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A West Bank water crisis for Palestinians only

When Israel’s national water company operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriates Palestinian water resources and controls the valves, is it any surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements?

By Stephanie Westbrook

Qarawat Bani Zeid is a small Palestinian town of 3,500 north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. There are no Israeli settlements in the immediate vicinity. The route of Israel’s separation wall does not run through the area and Qarawat is in Area A — under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. And yet, Israel’s military occupation and discriminatory policies manage to cut into everyday life.

Children bring water from home to the school in  Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Children bring water from home to the school in Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

“Our biggest problem is water,” explained Sabri Arah, a member of the town council.

Qarawat sits atop the Western Aquifer, the largest and most productive sub-basin of the Mountain Aquifer, the main groundwater source in the West Bank, yet 80 percent of the town’s taps are dry. “Water is pumped out before it arrives to the town,” noted Arah.

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

The company pumping the water out is Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Mekorot not only operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian water resources, Israel also effectively controls the valves, deciding who gets water and who does not. It should be no surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements while service to Palestinian towns is routinely reduced or cut off.

The right to water was the focus of a recent delegation of the Italian Forum of Water Movements visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Israel as part of the Beyond Walls project of Servizio Civile Internazionale, an Italian NGO committed to human rights and social justice.

Last December, during the Italy-Israel bilateral summit, a cooperation agreement was signed between Mekorot and Acea, Italy’s largest water utility.

Water tanker in the village of At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Water tanker in the village of At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Together with Palestine solidarity groups, Italian water movements have been waging a campaign calling on Acea, as well as the City of Rome, a majority shareholder in the company, to cancel the agreement due to Mekorot’s violations of international law.

The main goal of the trip was to gather documentation and direct testimony to support the campaign against the Mekorot agreement, identifying ways to further involve Palestinian groups.

Mekorot’s role in water privatization around the world was an added incentive for Italian water movements to get involved. Water as a common good has been their focus of the movements, which have been hugely successful, several times over.

Water tanker near the village of Nabi Saleh. (Cinzia Di Napoli)

Water tanker near the village of Nabi Saleh. (Cinzia Di Napoli)

In 2010, over 1.4 million signatures forced a national Italian referendum on the issue. In June 2011, over 26 million ballots were cast, meeting the quorum for the first time since 1995, with a crushing majority of over 95 percent voting in favor of keeping water public.

Despite what could not have been a more clear indication, successive governments have attempted to circumvent the public’s will and the referendum remains unimplemented.

The Palestinians we met were able to relate to this turn of events. They, too, have to continually fight for their rights. Evidence of Israel’s discriminatory policies, which create an artificial water crisis affecting only one people, was everywhere to be seen.

Well in the Bedouin village of al-Mufaqarah, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Well in the Bedouin village of al-Mufaqarah, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Palestinian workers returning from Israel at the Nil’in  checkpoint. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Palestinian workers returning from Israel at the Nil’in checkpoint. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

At the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a cramped, overcrowded home to about 5000 people, nearly 40 percent under the age of 14, water from the mains comes an average of 6 hours per week.

In his award-winning short film “Everyday Nakba,” Mohammed al Azzeh, of the camp’s Lajee Center, captures the joy and the frantic rush to get the pumps working to fill rooftop tanks the moment the water comes on.

“Look at the settlement of Gilo next door. Do you see any water tanks on their roofs?” asked Azzeh. “They have water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Rooftops jam-packed with water tanks in the Aida  refugee camp near Bethlehem. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Rooftops jam-packed with water tanks in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

The delegation also visited Palestinian communities within Israel, like Al Araqib where, despite being Israeli citizens, residents face nearly identical policies denying them access to water.

Tanker trucks bring water to trees planted by the Jewish  National Fund at Al Araqib in the Naqab (Negev). (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Tanker trucks bring water to trees planted by the Jewish National Fund at Al Araqib in the Naqab (Negev). (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Across the world, as the part of the international campaign against Mekorot, those working for Palestinian rights have joined forces with those struggling against the privatization of water to denounce Mekorot’s role in both denying Palestinians access to water and in the commodification of a fundamental common good.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen based in Rome, Italy. Her articles have been published by Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Electronic Intifada, In These Times and Z Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @stephinrome.

PHOTOS: 13 days without water in East Jerusalem
WATCH: Jordan Valley settlements dry up Palestinian water supply
Visualizing Occupation: Distribution of Water

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    1. Pedro X

      Stephanie, the anti-Zionist writer and “part time Mountain woman”, continues with the canard that Israel is responsible for the lack of water supplies in the West Bank. It is a water libel against Israel.

      You would never know from reading Stephanie’s rant that there is an international agreement between Israel and the Palestinians with respect to water resources with which Israel is in full compliance nor would you know that the Palestinian and Israeli water resources in the West Bank are controlled by each party’s respective water carrier. The Palestinians have their own pipelines and control distribution of their share of the water resources to Palestinians. Israel is not responsible for distribution to individual Palestinian homes except for a few which are attached to lines for Israeli communities.

