The Water Authority slammed Amnesty International on Monday for failing to allow it to make any sort of presentation to Amnesty's researchers or react to the organization's findings on water allocation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before the publication of its new critical report on Tuesday morning.
The authority also called into question some of the basic facts the report presented.
The new document examines an ongoing issue - the divvying up of water resources between the PA and Israel. The three main natural water resources are Lake Kinneret, the mountain aquifer and the coastal aquifer. The mountain aquifer runs almost entirely under the West Bank, and Amnesty slammed Israel for taking 80 percent of the water from the aquifer.
Water resources are one of the final-status negotiation issues between Israel and the PA, and it is safe to assume that no lasting changes will be made outside the context of those talks. Nevertheless, Amnesty has called on Israel to divide up the shared water resources now and end discrimination against Palestinians in favor of settlers.
The report also cites a vast difference in daily water use for the two parties. Amnesty cites 400 liters per day for Israelis, and just 70 for Palestinians. That figure puts the Palestinians below the World Health Organization recommendation of 100 liters per day.
However, the Water Authority hotly disputed those figures. According to the authority, while Israelis use 408 liters per day of fresh water from natural sources, Palestinians use 200 liters per day. While acknowledging the difference between these two amounts, the authority stressed that it was nowhere near as drastic as Amnesty had portrayed it.
The report cites examples of Israeli actions from the last nine years, such as confiscating water carriers, destroying rain collection cisterns and shooting at water tanks on rooftops - generally from Palestinian eyewitness accounts. It also cites instances of IDF closures, also during that period, that forced water carriers far out of their way to reach their clients, raising the price of water.
The report also brings instances in which it claims the IDF was restricting access to water or restricting entry of water carriers in order to push Palestinians off the land. Amnesty quotes an IDF officer as saying the area was a "closed military zone," and therefore a water carrier was denied entry.
"Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians' access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories], consequently denying hundreds of thousands of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing or health, and to economic development," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's researcher on Israel and the OPT.
However, according to the Water Authority, while Israeli access to water before 1967 came out to about 500 cubic meters per person per year, nowadays it is just 149 cu.m. per year, a drop of 70%. In contrast, from a pre-1967 86 cu.m. per person per year, Palestinian consumption has risen to 105 cu.m.
The Water Authority also stressed that it routinely provided the PA with more water per year than the amounts stipulated in the Oslo Accords. It also said Palestinians routinely dug illegal wells and refused to purify and reuse their sewage for agriculture. Instead, they dumped their sewage into the streams in the West Bank, causing massive pollution.
The report contrasts the Palestinian situation with that of the settlers, showing pictures of sprinklers watering fields in the middle of the day and a swimming pool in Ma'aleh Adumim - one of the settlements commonly expected to become part of Israel in an eventual agreement - juxtaposed with pictures of empty or polluted cisterns.
The final recommendations of the report call on Israel to stop violating the Palestinians' human rights.
"Amnesty International calls on the Israeli authorities to urgently address the desperate need for water security in the OPT, brought about by their violations of Palestinians' human rights," the report reads. "The Israeli authorities should immediately:
â€¢ Lift the restrictions currently in place which deny Palestinians in the OPT access to sufficient water to meet personal and domestic needs as well as to enjoy their rights to water, food, health, work and an adequate standard of living.
â€¢ Put an end to policies and practices which discriminate against Palestinians and confer privileges to Israeli settlers with respect to access to water in the OPT.
â€¢ Revoke all outstanding orders for demolitions and prohibit further demolitions of water facilities in Area C of the West Bank.
â€¢ Lift the blockade on Gaza and allow immediate entry to Gaza of spare parts and construction and other material and equipment needed for the repair, reconstruction and maintenance of the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza."
Amnesty also called on the Palestinian Water Authority to "take measures to maximize existing water resources, by prioritizing measures which reduce the unacceptably high water losses, and by establishing mechanisms to ensure that all the water delivered to consumers, whether through the PWA-controlled networks or via mobile water tankers, is safe and complies with WHO standards."
Meanwhile, NGO Monitor accused Amnesty on Monday of deliberately releasing the report to coincide with another organization's US speaking tour that linked Israeli water policy to apartheid-type practices.
"Amnesty's report provides legitimacy for a speaking tour beginning November 1 at universities in the US organized by the Palestinian Cultural Academic Boycott of Israel (PCABI) movement entitled 'Israel's Control of Water as a Tool of Apartheid and Means of Ethnic Cleansing.' The main speaker, Omar Barghouti, is a leader of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel," a statement from the organization said.
In advance of Amnesty's report, NGO Monitor's president, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, said, "Amnesty's report manipulates the issue of water and ignores the complexities of history and law in order to again falsely portray Israel as a brutal regime. Rather than recognize that water supply is a complex regional issue, Amnesty focuses only on Palestinian shortages."
He added that "the report adopts a painfully simplistic narrative which places blame solely on Israel, to the extent that the Palestinian leadership is absolved of responsibility for the agreements signed under the Oslo framework."
However, Amnesty International flatly denied to The Jerusalem Post any connection to the lecture series.
"We are definitely not releasing the report to coincide with any other organization or activist's activities," Amnesty Israel spokeswoman Dana Zimmerman told the Post."We have not shared the report with anyone ahead of its release except for media outlets. The timing of the release was decided according to the publication schedule of the president of Amnesty International."