Posted by Joshua on Monday, July 13th, 2009
Talk of a resumption of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations is “very premature considering Syrian intransigence and support for terror,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post.
Speculation was rampant in Israel after the arrival of American diplomat and Syria expert Frederick Hoff, a top advisor to American Middle East envoy George Mitchell…. Ayalon denied outright Israeli media reports that Hoff is bringing with him an early draft of an American plan for an Israel-Syria compromise on the Golan Heights.
“The American administration has decided to discreetly examine ways to resume negotiations between Israel and Syria.
It was learned last night that senior American diplomat Fred Hoff, a member of the team of special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, will meet today with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and top officials in the political and security echelon. The goal is to examine the possibility of resuming the talks between Israel and Syria, closely accompanied by the US.
Hoff will continue from here to Damascus, to talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. As of now, the Israeli side is sticking to the position whereby the talks with Syria can resume, but without preconditions. According to this position, the Syrians will be able to demand the return of the Golan Heights, while Israel will make it clear that it demands to remain on the Golan Heights in any arrangement.
That said, the Israeli intelligence community advocates resuming the negotiations with Syria and an agreement that entails the return of the Golan Heights with it being demilitarized on both sides of the border, in return for Damascus cutting its alliance with Iran.
Orly Azulai of Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Fred Hoff has already written a proposal for an Israeli-Syrian agreement:
The American administration has already begun to draw up a plan for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. It is based on a detailed document written by Dr. Fred Hoff, a member of George Mitchell’s team, who will arrive today for talks in Israel.
Hoff recently completed writing the document that forms the initial draft for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. Mitchell adopted this document as the basis for the peace between Israel and Syria.
The document suggests solutions to the complicated problems that are the bone of contention between Israel and Syria, and even suggests a route for the border line between the two countries that the American administration is already calling the “Hoff line.” Hoff suggests that the peace process between Israel and Syria take place in two stages: in the first stage the sides would build trust by sharing parks, nature reserves and water sources on the Golan Heights. He says that this way the two peoples will learn to live together and could bring down the walls of suspicion. In the second stage, he proposes, Israel would withdraw from the Golan to the line that he suggests.
He does not say how much time should elapse between the normalizationagreement and shared use of these reserves to the beginning of the withdrawal. However, based on sources close to Mitchell, this would be aprocess that would last for several years. Hoff’s proposal provides for a solution in which there are only winners for a problem that for years was considered a zero sum dynamic, says Scott Lasensky.”
Water for Peace
By STANLEY A. WEISS
July 13, 2009,
Op-Ed Contributor, NY Times
LONDON — Just days after the death of his father, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was asked to rank the issues of dispute between Syria and Israel. “Israel ranks her priorities in the following way: security, land and water,” he said. “But the truth is different. They consider water to be the most important.” He added, “Discussing this matter now is premature and its turn will come only after the land issue is discussed.”
Nine years later, the land issue remains frozen. The issue of water, however, has taken a dire turn. After a five-year drought, the region is headed toward a water calamity that could overwhelm all efforts at peace.
The Jordan River now has large sections reduced to a trickle. The Sea of Galilee is at its lowest point ever. The surface area of the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third. Iraq’s ancient marshes are now marked by large swaths of stalks and caked mud.
In northern Syria, more than 160 villages the past two years have run dry and been deserted by residents. In Gaza, 150,000 Palestinians have no access to tap water. In Israel, the pumps at the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret), its largest reservoir, were exposed above the water level, rendering pumping impossible. In Lebanon, 70 percent of wastewater is dumped into cesspools, polluting groundwater; Jordan is struggling with just 10 percent of its average rainfall.
Little wonder that many warn that future wars will be fought over water, not land.
But can crisis be turned into opportunity? Could water, rather than land, be the way to cooperation and peace in the Middle East?
“We are great believers in the water issue as a catalyst for regional peace,” says Gilead Sher, Israel’s chief negotiator at the Camp David summit and the Taba peace talks in 1999-2001. “In all previous rounds of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the water section has been very close to concluding between the sides within the agreement framework.”
Others, like Jordanian Munqeth Mehyar, Palestinian Nader Al-Khateeb, and Israeli Gidon Bromberg, believe water provides new avenues for dialogue. Together, the three run EcoPeace, an organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists to promote sustainable development and build “Good Water Neighbors” in the Middle East.
Syria itself is also taking a leadership role. Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri met recently with Iraqi Minister of Electricity Wahid Kareem in Damascus to discuss water resources. This came on the heels of a recent meeting in Baghdad of the energy ministers of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria to discuss energy and security, which led to talk of a regional compact — a “new Baghdad Pact, without the U.S.,” as Zaab Sethna calls it. Sethna, co-founder of Northern Gulf Partners, working to bring investment to Baghdad, adds: “Water would be a natural area for cooperation.”
It is time to make peace on behalf of water.
First, the U.S. should work with Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Syria to convene a conference — in Istanbul. “The best way to resolve the water shortage is to bring water from super-abundant sources in the north — that is, Turkey,” says the Israeli scholar Bernard Avishai.
The carrier would have to run through Syria and possibly Lebanon. Turkey has offered to lead such efforts in the past — most recently proposing a “water plan for peace,” using water from the Manavgat River to aid its neighbors.
Second, the United States must persuade Israel to share its water expertise and technology with its Arab neighbors. Water, rather than land, could form the basis of an agreement between Israel and Syria, revolving in part around the disputed Golan Heights, the source of more than 55 percent of Israel’s fresh water.
The U.S. should also broker a new agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to replace the failed Joint Water Committee. The agreement should make each side a partner in both supply and management. Without it, Gaza will run dry, and pollution from the Strip will continue to threaten Israeli water reserves.
Third, the U.N. should mobilize a global effort to find cheaper, more environmentally friendly ways to convert seawater into drinking water. While widely practiced in Israel and Gulf states, desalination costs three times what it costs to tap traditional sources, and can use 10 times the energy. At its climate change conference in Copenhagen this December, the U.N. should launch a campaign to build public-private partnerships to turn the promise of desalination into a more tenable solution.
It has been said that if Israel were on fire, its Arab neighbors would not supply the water to put the fire out — and vice-versa. But when it comes to water, every nation is in the same boat.
Stanley A. Weiss is the founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security.
Iraq lashed by sandstorms and battling drought
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — Below-average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq bone dry for a second straight year, wrecking swaths of farm land, threatening drinking water supplies and intensifying fierce sandstorms that have coated the country in brown dust.
The drought has dealt a harsh blow to hopes that reductions in sectarian violence over the last year would fuel an economic recovery. Instead, the government’s budget suffered a double-hit: Lower than expected oil prices have crimped revenues and the scarcity of water will force Iraq to spend money to import most of the crops, especially wheat and rice, to meet domestic demand.
“Look at this land. There is no water,” said Ashur Mohamed Ahmood, slipping the tip of his black cane into deep cracks in his parched field. He cautioned children not to run, fearing their small bare feet would get stuck in the crevices crisscrossing the farm on the outskirts of Baghdad.
“Without water there are no plants. This is the plant,” he says, uprooting a weed and throwing it back to the ground…..