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Cooperating Rivals

The Riparian Politics of the Jordan River Basin

Jeffrey K. Sosland

Publication Year: 2007

This book examines the politics of water scarcity in the Middle East’s Jordan River Basin (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority) between 1920 and 2006. Jeffrey K. Sosland demonstrates that while water scarcity might generate political tension, it does not by itself precipitate war, nor is it likely to do so. At the same time, efforts to promote water cooperation, such as those initiated by the United States, have an identifiable political benefit by creating rules, building confidence, and reducing tensions among adversaries. Sosland concludes that while this alone might not resolve the overall conflict, it does create positive long-term value in achieving peace.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page

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p. vii

List of Maps, Tables, and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The title of this work, Cooperating Rivals, has a double meaning. First, rivals as generally understood are competitors who pursue the same object. Second, the word “rival” is derived from the Latin, rivalis, one utilizing the same river as another. The title thus reflects the focus of this work: riparian cooperation and conflict in a competitive setting. The book’s cover picture is of Israeli Prime...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

In 1979, a group of Israeli water experts secretly crossed the Yarmouk River to enemy territory in Jordan. Their Jordanian counterparts greeted them, and discussions ensued concerning the difficult issue of sharing scarce water resources. These talks and subsequent cooperation continued for a surprisingly long time—the next fifteen years before Jordan and Israel signed a formal peace...

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2. State-Building and Water Development, 1920–1956

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pp. 19-61

This chapter examines the formative years (1920–1956) of the Arab-Israeli/Zionist conflict, particularly the water disputes between the players. During this period, the parties developed unilateral and often-competing water development schemes. In response, the United States mediated among Jordan-basin states and negotiated a regional water plan. This well-publicized...

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3. Water Development and Conflict,1957–1967

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pp. 63-92

Water politics in the period between 1957 and 1967 were shaped by three new factors: a shift in US diplomacy toward more modest goals, the growing Soviet-American rivalry that influenced the Middle East conflict, and a radicalization of Arab states’ preferences toward Israel and the West. After the1956 Suez War, the Arab-Israeli conflict became routinized and US diplomacy...

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4. The Yarmouk, 1967–1994

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pp. 93-140

The Yarmouk River and not the upper Jordan became the focal point of the Jordan River basin riparian dispute during the post–1967 War period. In the June 1967 Middle East War, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem. Besides these...

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5. The West Bank and Gaza, 1948–1992

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pp. 141-158

From the Johnston mission’s focus on resettling Palestinian refugees to delays in the construction of the Maqarin Dam in part because of a West Bank water allocation dispute, the Palestinian question has continued to play an important part in the politics of the Jordan River basin. With that said the material available to this researcher and incorporated within this book positions the West Bank and Gaza—the prospective future Palestinian state—along with...

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6. The 1990s Madrid Peace Processand After, 1991–2006

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pp. 159-200

Not since the 1950s and the Johnston mission did Jordan River riparians negotiate and resolve so many water-related issues as they did through the 1990s Madrid Peace Process. Even so, water remains a difficult political and economic issue for the Jordan riparians. Some of the water agreements ratified in the 1990s have a tactical functional cooperation foundation, which...

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 201-212

This chapter summarizes the results of this study’s investigation into what leads states in a protracted conflict to cooperate or to compete over scarce water resources. By examining contemporary international security, environmental studies, and US foreign policy literature, this book identifies several prominent debates and arguments that help explain how states in a protracted...


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pp. 213-275

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 277-284


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pp. 285-293

SUNY series in Global Politics

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pp. 295-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780791479575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791472019

Page Count: 310
Illustrations: 9 maps, 8 tables, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 190791839
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cooperating Rivals

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Subject Headings

  • Jordan -- Foreign relations -- Israel.
  • Water resources development -- Jordan River Valley -- History -- 20th century.
  • Water resources development -- Political aspects -- Israel.
  • Water-supply -- Political aspects -- Israel.
  • Water-supply -- Political aspects -- Jordan.
  • Israel -- Foreign relations -- Jordan.
  • Water resources development -- Political aspects -- Jordan.
  • Water resources development -- Jordan River Valley -- International cooperation.
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