Headwater Diversion Plan (Jordan River)

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Banias waterfall, Golan Heights
Flood waters exiting from the Yarmuk reservoir to the Yarmuk river, 1933
National Water Carrier of Israel-en.svg

The Headwater Diversion Plan was an Arab League plan to divert two of the three sources of the Jordan River, and prevent them from flowing into the Sea of Galilee, in order to thwart Israel's plans to use the water of the Hasbani and Banias in its National Water Carrier project for out of Basin irrigation. The plan was approved by the Arab League in 1964 but Israel prevented the project's development by conducting airstrikes in Syrian territory in April 1967.

Background[edit]

In 1955 the Unified (Johnston) Plan for the multinational development of Jordan River basin between the riparian rights holders was finalized. The Plan was accepted by the technical committees from both Israel and the Arab League. A discussion in the Knesset in July 1955 ended without a vote. The Arab Experts Committee approved the plan in September 1955 and referred it for final approval to the Arab League Council. On 11 October 1955, the Council voted not to ratify the plan, due to the League's opposition to formal recognition of Israel.[1] After the Suez Crisis of 1956 however, the Arab states (with the exception of Jordan) considerably hardened their position against Israel,[2] and now opposed the plan, arguing that by strengthening its economy the plan would increase the potential threat from Israel.[3] The Arab leadership also argued that the increase to Israel's water supply would encourage the immigration of more Jewish settlers, thus reducing the possibility of repatriation for Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war.[1] However, Nasser, the Egyptian president, assured the Americans that the Arabs would not exceed the water quotas prescribed by the Johnston plan[4]

Nevertheless, both Jordan and Israel undertook to operate within the allocations laid out within the "Johnston Plan". Two civil engineering projects were completed successfully; the diversion of water from the Jordan River (1.7 million cubic metres in a day) at Eshed Kinrot, carried by the Israeli National Water Carrier from 1955 to 1964 and the Jordanian construction of the East Ghor Canal (now known as the King Abdullah Canal) from 1957 to 1966.[1]

Diversion Plan[edit]

In 1964 when Israel's National Water Carrier was nearing completion, the second Arab League summit conference voted on a plan designed to circumvent and frustrate it.[5] Their resolution stated:

The establishment of Israel is the basic threat that the Arab nation in its entirety has agreed to forestall. And Since the existence of Israel is a danger that threatens the Arab nation, the diversion of the Jordan waters by it multiplies the dangers to Arab existence. Accordingly, the Arab states have to prepare the plans necessary for dealing with the political, economic and social aspects, so that if necessary results are not achieved, collective Arab military preparations, when they are not completed, will constitute the ultimate practical means for the final liquidation of Israel. [6]

The Arab and North African states chose to divert the Jordan headwaters rather than to use direct military intervention.[7][6] The heads of State of the Arab League considered two options:

  1. The diversion of the Hasbani to the Litani combined with the diversion of the Banias to the Yarmouk,
  2. The diversion of both the Hasbani and the Banias to the Yarmouk.

The second option was selected. The scheme was only marginally feasible, was technically difficult and expensive. Arab political considerations were cited to justify the diversion scheme.[8][9] Syria began its part of the overall Arab diversion plan with the construction of the Banias to Yarmouk canal in 1965, with financing from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Once completed, the diversion of the flow would have transported the water into a dam at Mukhaiba for use by Jordan and Syria and prevent the water from reaching the Sea of Galilee. Lebanon also started a canal to divert the waters of the Hasbani, whose source is in Lebanon, into the Banias. The Hasbani and Banias diversion works would have had the effect of reducing the capacity of the Israeli carrier from the Sea of Galilee by about 35% and Israel's overall water supply by about 11%. Additionally, it would have increased the salinity of the Sea of Galilee by 60 ppm.[7]

Israel declared that it would regard such diversion as an infringement of its sovereign rights.[1] Israel exploited the DMZ incidents as pretexts for bombing the diversion project,[10] culminating in air strikes deep in Syrian territory in April 1967.[1]

Aftermath[edit]

