On June 15, 2011 The Jerusalem Post published an article about the Palestinian
water crisis, written by the head of the Palestinian Water Authority,
Dr. Shaddad Atilli.
In his article, Atilli wrote that Israel’s
‘discriminatory policies’ are to blame for the lack of water in Palestinian
society. He claimed that Israel uses the Joint Israeli Palestinian Water
Committee (JWC) to veto and delay Palestinian water projects. He also wrote that
Israel illegally exploits 90% of the shared water sources.
he claimed that because of the Israeli theft of water and the destruction of
water wells and treatment plants, people realize that the two-state solution is
His libelous article, full of distortions, outright lies
and false accusations, was yet another proof of the PA’s
Recently our organization, Missing Peace, obtained
authentic papers documenting meetings of the Joint Israeli Palestinian Water
Committee (JWC), and correspondence between Colonel Avi Shalev, head of the
International relations branch of COGAT, and Dr.Atilli. These documents paint an
entirely different picture.
Contrary to Atilli’s outrageous accusations,
the Palestinian Authority has been sabotaging the two-state solution by
preventing the development of an independent water infrastructure for the future
Let’s examine some of the claims in Atilli’s article
and compare them with the picture that emerges from the JWC and COGAT
‘Israel delayed and vetoed Palestinian water projects,’ says
First of all, article 40 (14) in the Oslo Accords clearly states
that all JWC decisions about water projects in the West Bank need mutual
Once approved, JWC projects for the territories under
Palestinian control (Areas A and B) do not need any further Israeli
Projects in Area C, where Israel is in control, need
approval from the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA).
Since 2000 the PWA
submitted 76 requests for permits to the office of the Civil
Subsequently 73 permits were issued by ICA and three
denied because there was no master plan.
In a letter of June 8 2009,
Shalev responded to Atilli’s complaint that ICA did not honor a PWA request to
issue 12 of these permits. Shalev wrote that these permits had already
been issued in 2001, and that ICA wondered why the PWA did not execute these
Another 44 JWC-approved projects, the majority in Areas A and
B, like the construction of a waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in Jenin that
received approval in 2008 - have not been implemented. The German government
even withdraw a plan to build a WWTP in Tulkarm when it concluded that the PWA
could not handle the project.
When, back in November 2009, the PWA
complained about a lack of funds, the Israeli government offered to finance
water projects for Palestinian communities. The PA has yet to respond to this
‘Israel allocates only 10% of the shared water sources to the
Palestinians’ claims Atilli.
The water quota for the West Bank were
mutually agreed upon in the Oslo Accords. As a result, 33% of the water
in the aquifers under the West Bank is allocated to the Palestinians.
1993 the Palestinians could pump up 117 million cubic meters and Israel would
provide an additional 31 million. In 2007 200 million cubic meters were
allocated to the PA, of which Israel provided 51.8 million.
those 200 million cubic meters, only 180 million were actually used.
main reason for this is that the PWA did not implement projects in the Eastern
aquifer that would have solved much of the Palestinian water crisis. More than
half of the wells approved for exploitation of the Eastern aquifer have still
not been drilled. The permits were issued in 2000.
In a letter written on
April 4, 2001, the civil administration urged the PWA to execute these projects.
A letter from June 8 2009 repeated that request.
Atilli also lied about
Palestinian water consumption. In the JPost
article he claimed that
Palestinians are ‘limited to an average of just 60 liters.’ However, in 2009 his
own PWA published a report that mentioned an average supply of 110 liters per
capita per day.
Atilli’s level of chutzpa is best shown by his third
claim, about Israel stealing water and destroying Palestinian water projects. In
fact, Palestinians steal millions of cubic meters of water per year by drilling
illegal holes into the water pipes of the Israeli water provider Mekorot. The
Civil Authority fixes 600 of these illegal taps each year.
since 2008 Israel has asked the PA to re-establish the joint JSET water patrols
that fought water theft before the El Aksa intifada.
The PA has
Another reason for the loss of water is the poor maintenance of
the Palestinian water infrastructure. A staggering 33% of the fresh water supply
gets lost because of leaks, theft and poor maintenance.
provided solid evidence that the closing of 250 illegal wells was agreed upon in
the JWC meetings. For example, minutes of the JWC meeting on November 13, 2007
show a consensus decision to destroy ‘illegal drillings and connections.’
Nevertheless, Atilli acted as if he never attended these meetings or co-signed
the joint decisions.
He even had the gall to write urgent appeals to the
international community as soon as ICA, after numerous appeals to the PWA to
follow up on the agreed closure of illegal wells, finally closed those
These are only few examples of the shocking way the Palestinian
Authority neglected the basic needs of its citizens and cynically uses water as
a weapon in a PR campaign against Israel. It shows that, contrary to reports
dealing with progress in state building, the PA is far from ready for
There is, however, yet another conclusion to be drawn
The stubborn refusal to work with Israel on mutual interests like
improvement of the water infrastructure, and the way the PA subsequently uses
that lack of improvement to demonize Israel, prove that the PA is not interested
in the two-state solution, or peace.
In fact, the bid for UN recognition
of a state without a peace agreement, and the way the PA deals with Israel
regarding water are part of the same campaign. The goal of that campaign is, as
Mahmoud Abbas pointed out in his infamous NYT
op-ed, the continuation of the
conflict by different means.
By now it has become clear that the use of
water as weapon is one of those means.Yochanan Visser is Director
Missing Peace Information (an Israel-based PD organization operating in Belgium
and the Netherlands), and publicist for the Dutch papers
De Volkskrant, Het
Vrije Volk and
De Dagelijkse Standaard. www.missingpeace.eu Sharon Shaked
is the Middle East Expert in Missing Peace. She holds a BA in Middle East and
Islamic studies from Hebrew University.