The role of water security in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, por Leandro Ferreira

Water is essential for mankind, but if this access is forbidden, somehow it develops big structural violence. The control of the Jordan River supposed to be something shared by States, specially because of the quantity of agreements, political and social endeavors that has been made about it, the cooperation might rule the relation between Israel and Palestine. The West Bank Water Department (WBWD) along with the JWC and Israeli Water Department (IWD) promised more than what they really could achieve for some reasons. The first one could be presented as the inequality of actual capabilities and personal traces of both parties. Palestine has not overcome the status of an authority, which means that it does not have a self-govern, explicit boundaries, population, economic and institutional arrangement at the same level or robustness as Israel (Selby 2003).

The second one could be described as the transitional situation of controlled areas (A, B and C) and institutional building. The Israeli control of some settlements has not ceased, or even people were able now, after a long time, to drink fresh water. The JWC and the Oslo II have both been set as a way to coordinate the hydropolitc between the States, in a way that they could create some robustness through the time. They had lots of meeting since 1995, but this water regime in the last years have become a controlled institution by Israel where it could perform with power and coercion (Isaac and Selby 2017). This is said because the JWC was supposed to make some adjust in the water politics even inside Israel or in the settlements. Contrary, Palestine has been compelled to make lots adjust because of the common Israeli vetoes over the building of several well, pipelines and treatment plants (Selby 2013) (Brooks, Trottier and Doliner 2013).

The third one is related to the second. The political adjust made by Palestine and Israel, since then, have some benefits outcomes for Israel the State, after the Oslo II, felt a freedom to maintain the expansionism, gain more territory and access to water resources from lakes or the Jordan River (Selby 2013). Since Palestine has not become autonomous part and with all the Israeli prohibitions, it has, due to time, lost the shared control over the Jordan River. This made the PA search for different water sources in the aquifers, desalination and reused wastewater (Brooks, Trottier and Doliner 2013), though it has some ways to get water from another sources, this is not what the Oslo II and the JWC were supposed to (Selby 2003, Isaac and Selby 2017).

Furthermore, while there are swimming pools, well-watered lawns and irrigated farms, without mention fresh water to drink in Israel, in Palestine people are having a struggle to get some fresh water for basic domestic need (Black 2013). With a minimum standard of 100 litters per day of water for each person, with the water system Israelis could use 240-300 litters per day, while Palestinians in the West Bank have only 73 litters per day without the correct access (Corradin 2016). This leads to a social problem. As we already pose, water is essential for life and people cannot develop, grow, get quality housing and education without the correct amount of water. So that, the absence of water created by Israeli domination over the main sources in the region, could identified as an act of violence against the Palestinians that constantly produce insecurity among than but primarily inside the Palestinians settlements in the West bank.

As said before, the PA has less power than Israel to produce changes, which allows it, because of the historical background of conflict, to exert an oppression over the Palestinians. People cannot think about their own emancipation because they are so intertwined in this reality that it could mean a difficult wall to jump over and move on.

The Jordan River is an important variable for the bigger conflict between them. Some believe that this is the reason of the conflict and what makes it goes forward and maybe to the future if it is not going to be solved (Waldman 2004). Another possible interpretation sees the river not as a causal variable, actually as a minor conflict that takes the Israeli-Palestinian clash to a level in which the parties try to use the most basic good to produce security for its population (Karner 2013). No matter how approach someone takes into account to describe the importance of the river for this dynamic, what has to be clear about this is that it regards a different cooperation pattern, not the rapid and non-sense statements made upon the Oslo II, that tried to build peace and stability to the region.

By promoting cooperation on water politics at any sort, the object became deeply problematic, in some way it intensifies the conflict, forgetting to promote any kind of peace or stability (Zeitoun and Warner 2006). This happens because the endeavors made, they had the intention to cease the material conflict or the directly lack access of water by Palestinians, even though the 3 agreements had made some advances for the water politics, one probable core of this problem seems to be the disagreement that exist about the two-state solution or the coexistence of both sides (Selby 2013). And having this as an aim, Israel insist on the dismantling of what rests from PA by delaying every decision related to the access of the Jordan River, or the building of a water system.

This reinforces the argument that, even if it could exist a solution for the conflict, if the infrastructure of water in the Palestinians villages and towns cannot be resolved, Israel will keep the expansionism in the region, transforming the left spaces into settlements. The JWC-Oslo II developed some bases for future cooperation, but because of the regional water policy coordination so asymmetrical, the PA has increased the dependency. The promotion of security by a peaceful transition, starts to create a colonization (Selby 2013, Black 2013). In the one hand, if Palestinians want to have access to fresh water, they deeply depend on the Israeli decisions, as shown before, which brings a situation of physical dependency of supplies for their own existence. In the other hand because the possibility for them to overcome its current situation and provoke some future good benefits outcomes has been extinguished by the delays on the JWC, the uneven Oslo II, and also the retracted power of self-government and efforts around the hydropolitics (Karner 2013).

