and Egypt, is asserting water rights tothe Nile for its growing population, putting it in tension withEgypt. Yemen might be in the worst shape: Short of immediate, radicalsteps, it could be out of water in 15 years.
Becauseof geography and hydrology, the Palestinians\’water future is closely tied to Israel\’s. In just the few years ofHamascontrol of Gaza, the water supply there has been polluted, and thoughno solution to its coming water crisis is likely without an Israelirole, Hamas has refused to cooperate with Israel.
Noone should wish for a water crisis anywhere. But as water problemsgrow, one hopes that ideology will give way to pragmatism and mayopen a door to an Arab and Islamic outreach to Israel. A partnershipthat starts with engineers and extends to farmers could contribute todeal making, even reconciliation, among leaders. Rather than seeingIsrael as a problem, Israel\’s antagonists would be wise to see itas a solution.
For years I have written that if Palestinian Arabs would stop trying to kill Israelis and start trying to learn from them, both sides would be immeasurably better off. That goes for Arab countries as well, and learning Israeli techniques for the creation and utilization of fresh water is right at the top of the list.
Because of Israel, this technology exists. But if Arab countries, and Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the west bank) do not approach Israel and learn what it has innovated – if they feel that decimating Israel and its Jews is more important than their water supplies and the health of their people – the fact that it exists is irrelevant.
Your call, guys. Which is it going to be?