'Water not being withheld in West Bank'

Lt.-Col Amnon Cohen: Palestinian and int'l claims that Israel receives 4 times as much water baseless.

leaking water pipe 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
leaking water pipe 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Palestinian and international claims that Israel denies water rights in the West Bank are "baseless and incorrect," Lt.-Col. Amnon Cohen, head of the civil administration's infrastructures department, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. According to Cohen, recent media reports - including in the BBC - are based on false information regarding the water situation in the West Bank from a recent World Bank report, which claimed that Israel is getting four times more water than the Palestinians. "Indeed, availability of water resources is highly disparate, with fresh water per capita in Israel approximately four times that of the West Bank and Gaza Strip," the report claimed. "Whereas Israel has established efficient water infrastructure and management, the PA is struggling to attain the basic level of infrastructure and service of a low-income country." According to Cohen, the report was based on incorrect information. Cohen recently met with World Bank officials to present them with the Israeli version of the water situation in the West Bank. For example, he said, in 2007 the Palestinians received 47 million cubic meters of water and in 2008 over 52 million. In addition, Cohen revealed in an interview earlier this week, Israel recently allocated a piece of beach land next to Hadera for the Palestinians to use to build a water desalination plant, which, if operated, would provide over 100 million cubic meters of water annually. "The land was allocated over a year ago and the Palestinians have yet to move forward with the project," he said. "The Palestinians do not cooperate to try and independently improve their water situation," Cohen added. "While we in Israel are cutting back on water use due to the drought and imposing fines on people who use too much water, the Palestinians are doing nothing of the kind." Another example has to do with well digging in the West Bank. The Palestinians claimed that while the Israeli-PA joint water committee approved the drilling of 82 wells, none have been carried out due to Israeli refusal. "This is nonsense," Cohen explained. "Out of the 82, 43 are Areas A and B which are under PA control and they do not need us involved. Out of the remaining 39, in Area C and under Israeli security control, 21 have been approved and 11 have not even been submitted for approval." According to Cohen, dozens of drillings have been approved over the years but the Palestinians have not acted upon them. There are already 11 open wells in the territories that have not been connected to pumps, he added. "If they were to connect the wells, they would get another 11 million cubic meters of water," he said.