Water is life. People can survive only three days without it. Clean water keeps humans and animals alike from contracting deadly waterborne diseases. We need clean water to grow, wash and transport healthy food.
From the Sonoran Desert – where the Jewish Voice headquarters are located – to Africa’s Sahara and Israel’s Negev, this life-giving treasure is scarce and becoming more so. But now, water has opened a unique window of opportunity to bring peace to the Middle East.
Israel Leads the Way in Solving the World’s Water Problems
The Tower, a monthly conservative online magazine on the Middle East, noted in 2015 that Israel was “at the heart of any effort to solve the global water crisis.” The author, the magazine’s founder, wrote that Israel “leads the way in solving problems of water supply, spearheading efforts to deal with water leakage, farming efficiency, recycling waste, desalination, pricing policy and education. This has resulted in a water revolution unlike anywhere else on earth; a revolution not just of technology, but of thought, policy and culture.”
Thanks to Israel’s water technology, concerned Arab states now partner with Israel to solve their own water problems, and these alliances have improved Israel’s standing in the area.
In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel’s relations with Arab states were “improving beyond imagination.” Netanyahu believed these improved relations would help Israel “achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors,” reported Israel’s i24 News.ed.
In addition, Netanyahu hopes water will be an opening to peace with Iran. Also in June, he released a video with an offer to help the Iranian people battle Iran’s ongoing drought – an offer the Iranian regime had rejected. The video announced the launch of a Farsi-language social media account where individual Iranians could learn how to implement the same water-saving technology Israel uses. In a powerful statement, Netanyahu said, “The Iranian regime shouts, ‘Death to Israel!' In response, Israel shouts, “Life to the Iranian people!”
How We Got Here
In 1991 and 1992, the United States brought together Israel and several Arab nations to talk about integrating the region through common needs. The group formed five multilateral working groups on issues of mutual concern: environment, arms control and regional security, water, refugees and economic development.
The United States chaired the Working Group on Water Resources (WGWR) with the European Union and Japan as deputy chairs. This spawned the Middle East Desalination Research Center, established in Oman in December 1996 with Israel as one of its executive council members.
Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum wrote on the Jewish Center for Public Affairs website in 2010, “The idea [of the WGWR] was to make progress on issues of mutual concern that might serve as confidence-building measures to move the bilateral tracks forward.” He said this represented the best way forward for Middle East peace.
Cooperation Forced into the Shadows
Unfortunately, Palestinian objections to a 2000 visit to the Temple Mount by Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon forced cooperation into the shadows and triggered increased Palestinian violence and terrorism against Israel.
Joseph Dubroff, a Research Intern with the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, wrote an article in August 2018 about covert meetings between Israel and its Arab neighbors to deal with issues of security and natural resources.
“These countries include Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel has diplomatic relations, as well as others with which Israel does not, such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” Dubroff wrote. He called the Israeli-Palestinian peace process lifeless and said, “Israeli and Arab government officials are meeting, but popular support for the Palestinian cause keeps these meetings behind closed doors.”
A Historic Opportunity for Peace
Water and other common interests have created a historic opportunity to normalize relations between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors, declared a January 2018 article on the Council of Foreign Relations website, written by Moshe Yaalon and Leehe Friedman. However, they noted, this occasion first requires solving the rift between Palestine and Israel.
“In recent years, a noticeable shift has taken place between Israel and the Sunni Arab world,” Yaalon and Leehe wrote. “The scope of common interests between them has widened, and they have found themselves successfully cooperating on a number of strategically important issues, such as security, energy and the sharing of natural resources.”
Yaalon and Friedman said the Palestinian cause “is the only issue that allows the Arab world to present a united stance, but this is just a semblance of unity.” The authors suggest that, “Arab countries must consider whether this empty show is still worthwhile, particularly in a period when they can benefit greatly from Israel building on other common denominators around issues such as water treatment, desert agriculture, food security, improved living standards and so on.
“Furthermore, if a breakthrough is ultimately achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a result of closer relations between Israel and the Sunni camp, this would represent a sweeping victory over Iran. Such an achievement would also harm Iran’s allies within the radical camp and raise the stature of the pragmatic camp within the international community.”
In other words, water just may be the key to Middle East peace.
Will you join us in praying for this unique window of opportunity to finally usher in the peace so desperately needed in the Middle East?
- For God to continue using mutual needs to improve relations between Israel and its moderate Sunni neighbors
- For God to refocus the hearts and minds of citizens in Arab nations away from an empty show of unity and toward the life-giving solutions Israel offers