A report by a Palestinian NGO has accused Israel of practicing "water apartheid" and depriving Palestinians of their “rightful water supply.” Israel's Water Authority has dismissed the report as a “political weapon.”
Titled “Water For One People Only: Discriminatory Access and
‘Water-Apartheid’ in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the report is a
product of the Ramallah-based non-governmental organization Al-Haq.
document slams Israel for providing “discriminatory access” to water and
enacting “water apartheid” policies that result in the 500,000 Israelis in the
West Bank and east Jerusalem receiving six times the amount of water that the
2.6 million Palestinians in the same area do.
Although Israel has
integrated the Palestinian water system with the Israeli one, the government
denies the Palestinians control over their resource – forcing them to rely
primarily on water from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, the report
Before the 1995 Oslo II Accords, the Palestinians expected that
such an agreement would grant them more undisputed access to their water
resources, yet the pact “merely formalized a discriminatory management regime
that was largely already in place,” according to the Al- Haq document. The
authors blast Israel for maintaining exclusive control over the Mountain Aquifer
and accuse Mekorot of continually reducing Palestinian water supplies to satisfy
settlement water needs during the summer months.
Describing Israel’s role
as that of an “occupying power,” the authors go on to criticize the country for
violating international humanitarian law, under which is it not supposed to
receive sovereign rights over the occupied territory or its natural
“Israel has extensively and unlawfully appropriated
Palestinian water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the sole
benefit of those residing in Israel and Israeli colonies, while maintaining a
practice of extensive destruction of Palestinian water infrastructure,” the
Due to the country’s so called exploitation and appropriation
of Palestinian natural resources, the authors of the report deem Israel a
colonial nation. Whereas Jewish Israelis have the privilege of “an uninterrupted
and abundant supply of water,” Palestinians “are denied their basic right to
water and full development as a group,” the authors write.
recommend that Israel and third-party states take immediate steps to end the
situation and devise structural changes to the management system for shared
water resources. In the short and intermediate term, such changes would entail
removing the physical obstacles the Palestinians face to accessing water
resources, as well as ceasing Israeli extraction of water from the Palestinian
portion of the trans-boundary resource, the document says. In the long-term,
however, the authors believe that the only solution to a proper division of
water resources will be the establishment of an independent Palestinian
In response to the document, the Israeli Water Authority stressed
that “it was not for nothing” that both sides signed the Oslo agreement, which
also received the approval of the United States, Russia, the European Union,
Norway, Egypt and Jordan.
“It is surprising that the Palestinian
Authority uses the subject of water as a ‘political weapon’ while the water
agreement granted the Palestinians quantities of water and well-being that they
never had before,” the Water Authority said. “If only the Palestinians were
focused on implementing the agreement as written – the situation would be even
better than it is today.”
Aiming to disprove many of the assertions made
through the report, the Water Authority provided a detailed list of water
consumption data for both West Bank Jews and Palestinians.
Authority stressed that Israel uses less water from the Mountain Aquifer than in
1967, while the Palestinians are drawing much more from the aquifer compared to
before 1967. Meanwhile, settlers use less water than Israel sends into the West
Bank, the authority said.
Palestinians consume about 190 million cubic
meters of water per year, compared to 60 million cubic meters in 1967 and 118
million cubic meters in 1995 – the year the accords were signed, according to
Water Authority data. Whereas only 10 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank
were connected to an organized water system before 1967, 95% are today, making
their conditions much better than those in most capital cities of Arab countries
neighboring Israel, the authority said.
Countering the report’s claims
that Israel has sovereign power over decisions regarding water distribution, the
Water Authority noted that the Joint Water Committee includes representatives
from both Israel and the PA, with the sides enjoying equal status. The Joint
Water Committee has approved hundreds of projects, most of which are Palestinian
and of which 100 are water wells, the authority added.
To help the
Palestinians develop their water system, Israel provides Palestinian water
professionals with training and courses on sanitation, waste-water treatment,
water reuse and desalination, the Water Authority response
Opposing the claims that Israel has been violating the Oslo
Accords, the Water Authority said that the Palestinians are the ones infringing
the agreement. Although the PA is required to purify its sewage, it does not and
instead sends about 17 million cubic meters of sewage into Israel annually, the
authority noted. This occurs despite international offers worth hundreds of
millions of dollars to upgrade the Palestinian water sector, the response
continued. In addition, the PA loses more than 33% of its water due to faulty
water pipes, and by reducing losses and treating sewage, could increase its
usable water supply by 50 million cubic meters annually, the Water Authority
“The report seeks to absolve the Palestinian Authority of its
commitments according to the agreement that was signed by them, and makes
demands of the State of Israel far beyond what was agreed upon in the water
accord,” the Water Authority said.
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