For both Gidon Bromberg and Nader Khateeb, having a clean and ample supply of
water far outweighs the stringencies posed by political borders.
Palestinian and Jordanian representatives took part Sunday in the first day of a
two-day Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) workshop in Beit Jala, to revise
and make plans for the implementation of a “Model Water Accord” proposed by the
green group, a statement from the team said.
The Model Water Accord,
drafted in November 2010, provides a potential structure for the Israeli and
Palestinian water-sharing future and attempts to update a current system that is
“outdated, inadequate, unfair and failing both peoples,” the organization
The accord is a part of the European Union-sponsored “Trans-boundary
Advocacy for Parliamentarians” cross-border project that urges a more
sustainable management of shared water resources in the area, according to the
“Developing mechanisms for an emerging Palestinian state is
crucial at this time, and this Model Water Accord exemplifies how a more
equitable allocation of the region’s shared water resources is beneficial to
both Israelis and Palestinians, and that it is attainable,” said Khateeb, FoEME
Palestinian director, in a statement prior to the workshop.
counterpart, Bromberg, agreed, adding in the same statement: “Water should not
be held hostage to the conflict, especially when a viable alternative option is
placed on the table.”
During the first day of the workshop, local
community representatives, Israeli and Palestinian academics and FoEME members
examined some of the most problematic places on both sides of the border – with
a particular focus from the Israeli side on Bakha Al Garbia and Emek Hefer – the
second of which receives an overflow of sewage from the West Bank, Bromberg told
The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, two places of interest
from the Palestinian side were Yatta in the Hebron Hills, which shares a spring
with Beersheba, and the Al Auja Spring, where water-management issues lead to
undesirable socioeconomic effects, according to FoEME.
arrangements are failing both peoples,” Bromberg told the Post
, noting that
insufficient water supply is harming the Palestinians, while inadequate sewage
treatment is harming both.
The November draft of the Model Water Accord
stipulates the creation of a Bilateral Water Commission that would be
responsible for all shared water – not simply for shared water from the
Palestinian side, as is the Join Water Committee’s responsibility today – as
well as a Water Mediation Board, according to an executive summary.
commission would be responsible for making decisions on water extractions and
deliveries based on a subsidiary body of scientific advisers from both sides,
while the board would step in if any opposition or conflict occurred as a result
of the decision.
One of the most critical elements of the accord is that
the commission would handle shared water spaces from both sides, Bromberg
“The current arrangement looks at mountain aquifer, but only
the Palestinian side on the West Bank and how it is managed by Israel and the
Palestinian Authority,” Bromberg said.
“Our water accord would look at
the mountain aquifer in its completeness – both on the West Bank side and the
Khateeb added, also on Sunday evening, “They were only
looking at the West Bank and Israel was free to do whatever it wanted – we are
looking beyond the political borders.”
Workshop participants have already
provided several words of advice for improving the accord in its final version,
the first of which being the necessity “to secure for both sides a minimum
certainty of water supply,” according to Bromberg.
While FoEME’s policy
opposes any further expansion of desalination plants in Israel, Bromberg said
that the current facilities could serve to provide such certainty, an idea
suggested to the group by the academics in the room.
A second suggestion
entailed involving “the highest level of decision-making” – namely, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas – directly in future
water-sharing plans in case a stalemate on any specific agreement is reached,
“If there is a deadlock in the Bilateral Water
Commission there should be an avenue of taking it to the highest level, and the
rationale for that was that the Bilateral Water Commission is still water
experts and there will be occasions where you will have to look beyond the water
question,” he added.
The third proposed revision to the accord made on
Sunday was a request for the presence of a third, neutral party on both the
commission and the board – someone from a country approved by both the Israeli
and Palestinian representatives, Bromberg said.
In the face of what they
feel are obsolete Oslo Accord measures on water, both Bromberg and Khateeb said
that they expected government reception on both sides to be positive once they
submit the final version to the respective leaders.
Monday’s session will
be more strategic, with more direct implementation plans, according to
“I am delighted with how things went today,” Khateeb said.
“[The workshop] highlights a new approach that we think is more sustainable,
takes into account future changes and is not based on a zero-sum game.”