Peace through Water – Megan Pettus, USA

image1At a conference this morning at the Institute for National Security studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, experts from various international organizations and nationalities discussed the water crisis that has been plaguing the Middle East since the beginning of time and the possible solutions. One audience member who had no prior connection to this issue marveled at the diversity of people coming together in order to push for better water resource and waste management. That audience member was me, an American student researching international development in the Middle East at Tel Aviv University.

Experts from Gaza, Israel, the United States, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and various other international aid organizations gathered together to discuss the water crisis and what it means for the future of the Middle East. There were two main points on which nearly everyone in attendance agreed. The first was the idea that there is a lack of water that must be addressed or the Middle East will result to war over the remaining resources, or there will be a serious breakdown economically, socially, and in civil stability. All of the experts agreed that the lack of resources could predict further instability in the Middle East if not properly addressed through inter-state negotiations.

The second idea expressed, mostly by the Israeli representatives, that the water problem would not be confined to one state. Failure to secure resources would mean regional instability effecting not only Israel or Gaza but all of the Middle East. Water resources have already presented a new problem of disease that cannot be confined by walls or borders. Cholera has emerged in Gaza, Syria, and Iraq and shows danger of spreading as the refugee crises continue. Israeli technology has advanced far more in recent years than many other areas of the world as it pertains to water resources and waste management. The water crisis is a regional problem and the Israeli representatives expressed their desire to use these technological advances to help its Arab neighbors, even those with whom it has strained diplomatic relations.

So the idea emerged: What if the water crisis was the issue that could bring peace among the various nations of the Middle East who all suffer from a similar problem? What if Israel could build diplomatic bridges with its neighbors and open the door to more peaceful negotiations through attempting to solve the water crisis? On December 3rd 2015, in a conference room somewhere in Tel Aviv, I heard the most open discussion about peace in the Middle East that I had heard since coming to Israel. I was encouraged in the wake of recent tragic events that there are many people who strive for peace here and even more who recognize that the issues of basic human resources could be a catalyst for change in inter-state relations. It showed me that there were international organizations and world representatives who recognized that basic resource deprivation was not an ignorable issue but one that should be solved through regional negotiation and could cause a major shift in the state of diplomatic relations in a way the Middle East has never seen.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been raging for decades now and has caused massive suffering on both sides. In the past two months, there have been continuing terrorist attacks on Israelis by Palestinian terrorists in response to a dispute over the Temple Mount, which is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. On the Palestinian side, there has been suffering since the beginning of the conflict. After studying both sides, I’ve realized the intense needs for peace in order to make life better for Palestinians. Through multiple wars, terrorist attacks, and massive suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, it is easy to lose hope in peace between the two countries.  As a student who is studying Middle Eastern affairs, I often find myself losing faith in peace here. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the suffering, instability, and loss of life at the hand of terrorist organizations. Being a part of this meeting with representatives from both sides who are fighting for peace reminded me that there are still people fighting for the greater good, and as long as these people exist there will be hope for peace.

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