Hassan Tahsin, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2005-07-01 03:00

In the first part of this article published last week, I concluded that digging a canal linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea would have serious environmental as well as political implications. This in turn could further fuel the Arab-Israeli conflict instead of facilitating an agreement acceptable to all parties that would end the protracted conflict.

The environmental threats posed involve serious geological changes that could bring disaster to the region. The first causality would be navigation in the Dead Sea.

As a result of diverting most of the water of the Jordan River for various uses, a practice that has been going on since the establishment of Israel, only less than l0 percent of the long-term average flow was left into the Dead Sea. As a result the Dead Sea surface area has been reduced and its level dropped more than 25 meters. Digging a canal to link the Dead Sea with the Red Sea could result in the creation of water currents that threaten navigation.

Digging a canal in that particular area would have to pass through the continental rift running between Asia and Africa. The rift is known for its volcanic activity. A nonstatic water passage would ad additional weight to the rift and this could trigger dangerous volcanic activity in the region.

It was obvious the ancient Egyptians who ruled the entire area were aware of such environmental threats and thus preferred to choose the present location of the Suez Canal to dig their own canals.

The proposed canal would thus have tremendous effects on the level and quality of water in the Dead Sea that could in turn lead to possible earthquakes in the region. As a result of the geographic changes the Dead Sea will have water flowing into it from the Red Sea with heavy pressure.

The other environmental threat has to do with Israel’s strategy of building four new nuclear rectors in the Negev desert close to the Egyptian border and Jordan to generate electricity and serve Israel’s military objectives. Israel is developing and enhancing its nuclear arsenal to cope with the constantly changing international political realities and also to cope with the Jewish state’s new role in the Greater Middle East. Israel could use the canal for military purposes that will in turn fuel regional struggle. If this happened, not merely Egypt but all countries of the region would be severely affected.

The new rectors need a lot of water for cooling purposes, as this is much cheaper than using air-cooling techniques. Israel is already facing a water shortage and the new canal would provide it with the water it needs for these generators.

It must also be noted that Israel has specifically chosen the Negev desert for technical considerations. The wind direction as well as the direction of the flow of water, whether surface or underground, is always toward the south. This means that any nuclear radiation from those stations would head southward, away from the heart of Israel and its heavily populated northern areas into Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and especially into Egypt that is the closest to the area.

There is also the political disaster that could bring back the military confrontation to the region. Digging 12 kilometers from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea means Israel could introduce further development and expansion of that part of the canal that runs in its land. It could implement the second phase of the project by digging a canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and another canal that will start from north Gaza Strip till the Dead Sea via the Negev desert. It would not require any Jordanian and Palestinian approval for these works. The project will thus effectively separate the Palestinian lands, permanently cutting off Gaza Strip from the West Bank. This wide and deepwater barrier would permanently put an end to any hope of creating a united and viable Palestinian state. Any such state would be divided into two parts, just like the British did when they created Pakistan in two parts separated by Indian territory. The eastern wing eventually becomes Bangladesh.

In the case of a Palestinian state the situation would be even worse, with the presence of the wall built by Israel to separate it from the occupied Palestinian lands. The result would be a number of cantons and not a single united state, which would eventually disappear by time.

Have the Jordanians realized the nuclear contamination threats that could afflict their country as a result of the Israeli project? Have the Palestinian agreed to have a divided state before even such a state was born?

Given the dimensions of this project, it would appear we are facing a complicated and not just a simple issue relating to economic gains. The canal would not jeopardize Israel’s security or safety, or its existence as a state.

For these reasons I think it is necessary to have a clear and committed involvement from the part of the United States to stop Israel from carrying on with such dangerous games. I still believe there are wise people among decision makers in the White House.

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