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Water, Geography, and Peace in the Middle East

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Hussein A. Amery and Aaron T. Wolf

From Water In the Middle East: A Geography of Peace
© 2000 University of Texas Press
This book is available online here.


The idea for this book originated when its editors decided on the need for an edited volume that would have the Jordan River basin as its focal point, a geographical perspective as its analytical approach, and the promise of a Middle East at peace as its planning horizon. It is the inexorable movement toward a Middle East at peace which is the foundation for this work.

We recognize that the peace process proceeds by fits and starts, and has periods of exuberance and mourning. It is just as hard to see the dangers that lie ahead when documents of agreement are being signed as it is to remember the positive possibilities when rocks and bullets fly. Yet just as the Jordan flows unceasingly toward its destination both in times of plenty and times of drought, so, too, we believe the peace process will and must continue to move forward. We must remember how far the peace process has advanced in the short years since negotiations began.

This collaboration between the coeditors, each of whose backgrounds mirrors the other's, was born at a meeting on Middle Eastern water in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1992. Participants, including Israelis and Arabs, had come from around the world. Suspicions were rampant and the rhetoric thick. Each presentation included nine parts of political posturing for each part of water. And yet, a glimmer of hope for peace emerged at that time.

In the relative blink of an eye, given the length of time the two sides have been at odds, attitudes have changed as each side has begun to de-demonize, then listen to, and finally understand the other. Today, Jordan and Israel are developing joint management of the Yarmuk and the Jordan Rivers; Israelis and Palestinians cooperate in joint patrols to police illicit pumping and both sides have recognized the other's water rights.

We come to our task as coeditors from backgrounds representing different sides of the conflict. While our respective conditioning and education in the United States and Canada lead us occasionally to differing interpretations (notice in our chapters, for example, our very different conclusions regarding the relationship between the Litani and Jordan Rivers), we share a fervent belief in the overwhelming potential of a Middle East at peace. We argue, however, that the obstacles in its way not only can be overcome, but will be. Since the people of the region cannot turn back history, they must move forward; they can only do so together.

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