The Israeli ’watergate’ scandal: The facts about Palestinian water -
Rino Tzror is an interviewer who argues with rather than flatters his subjects. Yet last Thursday, he didn’t do his homework and let Justice Minister Tzipi Livni throw sand in the eyes of the public about everything regarding the flap over water with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament.
Livni was invited onto his Army Radio program as a sane voice who would criticize the behavior of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Co. toward Schulz (Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party stormed out of the Knesset during a speech by Schulz when he allowed himself to wonder whether indeed Israelis were allotted four times as much water as Palestinians). “I told [the EU Parliament president], ‘You are wrong, they intentionally misled you,’” she told Tzror. “‘That is not how the water is allocated. Israel gives the Palestinians more water than what we committed to in the interim agreements.’”
The very word “gives” should have lit Tzror’s fuse. But Livni kept buttering him up in her learned tone, with her grumbles against the Palestinian position on desalinated water and the Joint Water Committee.
So here are the facts:
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.
This 1995 interim agreement was supposed to lead to a permanent arrangement after five years. The Palestinian negotiators deluded themselves that they would gain sovereignty and thus control over their water resources.
The Palestinians were the weak, desperate, easily tempted side and sloppy when it came to details. Therefore, in that agreement Israel imposed a scandalously uneven, humiliating and infuriating division of the water resources of the West Bank.
The division is based on the volume of water Palestinians produced and consumed on the eve of the deal. The Palestinians were allotted 118 million cubic meters (mcm) per year from three aquifers via drilling, agricultural wells, springs and precipitation. Pay attention, Rino Tzror: the same deal allotted Israel 483 mcm annually from the same resources (and it has also exceeded this limit in some years).
In other words, some 20 percent goes to the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and about 80 percent goes to Israelis – on both sides of the Green Line – who also enjoy resources from the rest of the country.
Why should Palestinians agree to pay for desalinated water from Israel, which constantly robs them of the water flowing under their feet?
The agreement’s second major scandal: Gaza’s water economy/management was condemned to be self-sufficient and made reliant on the aquifer within its borders. How can we illustrate the injustice? Let’s say the Negev residents were required to survive on aquifers in the Be’er Sheva-Arad region, without the National Water Carrier and without accounting for population growth. Overpumping in Gaza, which causes seawater and sewage to penetrate into the aquifer, has made 90 percent of the potable water undrinkable.
Can you imagine? If Israelis had peace and justice in mind, the Oslo agreement would have developed a water infrastructure linking the Strip to the rest of the country.
According to the deal, Israel will keep selling 27.9 mcm of water per year to the Palestinians. In its colonialist generosity, Israel agreed to recognize Palestinian future needs for an additional 80 mcm per year. It’s all detailed in the agreement with the miserly punctiliousness of a capitalist tycoon. Israel will sell some, and the Palestinians will drill for the rest, but not in the western mountain aquifer. That’s forbidden.
But today the Palestinians produce just 87 mcm in the West Bank – 21 mcm less than Oslo allotted them. The drought, Israeli limits on development and drilling new wells, and limits on movement are the main reasons. Palestinian mismanagement is secondary. So, Israel “gives” – or rather sells – about 60 mcm per year. True. That is more than the Oslo II Accords agreed for it to sell. And the devastating conclusion: Palestinian dependence on the occupier has only increased.
Israel retained the right of the mighty to cap infrastructure development and rehabilitation initiatives. For example, Israel has imposed on the Palestinian Authority pipes that are narrower than desired, forbids connecting communities in Area C to the water infrastructure, tarries in approving drilling, and delays replacing disintegrating pipes. Hence the 30 percent loss of water from Palestinian pipes.
113,000 Palestinians are not connected to the water network. Hundreds of thousands of others are cut off from a regular supply during the summer months. In Area C, Israel forbids even the digging of cisterns for collecting rainwater. And that’s called giving?
* Instead of spending time calculating whether the average Israeli household’s per-capita consumption of water is four times or “only” three times that of Palestinian consumption, open your eyes: The settlements bathed in green, and across the road Palestinian urban neighborhoods and villages are subject to a policy of water rotation. The thick pipes of Mekorot (Israel’s national water provider) are heading to the Jordan Valley settlements, and a Palestinian tractor next to them transports a rusty tank of water from afar. In the summer, the faucets run dry in Hebron and never stop flowing in Kiryat Arba and Beit Hadassah.
All of this is intentionally misleading?