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Cooperation, domination and colonisation: The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee

Jan Selby
Department of International Relations, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK; j.selby@sussex.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: Do there exist instances of international (water) policy coordination which are so unequal that they should not even be considered 'cooperation'? This article argues, on both theoretical and empirical grounds, that this is indeed so. Theoretically, it posits that 'cooperation' should be distinguished from 'policy coordination', and that situations of policy coordination without mutual adjustments or joint gains should instead be considered instances of 'domination'. And empirically, it illustrates the existence of such relations of domination through an analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC), using new evidence from JWC negotiation files, plus interviews with leading Israeli and Palestinian participants. Most startlingly, the article finds that under the constraints of JWC 'cooperation', the Palestinian Authority has been compelled to lend its formal approval to the large-scale expansion of Israeli settlement water infrastructures, activity which is both illegal under international law and one of the major impediments to Palestinian statehood. The article suggests the need for both the complete restructuring of Israeli-Palestinian water 'cooperation', and for further research on relations of domination, and the ideology of cooperation, within international (water) politics.

KEYWORDS: Cooperation; domination; Israel-Palestine; transboundary water politics