      Under the Interim Oslo agreements the Palestinians are not only receiving the water resources which were allocated at the time but also water for all of their future needs as those needs were defined. Israel provides Palestinians with 50 million cubic meters at 80% of the cost to produce and deliver the water to the Palestinians water authority. The Palestinians consume some 200 million cubic meters of water per year in Judea and Samaria. This is three times the amount that the Palestinians had access to in wet years under Jordanian rule. Israel reduced it share of the Western Mountain Aquifer drastically to supply the Palestinians with an additional share of the water. Israel now draws 400 million cubic meters a year from the Mountain Aquifer. Given that there are 8.25 million Israelis and 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank, one can see that Palestinians are receiving more than their share of the resource.

      Israel does not have a water shortage because it early on developed a sustainable water policy. The Palestinians have a water shortage because they failed to develop a sustainable water policy. Israel has done a number of things to increase its water supply while reducing its share of the joint water resource. By 2015 Israel will have built out 600 million cubic meters per year capacity by building 5 water desalination plants. The Palestinians have built ZERO capacity. Israel treats over 80% of its waster waters. The Palestinians treat some 5%. Israel treats and recycles its waste water for use to irrigate agricultural lands. Palestinians recycle ZERO waste waters. Israeli farmers use drip irrigation and high technology to produce crops. Many Palestinians use flood irrigation which is hugely wasteful. Israel has reduced wastage from leaking water lines to under 10% by watchful monitoring and repair. The PA water authority admits more than 1/ 3 of the Palestinian domestic supply is wasted due to leaky pipes and taps which it fails to repair.

      Israel has a policy of user pay. Those who want water have to pay for it. The water is metered. The Palestinians generally do not meter or pay for their water on an individual basis. There is no incentive to conserve water supplies in the West Bank. Therefore in some municipalities in the West Bank there is an unlimited supply of water for Palestinians while others receive little from the PA. This is the fault of the PA distribution system.

      The PA could easily increase its water supply in the West Bank by 50% to 100%. The PA has refused to drill the Eastern Aquifer which the Oslo agreements allow it to. This allows 70 million cubic meters a year to flow into the Dead Sea untapped. The Palestinians complain that this water is not as high a quality as the water of the mountain aquifer. Of course, if the water is salty, all the Palestinians need to do is to build a desalination plant to treat the water as Israel has done with 5 such major plants.

      The Palestinians could bring their leakage of pipes and taps down to 10% and provide another 24 million cubic meters of supply.

      The Palestinians could produce another 40 million cubic meters of supply by recycling waste water for crop watering or industrial use. The Palestinians could reduce their waste of fresh water by not allowing flood irrigation and metering use.

      Finally the Palestinians could build out a 600 million cubic meter capacity of desalinated sea water as Israel has done. This would more than solve all of Palestinian water problems in both the West Bank and Gaza. So why have they not done it? Because the Palestinian leadership is corrupt, has diverted resources from the public sector to their own pockets and to paying the costs of armed resistance to the tune of billions of dollars over the years. The truth of the matter is that Palestinians have chosen to sit in their own filth and forgo actions easily obtainable to obtain sufficient water for themselves. So who is to blame for that?

      Reply to Comment
      • Steven

        So with reading the comment by Pedro X it is all the fault of the Palestinians. Is that correct?

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Steven, it is not only a matter of fault, but a matter of political choice of the Palestinian leadership to be water insecure. Let me give you some concrete examples. In or about 2003 the Israelis offered to finance and build a water desalination plant at Hadera to increase future supplies of water to the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian co-chair of the Joint Water Commission (JWC) agreed with the Israelis’ proposal. The Americans also offered to put up $250 million dollars for the project. Yassar Arafat over ruled the Palestinian JWC chair and killed the project. He did not want the PA to be seen cooperating on water issues while the resistance was carrying out martyrdom operations against Israel. It was more important to see blood than water flow.

          Let me give another example. The Interim Oslo Accords, Article 40, made it a positive obligation of the Palestinians to develop the Eastern Aquifer to up to 51 Million cubic meters of water to meet its future needs on top on 17 million cubic meters for present needs in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. the Palestinians did not.

          Under the same Article 40 the Palestinians are obligated to treat and reuse their waste water. They have chosen not to. Europeans and US Aid were prepared to fund and build Palestinian water treatment plants but Palestinians chose not to build them.

          Under Article 40 the Palestinians are obligated to prevent harm to water resources. They are obligated to practice sustainable water policies. They do not. They allow over one third of their domestic supply to leak out through non-repair and maintenance of leaky pipes. We are talking about losing 30 million cubic meters of water a year because Palestinians choose not to repair their pipes.

          The Palestinians choose to allow their farmers to use unlimited quantities of waters from natural springs without paying for use of the water. This is hugely wasteful when half of the water could be saved by modern irrigation practices. We are talking about another 54.5 million cubic meters of water. In addition the use of recycled waste water in Palestinian agriculture could free up the use of tens of millions of freshwater supplies for domestic consumption. Israel recycles 80% of its waste waters for reuse.

          Article 40 of the Interim Accords recognizes the necessity of both Palestinians and Israelis develop additional water supplies for various uses. Israel has done so with its 5 large desalination plants. The Palestinians have not.

