Water distribution in the Migdalim settlement in the Samaria Region.
(photo credit: MIGDALIM SECURITY)
The responsibility for the shortage in the West Bank’s water supply, which has captured global headlines lately, lies, according to Israel, with the Palestinians.
The infrastructure is inadequate to meet the increasing demand, the Israeli Water Authority said, explaining that it is difficult to upgrade the infrastructure without convening the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, that was established under the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The Palestinian refusal to sit down with Israelis, means that the committee has not met for over five years.
On top of that, broken water pipes and Palestinian water theft have made the situation worse, a spokesman for the Water Authority said.
He told The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday that about 5 million cubic meters of water are stolen annually in the West Bank by Palestinians.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories’ Office – a branch of the Defense Ministry – is responsible for catching water thieves. In the northern Samaria region alone, he added, about 1.2 million cu. m. are stolen annually.
Adding to this was a 20 to 40 percent increase in demand compared to last year, with most of it being used for agricultural purposes.
In order to deal with this, the Authority and Interior Ministry created a national water emergency plan, to “pool water together” during peak hours.
This has not prevented shortages, however, because the Palestinian Authority has not given its approval for the Water Authority to update infrastructure. The shortage has been particularly acute in the Palestinian village of Salfit.
In the Knesset last week, MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) said that Salfit had been without water for the last two weeks.
But the Palestinians are not the only ones complaining of the water shortage. Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman Esther Aloush said that there are shortages throughout Judea and Samaria, particularly in the areas from Shiloh to Ariel, including in Yitzhar, Eli, Kedumim, Itamar, Elon Moreh and Rechilim.
On Friday there were three settlements in the Samaria area without water and another five that were asked to limit their water usage. The Samaria Regional Council distributed water to some of those settlements.
“It’s the task of the government and the ministers energy and infrastructure to upgrade the water pipes,” Dagan said. “It’s a serious failure if in the 21st century, one has to distribute water to Israeli citizens,” he said.
The neighboring Arab villages are also suffering, Dagan added. He called on the government to create an emergency task force to fix the problem.
But the lack of water for the Palestinian communities has led to charges that Israel was deliberately withholding water from the Palestinian communities.
Palestinian and international media outlets have taken Israel to task for what they perceive as a deliberate policy against the Palestinians.
In speaking to the European Parliament last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas charged that rabbis had called for Palestinian water wells to be poisoned. He later withdrew the charge and apologized.
The NGO, Adalah, on Sunday sent a letter to National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, to the West Bank Civil Administration and to the Mekorot Water Company demanding that they provide the Palestinians with water.
Adalah charged Israel with deliberately withholding water from the Palestinians, a move which their attorney Moneh Hadar said would be in violation of international law.
A spokesman for Adalah said it is seriously considering weighing a petition to the High Court of Justice if the water situation continues.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.