Erdan calls for PA cooperation to solve water problems

Refusal of PA officials to cooperate with Israel leaves Palestinians with water shortage, contamination, environmental protection minister says.

Gilad Erdan and French Mideast envoy Valérie Hoffenberg  311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Erdan and French Mideast envoy Valérie Hoffenberg 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Palestinians still suffer from both a water shortage and contaminated water due to the refusal of Palestinian Authority leaders to cooperate with Israel due to the unrelated political conflict, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said at a conference held in Paris on Tuesday.
The conference, organized by the Union for the Mediterranean, was hosted by the French government and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s envoy to the Middle East, Valérie Hoffenberg.
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One of the main issues under discussion was achieving a viable solution to regional water problems, as a path toward cooperation and peace, the Environmental Protection Ministry said.
Erdan participated in a roundtable discussion that included PA Water Authority Minister Dr. Shadad Attili, Jordanian Water Minister Mohammed Najjar, Jordanian Minister of Regional Cooperation Jafaar Hassan and Deputy Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean Rafiq Husseini. Also in attendance were the French environment and economic cooperation ministers.
“The issue of water must be outside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Erdan said in his speech. “If the Palestinians will continue insisting to put conditions on things, we will not succeed in achieving cooperation and will not find a solution to the water distress of this whole region’s population.”
Erdan said the continued pollution of water sources threatened Israelis and Palestinians alike, and that the Palestinian leadership should stop debating who had the right to which water source and instead begin discussing the urgent and mutual needs for water.
Today, Israel supplied the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip much more water than is mandatory under the Interim Agreement of 1995 (Oslo II), the environment minister added.
Reiterating Israel’s commitment to finding regional solutions to the water problem, Erdan said the government would continue to enable international investments in water treatment plants, including in the construction of additional desalination plants in Gaza.
Turning to the PA Water Authority head, Erdan suggested that they put aside mutual political suspicions and instead forge a relationship based on solving environmental problems directly.
“How can I help you deal with Israeli bureaucratic obstacles that delay finding solutions to the water distress, such as even I encounter during ongoing activities, when you look for excuses to refuse meetings?” Erdan asked Attili. “This way, nothing will be resolved.
Attili told Erdan that he would refuse to meet with him due to his participation in the recent inauguration of the new Ma’aleh Hazeitim neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem, the Environmental Protection Ministry said.