          Following Abbas’s refusal of Olmert’s offer for the establishment of a Palestinian state, Fatah adopted a policy of non-cooperation in most areas of Israeli and Palestinian affairs. this was felt most deeply with the Joint Water Commission. The Joint Palestinian Chair was replaced by a rabid anti-Zionist who sole purpose was to ensure there was no cooperation between the two sides. Prior to the change of the co-Chair Israel had arranged for a technician from the PA water authority to study and observe the Israeli desalination processes. Around 5 years ago, the new chair removed the technician from gaining further knowledge of the Israeli processes.

          One last example which exemplifies the Palestinian position that it is willing to hurt its own citizens rather than meet its obligations to cooperate with Israel to find solutions for water issues. Israel built a sewage pipeline to take away waste from Israelis communities. Israel offered to hook up 11 Palestinian villages In the Qalqilya area to allow these Palestinians to have their sewage and waste water removed instead of being dumped into their environment. The PA refused the offer.

          The Palestinians have chosen for political purposes to not become water secure and not to treat and reuse water when its neighbor has done so and demonstrated how it should and can be done. This goes way beyond mistake or fault.

          Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            1. For your Hadera claim I’d like to have sources. Otherwise I’m calloing bullshit. I may have asked you about this same thing before, might have been someone else.

            Needless to say: I didn’t get any (credible) sources.

            2. Making the Palestinians obligated to do X, while at the same time actively sabotaging anything they do to achieve X, does not make not achieving X the Palestinian’s fault.

            It makes it Israel’s fault.

            Let me give you a few examples:
            Israel has destroyed more than one Palestinian well every year, thus making it impossible for the PA to even remotely achieve anything near 51%.

            If Palestinians, or the PA wants to build wells, Israel usually denies the applicants any permits. If they then build the wells anyway, partly to meet their contractual obligation to Israel, Israel will destroy the wells.

            3. The Palestinians want to treat the water. Israel denies them building-permits for the plants that would be needed.

            4. Almost all of the Palestinian pipes that are leaking are either in Area B or C. Israel does not allow the Palestinian workers and administration to repair these pipes nearly as often as would be necessary.

            5. It is of course not the Palestinian’ farmers fault for being poor, when they have to waste some water to water their plants. The infrastructure is lacking, and if the PA wants to build better infrastructure Israel will deny building permits.

            6. Pleas provide sources for the rest of your claims:
            * The PA technician
            * The waste water pipe

            You make it sound like the West Bank was not under almost complete Israeli civil and military control.
            Newsflash: it is.

            To conclude:
            All your claims are either false, unsubstatiated or distortions.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            It is a well known fact that Israel offered to build a desalination plant at Hadera for the Palestinians. National Geographic Oct. 28, 2010:

            “The September 1995 interim Israel-Palestinian peace deal drafted a basis for cooperation on water issues that highlighted the importance of developing new resources, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected an Israeli offer to build them a desalination plant in the Israeli city of Hadera”

            Also see Feitelson and Rosenthal Desalination, Space and Power, 280.

            “In May 2004, an Israeli representative proposed the desalination of seawater at Hadera on the Mediterranean coast
            to supply the West Bank with potable water, but this has not been agreed by Palestine”

            The Israeli representative was Yossi Dreizin of the Israeli Water Authority.

            See Lauro Burkart Master thesis 2012
            page 46

            “. In 2004, Dreizin drafted
            comprehensive plan for the region. The model suggested the transfer of desalinated seawater to the northern West Bank area and the creation of sewage collection and treatment systems all over
            the West Bank. The plan received sufficient donor funding and was accepted by the then deputy head of PWA,Fadel Qawash . The endeavour failed ultimately due to Arafat’s opposition. Dreizin also identifies a politicization of the conflict: “… the Palestinians are not really ready to finish the
            conflict … keeping their people miserable is a way to cope with public opinion to blame Israel for the ‘occupation’”

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Re Palestinian water technician was removed by the Palestinians:

            Lauro Burkat Master thesis 2012 page 71:

            “Israel is willing to transfer its knowledge on seawater desalination to the Pa However, Attili is refusing to accept it. In July 2011 he withdrew a PWA water expert team
            from an Israeli desalination training program”

            Sewage pipeline. See The Civil Administration International Organizations Branch Projects Department Report for 2012:

            “The Wadi Kana trunk line collects waste water from several communities in the Qalqilya District for treatment in a WWTP situated in Israel. This recently built trunk line was designed by the Israeli authorities to be able to serve 11 Palestinian villages and towns such as Beit Amin, Kfar
            Tholoth, and Azoun At’meh. These villages currently have no internal collection system, but once connected will have full access to the recycled water for their agricultural needs.

            The Civil Administration urges the PWA and international community to investigate the possibility of
            connecting these villages to the Wadi Kana trunk line.”

            The Palestinians have refused. David Weiberg Director of Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies:

            “Even when Israel builds a sewage pipeline, like the Wadi Kana trunk line to collect waste water from several communities in the Kalkilya district and treat the sewage in Israel, the PA declines to cooperate. It has not connected the 11 Palestinian towns in the area to this new sewage line.”

            Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Read this article from Haaretz about the water.

        The truth is that Israel takes the lion’s share of the water and while their lawns are watered taps often run dry in the summer.

        And then of course there have been more than a few incidents of IDF soldiers deliberately shooting holes into the water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian homes while it has been documented that those wonderful IDF soldiers have pissed into the water knowing full well what they were doing.

        Stop trying to defend the indefensible. You are not doing a good job of it and there is no way that you can.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Jan here is a short Jerusalem Post article on the water issue

          “Palestinian lies like water ”

          “The PA considers water and waste as weapons against Israel, not as areas of cooperation.

          It comes back again and again: The canard that Israel is denying West Bank Palestinians water rights negotiated under the Oslo Accords.

          Haaretz returns to the issue every once in a while with stories about water supply disruptions in the Palestinian Authority, Israeli confiscation of Palestinian water tanks in the Jordan Valley, or Palestinian Water Authority reports about “disproportionate” water allocations to settlements.

          You have to read the fine print to discover that illegal Palestinian tapping into Israel’s water lines and massive Palestinian water wastage are the causes of the problem. You have to study the issue in depth to discover that it is not Israeli “occupation policy” but Palestinian political resistance against joint water management and cooperation that is responsible for the slow development of the Palestinian water sector. The PA considers water and waste as weapons against Israel, not as areas of cooperation with Israel.

          For too long, Israel has failed to respond in detail to Palestinian accusations of Israeli “water apartheid” which are ubiquitous in the UN and NGO world. Only recently has the civil administration and the Israel Water Authority, along with one of Israel’s top hydrologists, Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, begun to fight back with properly documented counterclaims.

          The newly released studies show clearly that that Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the agreements it signed in 1995 with the Palestinian Authority (and in fact has exceeded them), while the Palestinians are wasting tremendous amounts of water while refusing to utilize modern water conservation or sewage treatment methods.

          In an exceptional study (http://besacenter.org/mideast-security- and-policy-studies/the-israelipalestinian- water-conflict-an-israeliperspective- 3-2/>) published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Gvirtzman shows that large differences in per capita consumption of natural water between Jews and Arabs that existed in 1967, when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to Israel, have been reduced over the last 40 years and are now negligible.

          He thoroughly refutes Palestinian accusations of inequitable and discriminatory Israeli water policies.

          The Palestinian Authority consumes 200 million cubic meters of water every year, with Israel providing more than 50 m.c.m. of this – which, under the Accords, is more than Israel it supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final-status arrangement.

          Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and it cites international law in support of its claims. These claims grandiosely amount to more than 700 m.c.m. of water per year, including rights over the groundwater reservoir of the Mountain Aquifer, the Gaza Strip Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River. These inflated demands amount to more than 50 percent of the total natural water available between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

          But Gvirtzman, of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University (who has for years been part of the Israeli team for water coordination with the PA), demonstrates that the current division of natural fresh water resources between Israel and the Palestinians is fair. Israel’s population stands at 7.2 million, five times the actual West Bank Palestinian population of 1.4 million. Proportionately, Israel controls 1,200 m.c.m. of the available natural fresh water, and the PA 220 m.c.m. In per capita terms, this works out to about 160 metric cubes of water per person per annum in both Israel and the PA.

          As for settler water use, well, Israel sends into the West Bank for Palestinian usage far more water than settler communities use.

          Statistics released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Water Authority for World Water Day this past March, according to Gvirtzman, are fabricated.

          Straight-out lies. In complete contradiction of the PA’s concocted data, Gvirtzman shows that every Israeli citizen pays more for his or her water – in order to subsidize Israel’s sale of water to the Palestinians at discount prices. In fact, residents of Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim (not to mention Tel Aviv and Haifa) pay twice as much for their water as residents of Nablus and Ramallah pay for their water – if the latter bother to pay anything at all.

          But most of all, Gvirtzman’s BESA Center report accuses the PA of doing almost nothing to preventing massive leaking in its domestic pipelines; almost nothing to implement modern water conservation techniques; and nothing to recycle sewage water for irrigation.

          In fact, many Palestinian farmers routinely overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Generally, they don’t pay their own water bills, so they don’t care to conserve. (The PA uses international donor money to pay for this waste.) Moreover, at least one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians is wasted through leakage and mismanagement – by the Palestinian Water Authority’s own estimates.

          The PA euphemistically calls this “unaccounted for water.”

          Worse still, no recycling of water takes place in the Palestinian Authority and no treated water is used for agriculture. By contrast, in Israel about half of all agriculture is sustained by treated waste water. In fact, Israel’s use of treated waste water, its desalination activities, and its measures to reduce water losses in the water system add 800 m.c.m. per year to its water supply, amounting to one-third of Israel’s total water usage.

          At the same time, 95 percent of the 56 m.c.m. per year of sewage produced by the Palestinians is not treated at all. Palestinian sewage flows untreated into the streams and valleys of the West Bank, and infiltrates into the Mountain Aquifer, polluting it for Jews and Arabs alike. Some 17 m.c.m. per year of raw Palestinian sewage flows into (pre-67) Israel too.

          Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the past 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available to the Palestinians for this purpose, and despite the fact that Israel has practically begged the PA to build these sewage plants. Only very recently did the PA agree to accept World Bank funding for wastewater treatment plants in Hebron and Nablus.

          Even when Israel builds a sewage pipeline, like the Wadi Kana trunk line to collect waste water from several communities in the Kalkilya district and treat the sewage in Israel, the PA declines to cooperate. It has not connected the 11 Palestinian towns in the area to this new sewage line.

          “The Palestinians generally refuse to build sewage treatment plants,” Gvirtzman says. “The ugly truth behind all the anti-Israel propaganda is that PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management.”

          Unfortunately, the international community has allowed the PA to get away with this hostile behavior; to continue its strategy of noncooperation with Israel; to flout all logical standards of professional conduct.

          With Israel’s mega-water desalinization plants coming online, Israel will soon have more than enough water for its own needs as well as sufficient water for sale to the PA. “But first, the PA needs to become a responsible actor,” says Gvirtzman. “It must prevent water wastage, collect real fees from its citizens for water usage, and deal professionally with its sewage. It must also stop stealing from Israel’s wells and pipelines, while running around the world falsely accusing Israel of stealing Palestinian resources.”

          Indeed, the PA has violated its water agreements with Israel by drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 m.c.m. a year of water, and by connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid.

          Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel’s Mekorot national water company – stealing Israel’s water. (That’s why the civil administration recently confiscated some PA water tanks in the Jordan Valley.)

          The civil administration points out that the PA has barely begun to tap into the Eastern Aquifer in the West Bank (which was allocated to PA use by accord with Israel), from which it could produce another 60 m.c.m. per year. The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee has approved the drilling of 70 water wells by the PA for this purpose, yet more than half of the approved wells have not yet been drilled. This would put a grand total of 260 m.c.m. of water per year at the disposal of the PA.

          The Palestinians also have rejected on political grounds a proposal which would have created a water desalination plant in Gaza specifically to meet Palestinian needs. The US had set aside $250m. for the project, which again could have yielded a huge increase in the amount of available water for the Palestinians.

          But hey – it’s much easier to steal water from Israel and simultaneously complain that Israel is drying out West Bank Palestinians.

          Which leaves us with the following question for John Kerry and the international community that is so earnestly trying to impress upon Israel the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state: Can you guarantee us that your much-touted Palestinian state will be any more responsible than the Palestinian Authority has been in cooperating with Israel in so many vital civilian areas, such as water and waste management? Or, might Israel have reason for concern that a Palestinian state will be even more nasty and belligerent?

          The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies”

          Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, right

        PX: “Under the Interim Oslo agreements the Palestinians are not only receiving the water resources which were allocated at the time but also water for all of their future needs as those needs were defined”

        as. those. needs. were. defined.

        Those are the five words that Pedro had to include in his propaganda pantomime, and he hoped that nobody would notice them.

        Because – du’oh! – those “needs” were “defined” in such a way that the entire exercise amounted to a con game, and we are now seeing the results of that con game i.e. the Palestinians are being fleeced, and when they complain then apologists like Pedro tell them to stop bellyaching.

        Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, right

        PX: “Under the Interim Oslo agreements the Palestinians are not only receiving the water resources which were allocated at the time but also water for all of their future needs as those needs were defined”

        Note that Pedro is referring to “needs” that were “defined” in something that even he concedes was an “interim” agreement.

        So, basically, Israel is still insisting on “defining” the Palestinian’s water needs based upon an agreement that was never intended to run beyond 1999.

        And here we are in 2014, and Pedro insists that damn-the-reality what really matters is what was defined in a document that stopped looking-to-the-future a full 15 years ago.


        Why, exactly, is that better than actually looking at the reality on the ground as it exists NOW, and concluding that an occupying power is obliged to care for the needs of the occupied NOW.

        After all, regardless of what was “defined” at Oslo in 1995 an occupying power is never entitled to evade its obligations, nor can the occupied sign away their rights.

        Article 8, Geneva Convention IV.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Yeah Right, you are wrong again. You should try reading the Interim Accords before pontificating about which you are not informed. The Interim Accords, Article 40, defined the additional needs of the Palestinians during the Interim Period as 28.6 Million cubic meters of water per year, which amount of water Israel agreed to supply and sell and has supplied to the Palestinians to meet those needs during the interim period.

          The future needs were defined in Arctic 40 as 70-80 Million cubic meters which was for an unspecified period beyond the Interim period. It is important to point out that the Palestinians were supposed to utilize the Eastern aquifer to meet 41.4 to 51.4 of the future needs and 17.0 Million cubic meters of water per year from the Eastern Aquifer for water needs in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.

          Israel has increased its water supply to over 50 MCM per year to supply additional water over what the Oslo Accords provide.

          In Article 40 of the Interim Accords both the Palestinians and Israelis recognized the necessity for developing further water supplies. Israel did so, building 5 large water desalination plants since the Interim Accords. Israel has built out a 600 million cubic meters of water per year capacity. The Palestinians none.