So that, the manifested violence is the conflict itself with some escalation and de-escalation is the materialization of the conflict that drives Palestinian settlement in bad conditions of existence. The manifested violence, of course, in short-term perspective could bring terrible outcomes to both countries because of the material and political costs, and, since it presented as such a destructive dynamic, is more than obvious that just the absence of this could leave some stability. Unfortunately, as the theory provide us with this perspective, as long as the material or manifested conflict is eradicated (in a very ideal way) but the institutions such as the JWC, Oslo II and PWA keep doing nothing but what is previously announced and allowing the lack of water in PA and its underdevelopment, maintain the latent violence. In the one hand, of course it could bring some peace or stability because the PA depends on Israeli good fortune, so Israel has PA on its hands when comes about the hydropolitics. In the other hand, it just gives a non-institutional peace that has enough space to commit more violent acts against Palestinians, perpetuating the mischievous dynamic as long as it intends to be.

It seems that the Jordan River plays an important role in the area as a whole, but precisely when it talks about Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the institutions made to overcome the problem of the access of water in the PA, have not succeed with this objective. The JWC, Oslo I, Cairo, Oslo II and also other peculiar institutions or agreements, at the first glance they just moved the hydropolitics to a more complex and segregated situation. Through the time, it was possible to see some achievements, but the biggest achievements, which means the access to fresh water in the fair quantity, it has not been gotten even close. Palestinians keep drinking a short quantity of water from not even clean or treated fountains, but from where, they could get. Of course, that inside Israeli settlements the situation is a little different, but it does not leave the accountant of what happens in towns and villages.

At the end of the day, it seems that the control over natural resources as MacKinder genially sad before, gives you a great power of expansion and the right to rule a negotiation, even if we are talking about non-powerful States. In the regional dynamic, it seems fair to say that it works likely, but what gives it a perverse effect is the control over such natural resource, and the control over who needs it, leaving them to die because of the impetus of expansionism, domination, and somehow, hatred.


Black, Ian. 2013. “Water under the bridge: how the Oslo agreement robbed the Palestinians.” The Guardian.

Booth, Ken. 1994. “Security and self reflections of a fallen realist.” Em Critical Security Studies. Concepts and Cases, por Keith Krause e Michael C Williams, 83-120. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 2007. Theory of world security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brooks, David B., Julie Trottier, e Laura Doliner. 2013. “Changing the nature of transboundary water agreements: the Israeli–Palestinian case.” Water International, 671-686.

Corradin, Camilla. 2016. “Israel: Water as a tool to dominate Palestinians.” AlJazeera.

Galtung, Johan. 1969. “Violence, peace and peace research.” Journal of Peace Research, 167-191.

Isaac, Jad, e Jan Selby. 2017. The Palestinian water crisis: Status, projections and potential for resolution. Jerusalem.

Karner, Milan. 2013. “Hydropolitics in the Jordan River basin The conflict and cooperation potential of water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Transboudary Waters.

Liberation Staff. 2015. Occupied Palestine: Decades of Land Theft. 2 de November. Acesso em 16 de Aug. de 2017.

MacKinder, Halford J. 1904. “The Geographical Pivot of history.” Geogrphical journal, 421-437.

Morris, Benny. 2001. Righteous Victims: A history of the zionist-arab conflict 1881 – 2001. New York: Vintage Books.

Reiss, H. J. 1970. Kant’s political writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Selby, Jan. 2013. “Cooperation, Domination and Colonisation: The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee.” Water Alternatives, 1-24.

—. 2003. Water, Power and Politics in the Middle East: The Other Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. london: I. B. Tauris.

Silva, Leonardo Luiz da. 2011. A cooperação Jordaniana-israelense referente aos recursos hídricos da Bacia do Rio jordão a partir da perspectiva dos jogos em múltiplas arenas. Belo Horizonte: Dissertação (Mestrado) Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Programa de Pós Graduação em relações Internacionais.

Waldman, Mauricio. 2004. “A paz está pedindo água: Recursos hídricos e o conflito árabe-israelense.” Cosmos, 29-34.

Wolf, Aaron T. 2007. “Shared Waters: Conflict and Cooperation.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 4 de July: 1-29.

Zeitoun, Mark, e Jeroen Warner. 2006. “Hydro-hegemony: a framework for analysis of trans-boundary water conflicts.” Water policy, 435-460.

About the author

Leandro Ferreira is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the Pontifical University of Minas Gerais.

How to cite this article

Mundorama. "The role of water security in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, por Leandro Ferreira". Mundorama - Revista de Divulgação Científica em Relações Internacionais,. [Acessado em 22/06/2018]. Disponível em: <>.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Seja o primeiro a comentar