Summer 2002



Northern Exposure: Water and Routine on the Golan


Security is not the only consideration when Israel deliberates the future of the Golan Heights and the strategic function of this area.  According to Prof. Nurit Kliot of the Department of Geography, there are serious implications for Israel’s water management with any return of the Golan to Syria.  Kliot was one of a roster of speakers from different disciplines who had gathered at the University in mid-March to discuss Israel’s “northern exposure.”

   The geographer, whose topic related to geopolitical and geostrategic aspects of the Golan, noted that only a small percentage of the water system was exclusively Israel’s; most of its water sources belonged to a number of neighboring countries in addition. International norms generally governed the distribution of water among those that shared sources.

   Currently, she reminded her audience, Israel is the primary beneficiary of the Jordan-Yarmukh river system, Syria the second beneficiary, while Lebanon and Jordan do not receive what is due them according to the international norms. 

   Since the establishment of the state, Israel has been faced with Arab attempts at deviating sources of water before it flows to Israel. After the Six Day War and the occupation of the Golan, Kliot continued, the plans became irrelevant.  Return of the Golan to Syria, she warned, involved severe, even risky implications for Israel’s water supply.

   The geographer’s pessimism extended to Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which she said was losing its strategic value with every centimeter that it dropped in level.  Though the winter just passed finally produced some heavier than usual rainfalls, it was insufficient, and the Kinneret could fall by August 2002 to –215.5.

   Uncertainty  may lead to pessimism, but Sara Arnon of the University’s Golan Research Center found that Golan residents have adopted the condition of political and geopolitical uncertainty as part of their life’s routine.  She conducted in-depth interviews with 48 of the 17,000 Jewish residents of the Golan. 

   Contrary to what was expected, she discovered no social, personal, or regional chaos.  In her opinion, coping with the uncertainty led to a slow adjustment to the circumstances.  The Golan residents continue with their settlement, industrial, educational activity as they did prior to the 1991 Madrid Conference.  Routine, it seems, constitutes something to grasp hold of in times of crisis, and this itself becomes an indicator of the struggle against the return of the Golan.

   A kind of adjustment syndrome is created to cries of “Wolf” from the direction of the political system, Arnon concluded.  Alongside it, there occurs a flexible combination of uncertainty and routine. 


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