Drought in the Middle East
Israel Says it May Break International Treaty
(Publisher's note -- some people are fond of saying that natural resources don't matter very much nowadays. Technology has made natural resources unimportant, they claim. But the real world disagrees! Israel, Jordan, the U.S. military, the United Nations, the Federal Communications Commission, all airlines, the National Association of Broadcasters, the list goes on and on -- as soon as something unusual happens we see everyone admit that natural resources are crucial.)
Sea of Galilee at lowest level for decades
Israel is looking to reduce the amount of water it supplies to Jordan because of a worsening drought in the region.
Israel, which supplies agreed levels of water to Jordan under terms of the 1994 peace accords, says it might refuse to meet it commitments.
Israel says water levels are at their lowest in decades and cuts to its own farmers, as well as to Jordan, are necessary.
But Jordan, which is heavily reliant on Israeli water, has rejected the Israeli proposal.
Water is a scarce commodity in the arid Middle East and Jordan and Israel are a rare example of neighbours agreeing on water-sharing rights.
Israel's water commissioner, Meir Ben Meir, says the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main reservoir of drinking water, is at its lowest level since 1908.
"We must face the facts; it is impossible that Israel alone should have to carry the burden of this severe drought," he told the BBC Arabic Service.
"We are suffering a deficit of 60% in the Sea of Galilee this year. Jordan is suffering a similar deficit in our mutual source, the Yarmouk River, so I proposed to the Jordanians that we both share the deficit."
Mr Ben Meir did not say how much water Israel is, or is not, going to give Jordan, but the Jordanians have rejected any reduction.
Israel is bound to supply Jordan with 55 million cubic metres of water each year from the Yarmouk river, which runs into the Sea of Galilee between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan.
The Yarmouk's headwaters rise in Syria, and correspondents say the river has the potential to be an explosive issue in a region fraught with political and environmental threats.
Both Israel and Jordan have expressed concerns about unilateral Syrian actions which have affected the quality and level of the river.
Jordanian Water Minister Kamil Mahadin, also speaking to the Arabic Service, said Jordan was facing domestic water cuts anyway and Israel had no right to ask Jordan to share Israeli difficulties.
"This agreement is binding," he said. "There is no room for debate over our share -- Israel is meant to provide us with a certain quantity of water."
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