National Geographic : 2010 Apr
for thousands of years. ( e word "rival," from the Latin rivalis, originally described competi- tors for a river or stream.) Worldwide, a long list of watersheds brims with potential clashes: between India and Pakistan over the Indus; Ethiopia and Egypt over the Nile; Turkey and Syria over the Euphrates; Botswana and Namibia over the Okavango. Yet according to research- ers at Oregon State University, of the 37 actual military con icts over water since 1950, 32 took place in the Middle East; 30 of them involved Israel and its Arab neighbors. Of those, practi- cally all were over the Jordan River and its trib- utaries, which supply millions of people with water for drinking, bathing, and farming. Armed confrontations over the Jordan date to the founding of Israel in 1948 and the rec- ognition that sources of the country's needed water supply lay outside its borders. Its sur- vival depended on the Jordan River, with its headwaters in Syria and Lebanon, its waters stored in the Sea of Galilee, and the tributaries that ow into it from neighboring countries. Israel's neighbors face a similar situation. eir survival is no less at stake---which makes the line between war and peace here very ne indeed. In the 1960s Israeli air strikes a er Syria attempted to divert the Baniyas River (one of the Jordan's headwaters in the Golan Heights), together with Arab attacks on Israel's National Water Carrier project, lit fuses for the Six Day War. Israel and Jordan nearly came to blows over a sandbar in the Yarmuk River in 1979. And in 2002 Israel threatened to shell agricul- tural pumping stations on the Hasbani, another of the headwaters in southern Lebanon. Yet ghts over water have also led to dialogue. "There are few major sources of water that don't cross one or more political boundaries," says Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli co-director of Friends of the Earth Middle East. " at creates a natural interdependence between countries." Sharing resources can actually be a path to peace, Bromberg says, because it forces people The Romans built pools on the Baniyas River, one of the Jordan's headwaters in the Golan Heights. Syria had sought to divert the Baniyas before Israel captured the Golan.