Greater Israel Conquers the Seas
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely—Revelations 22:17
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Water has been always a strategic asset in the Holy Land. The foundation of the State of Israel wouldn't have been possible without the establishment in 1937 of "Mekorot" ("Origins" in Hebrew), the national water company. The transfer of water from the fertile north to the semi-desert central plains allowed the creation of Gush Dan (Dan's Block), the large metropolis at Israel's center with Tel Aviv at its heart. In the first two decades of the state, "HaMovil HaArtzi" (The National Water Carrier) established a fast water-route between the Sea of Galilee (a lake), the Central Plain, Jerusalem (via Burma Road) and the Northern Negev Desert. It worked for a few years, but the level of the Sea of Galilee dropped dangerously. In order to save this vital lake, the amount of waters that was allowed to flow southwards through the Jordan River was severely limited. I grew up next to this river, yet, seeing it amounted to a minor miracle. This excessive exploitation was one of the causes for the dry up of the Dead Sea southern part (see map below); if no solution is found to this problem the sea level of Earth's lowest point will drop to minus 550m in the following 100 years. Several projects exist, but they are expensive and may cause other environmental problems. In the future, one of them would be implemented to save lucrative Israeli and Jordanian bromine derivative industries, but this topic belongs to a future article. Further drilling of the Mountain Aquifer is forbidden by the 1995 Interim Agreement, which is part of the Oslo Peace Process. In the late 1990s, Israel started exploring the desalination options for the Mediterranean Sea.
An Urgent Phone Call to Marie Antoinette
Considering the ugly stereotype assigned to French people by Israelis, one must wonder at the strategic help this country has given to Israel along the years. After all, they can't claim ignorance; many French live in Israel, including in the West Bank (France Fortifies Israeli Settlements). France provided Israel with the initial technologies for its nuclear program; this option was promoted by Shimon Peres who discarded their independent development by the Weizmann Institute. In the 1990s, Israel remembered this and chose France as one of the desalination project developers.
Unlike the Israeli obsession to give the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields as a gift to the USA, the desalination project was freer, with a limited international bid taking place. The Finnish Kemira, represented by the Jacobson Agencies was the underdog, and lost all bids and attempts. The winner was French Veolia; its predecessor Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE) was created by an Imperial decree of Napoleon III. The first experimental plant in Israel was opened in Eilat in 1997. The first commercial plant opened in Ashkelon in 2005. In 2013, Israel has seven desalination plants. The one in Hedera (see picture above) is a seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant; it is the largest of its kind in the world. With the expansion of the projects, the price of desalinated water is dropping; by the end of this year it is expected to reach $0.50 per cubic meter. Two other plants are expected to open this year, in Ashdod and Soreq (next to Israel's research nuclear reactor), bringing the use of this water to over 10% of the total. The latter project is owned by a billionaire from Hong Kong, Li Ka-Shing. However, Israel is stuck.
The IDF is moving much of its intelligence and training infrastructure to the Negev. The Intelligence Corps will move to the Likit Area, east of Beer Sheva, and west of the Shoket Junction. The Military Intelligence School will move to the Negev Junction. Technological intelligence units (mainly the SIGINT 8200 base at Glilot) would be relocated near the town of Omer. The last step includes the move of Mamram—the IDF computing unit—to a location adjacent to the Negev University in Beer Sheva. All these would be transferred by 2017. The massive complex of military bases at Tzrifin—a military area dating back to the British Mandate—will move to the new City of Training Bases being built south of Beersheba until 2014. Even after this radical change in the IDF deployment, there would be a lot of space controlled by the army within Israel’s largest metropolitan area. Yet, the freed land would be used for residential and commercial areas, which can pay much more than desalination plants. Israel needs room for them, new airports and military bases that must be kept in the center.
In June 2012, the Cabinet—the Israeli government committee of senior ministers—approved a feasibility study on the construction of three artificial islands in front of Tel Aviv, a plan dating back to the 1990s. In contrast to the original residential project, these islands would contain airports, large industrial facilities, power stations, military bases, and further desalination plants. They would also ease Israeli military control of the gas fields disputed between this country and Lebanon. This idea has problems. Anybody who has splashed in the sea next to Tel Aviv knows that it goes deep fast, and features strong undercurrents. The seabed rapidly drops over 2km, setting sharp limitations to engineering projects. Yet, Israel is thirsty and has never missed an opportunity to advance the idea of a Greater Israel; the Mediterranean Sea would be its next victim.
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