The impact of uncertainties on cooperation over transboundary water: The case of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

Itay Fischhendler, David Katz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The effect of uncertainty on cooperation between the partners sharing the natural resources remains unknown. Uncertainty may strengthen cooperation between partners, as it is necessary to implement cooperative mitigation policies, however, it may also serve as a cause of friction between parties, as it may aggravate existing trust issues or power asymmetries. Given the potential for such contrary outcomes, we provide criteria to examine empirically how uncertainties in a transboundary setting seem to promote or impede cooperation. Taking Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis round and post-Annapolis negotiations as a case study, this work identifies the effect of uncertainties related to water on negotiation positions. Social and political uncertainties, which tend to be more associated with uncertainty regarding interpretation rather than a lack of information, play a much stronger role in water negotiations than do technical or physical uncertainties that often dominate in other resource issues. Many of the criteria used to assess the effect of uncertainty indicate that partners attempted to address uncertainties in an ostensibly cooperative manner, accepting negotiation venues and rules. However, confronting uncertainty stemming from interpretation of information often around social issues tends to result in additional uncertainties associated with delaying negotiations, spillover effects and power implications, each with negative implications in terms of cooperation. As such, mechanisms proposed to address these uncertainties also tend to be more disputed. The only type of mechanisms that did not appear to aggravate the effects of these uncertainties and perhaps the only that would be indicative of some type of cooperation, even if low level, are those that deal data and information exchange and research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)200-210
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Conflict
  • Cooperation
  • Negotiations
  • Transboundary management
  • Uncertainty
  • Water


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