          Because the Palestinians have chosen to default on their obligations under the Interim Oslo Accords, in fact have refused Israeli offers to finance and build a desalination plant at Hadera to increase the Palestinian water supply and have refused the building of funded waste water treatment plants in the West Bank, it is not entitled to a greater share of a limited water supply.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Zakkai

      Perhaps the only thing more shameful than Israel’s greed is Pedro’s off-the-shelf Hasbara defense of it. Even on the “facts” he presents, it’s clear that Israel steals most of the West Bank’s water. Pedro also brags that West Bank Palestinians “get” 3 times as much water as under Jordanian rule but neglects to mention that their population has increased almost 5-fold since 1967, while per capita water consumption in the rest of the world (including Israel) has soared. Then he has the gall, after Israel has controlled, exploited, throttled and wrecked the West Bank’s economy and government for almost 50 years, to blame Palestinians for not developing and conserving their water more efficiently. I don’t even have to be an expert on the subject to see those gaping holes in his argument; I’d love to see a real expert come along and demolish him more thoroughly.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Palestinians have little basis for their water demands according to international legal norms. The Mountain Aquifer was primarily an Israel resource because of Israel’s historical possession and use of the Mountain Aquifer established in the 1940s. By international water laws the resource primarily belonged to Israel.

        In 1967 Israel decided to share this resource with the Palestinians by which the Israelis doubled the amount of water available to the Palestinians in the West Bank.

        The increase in Palestinian population between 1967 and the present does not entitle them to more water. The signed water agreement of 1995 overrules all other parameters and dictates by international law to what the Palestinians in the West Bank are entitled to share. Under the international agreement they are getting all the water to meet their future needs and more. Israel is subsidizing the Palestinians with Israeli taxpayer dollars some one quarter of their water supply.

        Ben your numbers are also wrong about population increase and you fail to indicate that Israel’s population increased three fold from 2.77 million to 8.25 million people since 1967. Does this mean Israel had the right to take 3 times as much water it did in 1967 from the Mountain Aquifer? In fact the Israelis are taking less, much less, permitting the Palestinians to have more than they were ever entitled to under Ottoman, British or Jordanian rule.

        The Arab increase in population in the West bank is also 3 fold. The CIA stats show 2.7 million people living in the West Bank including eastern Jerusalem. 550,000 to 600,000 of these are Israeli citizens, 300,000 are Arab Palestinians living in Israeli east Jerusalem. These 850-900,000 people receive water from Israel’s share. This leaves about 1.9 million Arabs to be serviced by the PA. The 1967 census done by Israel in the summer of 1967 stated there were 604,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank (which excludes the hundreds of thousands who fled in the 1967 many of whom subsequently returned.) Thus, the population growth is about 300% which is equal to the Israeli growth.

        The only reason Arab Palestinians got a greater water supply was Israel’s generosity. When Israel took over the administration of the territories only 4 of 704 Arab communities were hooked up to individual water supply. Israel hooked up more than half of the communities to running water. In order to do so Israel invested in water pipelines and other water infrastructure which the Palestinians since 1995 have failed to maintain and upgrade especially in the years since the second intifada.

        The Palestinians have squandered and embezzled billion of dollars and have left international offers for water and waste treatment plants, and Israel’s and international community offers to build desalination plants for them.

        Since 1967 Israel has reduced its per capita consumption of freshwater resources by two-thirds while in the same period the Palestinian Arabs increased their consumption by 36%. Haim Gvirtzmann in his 2012 report indicated that current per
        capita consumption in Israel is less than 10% more than in the territories. The fact is that Israel equitably allocates and distributes this water supply among its citizens while the Palestinians do not such that a number of Palestinians communities do not receive their equitable share.

        Any shortage in water could have been solved by building water desalination plants. Israel has built five in the last two decades. The Palestinians have built none. Israel’s latest plant, Sorek, has the capacity to produce 227 million cubic meters of water per year. The cost was 400 million dollars. Yassar Arafat in 1999 embezzled twice that amount alone. Mohammed Dahlan accused Arafat of having embezzled or squandered up to 5 billion dollars from the public purse. Hamas leader in Qatar, Meshaal, controls a fund of 2.6 billion dollars. Gaza leaders Haniyeh and Zahar are billionaires having stolen money from the Palestinians people. So do not say the Palestinians had no money to build these plants.

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, right

          PX: “The increase in Palestinian population between 1967 and the present does not entitle them to more water.”

          Of course it does. The West Bank is under a belligerent occupation, which means that those Palestinians are “protected persons” under intl humanitarian law and Israel (as in, “Israel, the occupying power”) is obligated by IHL to ensure an adequate supply of water to those protected persons.

          PX: “The signed water agreement of 1995 overrules all other parameters and dictates by international law to what the Palestinians in the West Bank are entitled to share.”

          That statement is demonstrably wrong.

          Article 8, GCIV: “Protected persons may in no circumstances renounce in part or in entirety the rights secured to them by the present Convention, and by the special agreements referred to in the foregoing Article, if such there be.”

