2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:25 AM


WOLF, Aaron T., Geosciences, Oregon State University, 104 Wilkinson Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, wolfa@geo.oregonstate.edu

This paper examines the relationship between the location of water sources and strategic territory along Arab-Israeli boundaries, and poses the question, "Does territory exist over which sovereignty has been sought politically or militarily, or which would be insisted upon in the course of current territorial negotiations, solely because of its access to water sources, and in the absence of any other compelling strategic or legal rationale?" The question is divided into three: 1) Have boundaries been drawn historically on the basis of the location of water access? It is found that water sources have played a role, albeit subservient to other concerns, in the delineation of international boundaries, first between the British and French Mandates, then between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. In particular, the political and military policymakers of Israel had explicit interests in retaining the northern headwaters of the Jordan River, arguing for them in political arenas and reinforcing claims through settlement policy. Yet it is also clear that once boundaries were agreed-to in a legal forum in 1923, development plans were modified to fit the legal boundaries, not vice versa. 2) During warfare between competing riparians, has territory been explicitly targeted because of its access to water sources? Despite literature which suggests that Israel-Arab warfare has had a "hydrostrategic" component, the evidence suggests that water resources were not at all factors for strategic planning in hostilities. The decision to go to war, and strategic decisions made during the fighting including which territory was necessary to capture, were not influenced by water scarcity or the location of water resources. 3) In the course of negotiations, has territory with access to water sources, and no other strategic component, been seen vital to retain by any of the riparians? The questions of water allocations and rights have been difficult components in the Arab-Israeli peace talks. Nevertheless, with both concluded and ongoing negotiations, and despite studies identifying hydrostrategic territory and advising its retention, no territory to date has been retained simply because of the location of water. Solutions in each case have focused on creative joint management of the resource, rather than insistence on sovereignty.