Israel is drying up. Even if the coming winter pleasantly surprises us with phenomenal precipitation, there is little likelihood of it sufficing to make up the deficits of the past six parched years. And because of the inexcusable inaction of successive governments for the last decade, nothing significant can now be done to alleviate the severe shortage overnight.
Given these two facts, and fearing the worst this winter, the government is currently searching for at least a provisional interim solution. As far back as 10 years ago, the idea of importing water from Turkey was given serious contemplation, but the grand scheme was never realized. Now it is being considered again.
There were always compelling reasons to eschew the Turkish alternative. It was, and is, expensive - especially when compared to the incomprehensibly delayed investment in desalination infrastructure which would stand us in very good stead over the long haul rather than be instantaneously consumed. And it carried an underlying security worry, though that was never spelled out directly: The primary logic of opposing the Turkish option was that it would contradict all principles of minimal Israeli self-reliance.
From its very inception, Israel was an acutely beleaguered state, struggling for survival. Hence the emphasis placed from Israel's earliest days on self-reliance in every field, including agriculture and food production. In that context, the idea of having a foreign entity control so vital a commodity as water was unthinkable, no matter how reliable the foreign supplier.
And even in the heyday of Israel's much-touted strategic alliance with Turkey, it was recognized that the reliability of the partnership was far from assured. There was always an undercurrent of doubt surrounding the alliance, with profound implications for any initiative that would see Israel dependent on Turkey for that most critical of resources, water.
TURKEY'S CURRENT escalated anti-Israel extravaganza has redoubled these concerns. What caused disquiet years ago - when relations with Turkey were relatively sound - has now been exacerbated after Turkey vetoed Israeli participation in a joint NATO drill within its borders, moved closer to Syria, launched an ongoing series of verbal attacks on Israel for last winter's Operation Cast Lead assault on Hamas in Gaza, and broadcast, on state-controlled TV, a staggeringly vicious anti-Israeli drama, Ayrilik, which portrays IDF soldiers callously shooting Arab children, among other bogus murderous atrocities.
All this has already been translated tangibly into deteriorated trade relations. Ever since Operation Cast Lead, growing numbers of Turkish firms are evading payment for Israeli goods and services. Turkish arrears are up by a whopping 90 percent and now amount to $40 million. Turkish banks aren't cooperating. This has contributed to a 40% drop in Israeli exports - mostly in metals, chemicals and plastics - to Turkey in the past nine months (versus a 22% drop in Israeli exports elsewhere due to the worldwide recession).
Meanwhile, Israeli holidaymakers are fast losing their appetite for Turkey's delights. Israel's trade unions, which in the past organized packaged vacations for their members to Turkey, have announced a boycott of the ultra-popular Antalyan resorts. The unions accounted for at least half of the Israeli tourists streaming to Turkey. Israeli families are rushing to cancel reservations and are avoiding the Turkish national carrier, Turkish Air. A large local cafe chain has gone so far as to cease offering its black coffee blend, marketed as "Istanbul Coffee," to protest Turkish hostility.
In such a climate, it would be irresponsible and frankly bizarre for the government to ignore all that had transpired in recent weeks and seriously consider entrusting any significant proportion of our water supply to what can most politely be described as an unreliable source.
Israel got by without Turkish water until now, and will have to get along without it in the future as well. It would be a mark of true desperation to gamble that a regime which is going out of its way to defame and incite against Israel won't turn off the supply in times of emergency. If anything, the very fact that the Turkish option is being given any reconsideration now should underscore the scandalous failure in recent years to accelerate our desalination capacity and the urgent imperative to speed up the construction of our much-needed desalination plants.