          Article 47, GCIV: “Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

          So no agreement with the Palestinians can absolve Israel (“Israel, the occupying power”) from its obligations under IHL to supply the Palestinians with water.

          If the Palestinians don’t have enough water (and, demonstrably, they do not) then Israel is obliged to provide them with that water REGARDLESS of any agreement signed by anyone, anywhere, or for any purpose.

          Reply to Comment
      • Stealing Land and Water in the West Bank

        John Glaser, February 18, 2014

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        All too often, the details of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation are glossed over. But recently, during a Knesset speech by the German Speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, one detail of such a life came under increased scrutiny.

        Schultz brought up the issue of water insecurity in the West Bank, which led Israel’s right-wing representatives like Naftali Bennett to walk out in protest. Schultz worried that Palestinians don’t have sufficient control of or access to their own water resources, given that Israel essentially exercises control over their sovereignty. Bennett slammed the notion as ludicrous and the controversy became a debate over data and numbers.

        The Jerusalem Post tries to clear up the facts:

        The truth is that on average the Palestinians in the West Bank are allocated 60-70 liters of water per day, though there are areas in Zone C where there is no running water and the daily water consumption is only 20 liters per day. According to Mekorot(2011 figures), the average water consumption in Israel is 100-230 liters per day (including desalinated water).

        There are no official figures regarding the average water consumption of the Jewish inhabitants in the territories (why?), but it is assumed to be much higher (some say even double) the figure for Israelis within the Green Line.

        Anecdotes about West Bank Palestinians lacking access to sufficient water supply while they peer over the walls of a Jewish settlement block with pristine blue swimming pools are not exaggerated. A complex network of infrastructure leaves hundreds of thousands of Palestinians unconnected to the West Bank’s water networks when, of course, the Israeli settlements are not so unconnected.

        More importantly, note the Post’s explanation of how Palestinians in the West Bank are allocated certain amounts of water by Israel. Palestinians can have water when and how Israel says they can. That is the central indignity of living under occupation.

        And as Amira Hass at Haaretz notes, “Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.”

        “The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure,” Hass adds.

        The overwhelming reality of the Israeli occupation is that it controls the excruciating minutia of every detail of Palestinian life, from access to water, to building permits, to freedom of movement and expression. It is suffocating. And yet, Israel manages to frame the U.S.-led peace negotiations in a way that depicts Israel as the weaker, more vulnerable side.

        Remember the brouhaha when the EU President, Martin Schulz, spoke in the knesset (in German, his native language, does not speak Hebrew). “In his speech, Schulz said that when he was in Ramallah earlier in the week, a young Palestinian had asked him “why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water daily and a Palestinian only 17?” He then added, “I haven’t checked the data. I’m asking you if this is correct.”

        The remarks caused the Knesset to break out in turmoil. Right-wing Jewish Home Party member Moti Yogev shouted at him, “Shame on you, you support someone who incites against Jews.” Yogev and Naftali Bennett, Economy Minister and Jewish Home party leader, then left the hall.”

        “Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and other members of his far-right Jewish Home party walked out of a speech to Israel’s legislature on Wednesday by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, a German, after he cited allegations that Israel was denying Palestinians a fair allocation of water.

        “I am not prepared to accept a situation in which someone stands up in the heart of the Israeli Knesset and delivers a speech – in German, to boot – and tells lies about Israel,” Bennett told Israel Radio.”

        I love the “in German to boot”, knowing that Mr. Schulz does not speak any other language than German. It’s okay to speak German unless you ask an embarassing question to the knesset. What a joke.

        “I say, unequivocally, that someone speaking in German should be even more careful about saying things critical of the State of Israel. I have that expectation.”

        Well, Mr. Schulz apparently had the expectation of a discussion and instead he was on the receiving end of a full blown temper tantrum.

        Is water an issue here? Obviously.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          John Glazer, a blogger at anti-war.com, is not exactly a reliable source of information. Just look what he writes. He says the Jerusalem Post says that Palestinians are allocated 60-70 litres a day in the West Bank. The Post says no such thing. It says that the Friends of the Earth make that claim. Even this is not right. The maker of the statement was the fringe leftist group “Friends of the Middle East” (no friend to Israel btw). These figures do not even agree with the Palestinian Water Authority who in its 2011 report said per capita Palestinian consumption was 103 litres a day.

          Israeli expert Haim Gvirtzmann in his 2012 report indicates that average per capita Israeli consumption is 150 cubic meters per year, while Palestinian is 140. this is only a 7% difference.

          Now of course there is variation in what any individual uses. Two of my neighbors have swimming pools. They pay a much higher water bill than I do. If my memory serves me right the Casino in Jericho features a large pool while average Palestinians look on in envy.

          In the Palestinian territories actual use is limited by the fact that over half of the water supply is used in agriculture and about 50% of all fresh water for agriculture is wasted because of stone age irrigation practices of the Palestinians. One third of domestic water consumption is wasted due to leaky Palestinian pipes. Thus the simple fact is that Palestinians’ misuse and abuse of the water resource limits the amount of water any Palestinian has to use. At the same time Israeli sustainability practices mean Israelis have no water shortages. If the user has the money to pay, he can use what he wants. This is what happens in free societies. Some people also have to take the bus to work, while some have small cars and others have luxury cars and chauffeurs to drive them. Some people live in small apartments while others live in penthouses with paid staff. This is western capitalistic society.

