Water issues are inherently multi-faceted and therefore water policy often involves linkages to other issues. By providing opportunities for bargaining, use of policy linkages in transboundary water negotiations can increase the possibilities of reaching agreements; however, they also involve potential political costs. While there is ample theoretical literature on the potential benefits and risks of linkages in transboundary water negotiations, there is little empirical work exploring if, how, and why linkages are implemented in practice, especially in areas of conflict, in which they have perhaps the largest potential impact. This study evaluates the rationales behind decisions to adopt or refrain from linkage strategies by examining their actual use in Arab-Israeli water negotiations. The study finds that the likelihood, scale, and scope of linkages change over time, and they depend on factors such as the political climate, the level of trust between the parties, the degree of power asymmetry between parties, and political affiliation. Other variables such as size of negotiating parties were weakly correlated with likelihood of linkages. Knowing the opportunities and limits afforded by such linkages is crucial for negotiators and policymakers who are often drawn to linkage strategies without considering their inherent risks.
- Arab-Israeli conflict
- Policy linkage