Blood, Water and Wine

Qana, as the British MP, George Galloway reminded his listeners (the show doesn’t seem to be archived but he was accused of being an Israeli Mossad agent on Sunday), is said by some to be where Jesus turned water into wine. And as the roads of this village run with the blood of so many children, it is to water rather than to Chateau Musar that analysts are turning their attention.

Many have asked how it can be that one of the world’s most powerful U.S.-taxpayer-subsidised armies on earth has not been able to defeat a guerrilla army that has seemingly spent most of its money on social services in Southern Lebanon rather than rockets.
And why is Israel willing to cope with such international opprobrium in order to free two soldiers Hezbollah captured to catalyse a prisoner swap in a type of deal done many times before? Israel has even alienated some friends on Capitol Hill. It has managed to get bad publicity for its cause on U.S. networks, which normally are uniform in their bias.

Israel, it seems, wants a complete evacuation of Southern Lebanon so that international forces can guard the area around the Litani river and ensure that the water flows to Israel. Whilst Israel has been successful in stealing some of the 580 million cubic metres of water a year, the Lebanese have a dam at Qarun.

“The entire basin of the Litani River is located within the borders of Lebanon. The river rises in the central part of the northern Biqa’a Valley, a short distance west of Baalbek and flows between the Lebanon mountain to the west and the mountains to the east, running south and southwestardly at its own pace. The river enters a gorge at Qarun, flows through it about 30 kilometers and, near Nabatiya and the Beaufort Castle, abruptly turns right (to the west), to break through the mountain range to the right, and continues to flow through the hilly terrain of the al-Amal region. North of Tyre, it empties into the Mediterranean.”
(from Inventory of Conflict and Environment).

Israel obtains over one third of its water supply from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But it needs more.

When Israel finally lost its twenty year war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel asked the U.S. for increased contributions from American taxpayers to pay for bigger desalinisation plants. It seems that some of the money was refused by the Bush administration.

According to a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Israel was using water from the Lebanese Litani River, by means of an 11 mile tunnel it had drilled, as well as from Lebanons Wazzani springs (source: UPI). Note that no journalists can get to the area to confirm information about the siphoning of water and, indeed, such claims are contested (Aaron Wolf, in a U.N. publication, says there’s no way Israel would dream of stealing from the Litani).

But even whilst President Clinton and the Israeli government refused to negotiate over the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Israel imported over 100,000 Jews into the occupied West Bank. Those 100,000 use around the same amount of water that one million Palestinians do (something to do with swimming pools, say partisan analysts). As the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says:

“Israel’s water economy is on the brink of a crisis.”

So what’s a country supposed to do? Whilst this White House is willing to send more than $10 bn worth of arms, it isn’t going to send money to take the salt out of the Med? A neat buffer zone would at least guarantee illegal supplies from the Latani.

But will China and Russia and France go along with all this? And why is the U.N. Secretary-General not raising the hidden agenda? And why are hundreds of Lebanese Muslim, Druze and Christian civilians paying the price for this U.S.-Israeli plan? Secretary Rice’s performance has been viewed as absurd by the international community. Henry Kissinger’s “shuttle diplomacy” was just that. He “shuttled” between Syria, Egypt, Moscow, Jordan and Israel, running circles around hapless Egyptian and Soviet politicians. Rice seems to think she is reinventing the strategy of that scion of the U.S. right…by “shuttling” between her laptop and Ehud Olmert’s drawing room. No wonder that the Lebanese PM told her to go home.

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