          The Palestinians are free to use and allocated their water share as they wish. The fact is that the Palestinians are responsible for supplying their own people with fresh water. It is Palestinian’s fault that 113,000 people living in 70 small villages do not have running water. However, the flip side of this is that 96% of Palestinians do have access to running water (thanks to Israel and USAID). In the region Palestinians have more access to water than Arabs in other countries. In Amman Jordan the majority of people receive water deliveries once every two weeks.

          Now with respect to German Heir Schulz comment that when he was in Ramallah earlier in the year, a young Palestinian had asked him “why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water daily and a Palestinian only 17?”, I would mention that these figures have no basis in reality, neither the Israeli number or the Palestinians number for consumption. The fact that Heir Schulz would repeat such ridiculous numbers shows why Israeli leaders rightfully acted in such disdain.

          And what about Amirra Haas? She finds it objectionable that the Palestinians have to pay for water which Israel supplies. That is the agreement which the Palestinians signed. They agreed to pay for water at cost and they are actually only paying 80% of that cost according to Israeli expert Haim Gvirtzmann. I would like someone to pay my water and sewage bill, and my municipal and school taxes to boot. However, there is no free lunch, unless you are a Palestinian and then you expect the world to pay for your choices.

          Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, right

            PX: “He says the Jerusalem Post says that Palestinians are allocated 60-70 litres a day in the West Bank.”
            PX: “These figures do not even agree with the Palestinian Water Authority who in its 2011 report said per capita Palestinian consumption was 103 litres a day.”

            Notice the cheap sleight of hand that Pedro pulled?

            Yeah, that’s right: he is comparing figures given for “water allocation” with figures given for “water consumption”.

            The latter can, of course, be very much higher than the former without in any way contradicting each other.

            Those two figures mean that the Palestinians need to consume approximately 30% more water than Israel insists that they need to consume, and therefore that 30% shortfall has to come from somewhere else – resulting in considerable hardship combined with terrible uncertainty regarding the supply of water.

            Hardship, in a word.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Avdim

      Once again, a very complex issue is reduced to nonsense like “Israel stealing Palestinian water”.

      I bet most of the commentators here (including myself) don’t have a clue about the Israeli water system, nor do they have a clue about how the PA manages its water. Yet people are certain that once again there is evil Israel stealing and taking and Palestinians whose leadership has no control over anything and no responsibility what so ever.

      Could it be that Pedro’s description has some truth in it and the PA really doesn’t manage it water properly? NO!!! It’s all Israel…

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, right

        I’m (slightly) curious, Avdim: in your world-view who is occupying whom?

        Because I’m telling you right now that this is not a dispute between two equals, but for the life of me I can’t tell from your comment if you are aware of the identity of the military overlord, or of the downtrodden serfs.

        Reply to Comment
        • Avdim

          I’m well aware that I’m on the strong side in this conflict. I’m also very grateful for it, we wouldn’t have been treated so kindly had we been weak and lost a war.

          This is a century old conflict. Some say it’s between two national movements, I think it’s between our national movement and the resistance of the Arab world to the presence of Jews on what they consider to be their land.

          It doesn’t really matter. While our strength protects us from the madness and hate of our region and neighbors, it still doesn’t allow us to end the conflict without the other side’s desire to do the same. Unfortunately, ending the conflict and living a better life doesn’t seem to be a real priority for our neighbors. Defeating the Zionist entity, protecting the Al-Aqsa mosque from imaginary threats and dreaming about the RoR seem much more important.

          This water issue is part of the same thing. Everyone knows that the PA is extremely rotten and corrupt, yet why place any blame on it when you can simply use the water shortage as a means of attacking Israel? If we’re stronger and there’s something wrong in a an area under PA management for several decades – it still must be an evil Israeli plot…

          Reply to Comment
    4. HC

      First hand report from being in Bethlehem in July 2012 — My brother-in-law had a pump installed to pump water to his house when it came through the lines. All his neighbors had installed pumps but he had just relied on the natural flow. He stored the water in a cavern beneath the kitchen of this really old family home. While there, due to a lack of water supplied by Israel, his family used all the cavern but water flowed from the supply system the next day, so he was able to refill the cavern. While there, a met one of this friends who happened to be in charge of water supply for the Palestinian Authority. He told me that there are abundant water supplies under the West Bank but the Israelis won’t let the Palestinians have well drilling permits and the Israelis control and supply all the water to the Palestinians. He told me he was resigning in frustration from his water job and returning to his former job, teaching at a university.

      Reply to Comment
      • Thank you for helping to confirm the established, widely touted, out in the open information that is apparent to everyone except the israelis who choose to deny its existence and are convinced it’s just another smear campaign against the benevolent occupiers. I hope your brother-in-law and his family are okay despite of this.

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