Sep 26th 2009

Three Cheers for Israel?!

by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni served as a Senior Advisor to the Carter White House; taught at Columbia University, Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, and is a University Professor at The George Washington University. He served as the President of the American Sociological Association, and he founded the Communitarian Network. A study by Richard Posner ranked him among the top 100 American intellectuals. He is the author of numerous op-eds and his voice is frequently heard in the media. He is the author of several books, including The Active Society, Genetic Fix, The Moral Dimension, The New Golden Rule, and My Brother’s Keeper. His latest book Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy was published by Yale University Press in the Spring of 2007. His regular blog is Amitai Etzioni Notes.
The media is full of stories critical of the way Israel deals with the Palestinians.
There is indeed a lot to criticize, which, by the way, Israelis often do. However, when Israel does something right -- and in a big way -- that too should be noted. After all, one cannot expect a nation that is boxed around the ears every time it strays, but not rewarded when it gets it right, to mend its ways.

Here's what happened, which got next to no coverage, except in the Washington Post.

The Dead Sea is dying. Since 1960, its water level has decreased by 75 feet and its surface area by a third. But this problem is not restricted to one body of water: throughout the Middle East, water is running out. Israel and Jordan have moved jointly to address this problem.

Israel and Jordan have developed a plan to connect and redistribute water sources throughout their countries to shore up the water supply. One project under this plan would provide Amman with water by connecting it to the Dissi Reservoir, an underground water source in the south of Jordan, and would desalinate it by connecting it to Israeli desalination plants that are being built on the Mediterranean. Another plant would send 500 billion gallons of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea through pipelines and tunnels over a path of 110 miles. Some of this water would be used to replenish the Dead Sea, while the rest would be desalinated for use by both countries.

The desalinated water from the Dissi Reservoir and Dead Sea would be shared amongst Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The replenished Dead Sea would sustain a tourist attraction and provide economic benefits for both Jordanian and Israeli companies who sell its chemicals.

Critics of the plan argue that these new connections will upset the region's ecosystem and recommend that their possible effects be studied, which could take several years. But Jordan and Israel maintain that the plan be implemented immediately to prevent water shortages, as some cities in Jordan have already begun rationing their water supply.

Three cheers for all concerned.

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