Friday, August 11, 2006

IT'S ABOUT THE WATER, STUPID

The Lebanon conflict is a precursor of future wars about resources, says Damien Mcelroy ...

To end a war with no name, the UN is proposing a solution that ignores its immediate cause.

Logic suggests the war should be called the Shebaa Farms conflict, as these settlements occupy the strategic toehold Israel retains on the Lebanese border. Hezbollah has built up its missile stocks and "resistance" units to recover the territory, while Israel maintains the area is Syrian and should be part of its peace with Damascus.

Few doubt the real importance of the area: it is the gateway to the mountains that supply one-third of Israel's water. Consider the frontier between Lebanon and Israel. To the south there are lush green groves of olive trees. Look north and the view is arid, scrappy hills where hardly a goat forages. The difference is water, its topsy-turvy availability and utilisation. There is plenty of water for both, but the watershed runs off the mountains to the north, away from Israel, and the Litani River, which Israel unsuccessfully proposed as its new peace line, carries the excess into the Mediterranean.

Israel's touchstone project was a drive to make the Holy Land bloom. Without water from the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon, which is flanked by the Shebaa Farms, the dream of abundance turns to dust. Hezbollah too loses its core motive. It cloaks its actions with Lebanese claims to the territory.

The UN resolution has no mention of Shebaa. It parks the issue in the future while the business of pushing the sides apart is undertaken. If a ceasefire results, it will likely be as hollow as the crippled tanks now stranded by roadsides. Some pundits see resource wars as the future. To a claim that Iraq was about oil, add Lebanon and water. Who said the two don't mix?

First published here on The First Post, August 8, 2006

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