The increase in water-related Arab-Israeli hostility was a major factor leading to the June 1967 Six-Day War.[7]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e United Nations University In 1955 the Unified (Johnston) Plan to develop a multilateral approach to water management failed to be ratified, which reinforced unilateral development. Nevertheless, both Jordan and Israel undertook to operate within their allocations, and two major successful projects were undertaken: the Israeli National Water Carrier and Jordan's East Ghor Main Canal.... Design of the East Ghor canal was begun by Jordan in 1957. It was intended as the first section of a much more ambitious plan known as the Greater Yarmouk project. Additional sections included (1) construction of two Dams on the Yarmouk (Mukheiba and Maqarin) for storage and hydroelectricity, (2) construction of a 47-km West Ghor canal, together with a siphon across the Jordan River near wadi Faria to connect it with the East Ghor Canal, (3) construction of seven dams to utilise seasonal flow on side wadis flowing into the Jordan, and (4) construction of pumping stations, lateral canals, and flood protection and drainage facilities. In the original Greater Yarmouk project the East Ghor Canal was scheduled to provide only 25% of the total irrigation scheme.... Construction of the Canal began in 1959. By 1961 its first section was completed; sections two and three, down Wadi Zarqa, were in service by June 1966. Shortly before completion of the Israeli Water Carrier in 1964, an Arab summit conference decided to try to thwart it. Discarding direct military attack, the Arab states chose to divert the Jordan headwaters. Two options were considered: either the diversion of the Hasbani to the Litani and the diversion of the Banias to the Yarmouk, or the diversion of both the Hasbani and the Banias to the Yarmouk. The latter was chosen, with the diverted waters to be stored behind the Mukhaiba dam.... The Arabs started work on the Headwater Diversion Project in 1965. Israel declared that it would regard such diversion as an infringement of its sovereign rights. According to the estimates completion of the project would have deprived Israel of 35% of its contemplated withdrawal from the upper Jordan, constituting one ninth of Israel's annual water budget. Murakami, Masahiro (1995) Managing Water for Peace in the Middle East: Alternative Strategies, ISBN 92-808-0858-3 pp. 295–297
  2. ^ Shlaim, pp. 186–187.
  3. ^ Shlaim, pp. 228–230.
  4. ^ Moshe Gat (2003). Britain and the Conflict in the Middle East, 1964-1967: The Coming of the Six-Day War. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-275-97514-2. Retrieved 7 September 2013. [on 1965]Nasser too, assured the American under Secretary of state, Philip Talbot, that the Arabs would not exceed the water quotas prescribed by the Johnston plan 
  5. ^ The first Arab summit conference ratified the Arab strategy to thwart Israel’s NWC Plan. The strategy was designed to divert the Jordan’s tributaries and prepare the Arab armies for the defence of the engineering operations. Shemesh, Moshe (2008) Arab Politics, Palestinian Nationalism and the Six Day War: The Crystallization of Arab Strategy and Nasir's Descent to War, 1957–1967 Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 1-84519-188-9 p 67
  6. ^ a b Shlaim, Avi (200) ibid pp 229–230 In January 1964 an Arab League summit meeting convened in Cairo. The main item on the agenda was the threat posed by Israel's diversion of water from the north to irrigate the south and the expected reduction in the water supplies available to Syria and Jordan. The reaction of the summit to this threat was deadly serious. The preamble to its decision stated,
    The establishment of Israel is the basic threat that the Arab nation in its entirety has agreed to forestall. And Since the existence of Israel is a danger that threatens the Arab nation, the diversion of the Jordan waters by it multiplies the dangers to Arab existence. Accordingly, the Arab states have to prepare the plans necessary for dealing with the political, economic and social aspects, so that if necessary results are not achieved, collective Arab military preparations, when they are not completed, will constitute the ultimate practical means for the final liquidation of Israel.
  7. ^ a b c ...it was the Israeli diversion that prompted President Nasser to call for the First Arab Summit in January 1964 of the heads of state for the region and North Africa. Iwao Kobori, Michael H. Glantz (1998) Central Eurasian Water Crisis: Caspian, Aral, and Dead Seas United Nations University Press, ISBN 92-808-0925-3 p 129–130
