A possible plan to divert a Lebanese river that feeds into the Jordan has raised concerns for the Israeli Defense Forces. Lebanese authorities allegedly plan to build a large tourist center close to the Lebanese-Israeli border and re-route water to the new site, reducing the amount of water reaching the Israeli portion of the Jordan River.
"It has our attention and we are keeping a close eye on what is happening there," a spokesperson from the IDF said. "Our concerns range from the diversion of water to the possibility that the tourism center will be used as a cover to launch attacks against Israel."
The water from the Jordan River has long caused conflict between Israel and Lebanon. In 2002, tempers flared after Lebanon started construction on a pump to divert water to the Wazzani village. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the diversion, “casus belli” or a pretext for war.
"This could become a strategic problem," an IDF officer said.
Reducing the amount of water flowing into the Israeli portion of the Jordan would also exasperate poor conditions already found along the transnational river. Weeam Iriqat remembers that as a small girl, “The quantity of water was really high when you passed over the bridge.”
Today, some parts of the Jordan have been reduced to a mere trickle as communities on both sides of the border divert more and more water and sewage continues to pollute the river’s water. Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace, believes cooperation—not conflict—is essential to clean up the Jordan and ensure that the river will continue to flow for generations to come.
“The governments of the region have blamed the conflict for their lack of action. Management of shared water requires cooperation,” Bromberg said, “It is now up to the governments of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to heed the call.”