  8. ^ Masahiro Murakami (1995). Managing Water for Peace in the Middle East; Alternative Strategies. United Nations University Press. p. 296. ISBN 978-92-808-0858-2. Retrieved 15 July 2013. Shortly before completion of the Israeli Water Carrier in 1964, an Arab summit conference decided to try to thwart it. Discarding direct military attack, the Arab states chose to divert the Jordan headwater...According to neutral assessments, the scheme was only marginally feasible; it was technically difficult and expensive......Political considerations cited by the Arabs in rejecting the 1955 Johnston Plan were revived to justify the diversion scheme. Particular emphasis was placed on the Carrier's capability to enhance Israel's capacity to absorb immigrants to the detriment of Palestinian refugees. 
  9. ^ The diversion consisted of:-
    1. Diversion of tributaries in Lebanon.
    A The upper Hasbani- the excavation of a canal from the Hasbani springs in the Hasbaya region and a canal from the wadi Shab’a for carrying water to the kawkaba tunnels and from there to the Litani River. (This project would transport 40–60 million cubic metres of water annually).
    B. The Middle hasbani-two diversion points-the first in the hasbani riverbed; the second in wadi sarid. The Hasbani ans Sarid would flow in a canal to the banias and from there to the Yarmuk. According to the plan, 20–30 million cubic metres of water would flow annually to Syria (if Lebanon did not divert the hasbani’s floodwater to the Litani, the Sarid canal could transport up to 60 million cubic metres of water a year).
    C. The Wazani Spring in the Lower Hasbani Riverbed-this would include an irrigation canal (carrying 16 million cubic metres of water a year) for local use in Lebanon; an irrigation canal in Syria (8 million cubic metres a year); and three pumping units to transport the Wanzani’s overflow to Syria via the Sarid-Banias canal at a rate of 26 million cubic metres a year.
    2. Diversions in Syrian territory
    A. Diversion of the Banias-The diversion plan for the banias called for a 73 kilometre long canal to be dug 350 metres above sea level that would link the banias with the Yamuk. The canal would carry the Banias’s fixed flow plus the overflow from the hasbani (including water from the Sarid and Wazani). The Banias diversion would provide 90 million cubic metres of water for irrigation of riverine areas. The designers calculated that eighteen months would be sufficient for executing the plan. The cost was estimated at five million Pounds Sterling (including two tunnels), that is, approximately two million pounds more than the Arab plan.
    B. The butayha Project-The Syrians feared that if the Arabs implemented their diversion plan, Israel would block the batayha Valley inhabitants, annual pumping of 22 million cubic metres from the Jordan as proposed in the Johnson plan. To guarantee the villagers their vital water supply, the Arab plan contained a proviso designed to incorporate primary and secondary canals from the Sea of Galilee.
    3. The water plans in Jordan.
    The construction of a dam in the Kingdom of Jordan (the Mukheiba dam on the Yarmuk River) was designed to hold 200 million cubic metres of water. Work on the dam would take 30 months at a cost of ten and one quarter million Pounds Sterling. The Mukheiba Dam (and the Makarin Dam) would hurt Israel if incorporated into the diversion plans for the Jordan River’s northern sources, and without the Mukheiba dam all of the diverted water would flow back to the Yarmuk and return to the Jordan’s riverbed south of the Sea of Galilee. Excluding this plan, the rest of the Jordan’s water projects correspond with the main parts of the Johnson Plan.
    Shemesh, Moshe (2008) Arab Politics, Palestinian Nationalism and the Six Day War: The Crystallization of Arab Strategy and Nasir's Descent to War, 1957–1967 Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 1-84519-188-9 pp 49–50
  10. ^ Michael B. Oren (2002). Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-19-515174-9. Israel exploited DZ incidents as pretexts for bombing the diversion project 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Shlaim, Avi (2000): The Iron Wall; Israel and the Arab World, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-14-028870-4
  • Shemesh, Moshe (2008): Arab Politics, Palestinian Nationalism and the Six Day War: The Crystallization of Arab Strategy and Nasir's Descent to War, 1957–1967, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 1-84519-188-9
  • Kobori, Iwao; Glantz, Michael H. (1998): Central Eurasian Water Crisis: Caspian, Aral, and Dead Seas, United Nations University Press, ISBN 92-808-0925-3
  • Anthony, Allan John (2001): The Middle East Water Question: Hydropolitics and the Global Economy, I.B.Tauris, ISBN 1-86064-813-4
  • Murakami, Masahiro (1995): Managing Water for Peace in the Middle East: Alternative Strategies, ISBN 92-808-0858-3