“Amnesty's water report fairly portrays Israel.”
Amnesty International released a report in October 2009 condemning Israel’s water-usage policy in the West Bank. Before the report’s release, the Israeli Water Authority offered to issue a report or presentation to Amnesty, but was refused.334 Given the unwillingness to hear Israel’s side, as well as it’s now long history of anti-Israel animus, it was not surprising the report was an error-filled, one-sided critique that accused Israel of using a disproportionately large amount of the region’s water resources while leaving little for the Palestinians.
Over the years, Israelis have drastically decreased the amount of water they use while Palestinian consumption has increased. Before1967, Israel’s water usage was approximately 500 cubic meters per person per year. Today, it is 70% less at 149 cubic meters per person per year. In that time, Palestinian water consumption has increased from 86 to 105 cubic meters per person per year.335 The report is laden with errors as well. For example, it claims Palestinian villages in the vicinity of Jerusalem, such as Beit Ula, are not connected to a water system. In fact, Beit Ula has been connected to the Palestinian water network of the Palestinian Water Authority since 1974.336
Palestinians accuse Israel of stealing their water, despite the fact that the majority of Israel's water comes from within the pre-1967 armistice lines. Also forgotten is that Palestinian agriculture flourished after 1967 because Israelis introduced drip irrigation and other modern agricultural techniques. Prior to 1967, of the 430 Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, 50 had access to running water. By 1992, an influx of capital and infrastructure from Israel had increased the number to 260.337
Year after year, the Israeli Water Authority has delivered more water per year to the Palestinians than the amounts agreed upon in theOslo Accords. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has threatened the water security of both themselves and the Israelis by digging 250 illegal wells and refusing to purify sewage water in violation of the Oslo Accords, instead dumping sewage into West Bank streams, causing massive pollution and threatening the lives of everyone.338 Palestinian mismanagement has already destroyed the aquifer in Gaza, making the water undrinkable. The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in international aid and large sums of money were earmarked for the Palestinians to build sewage treatment plants, but not a single facility has been constructed. This violates the commitment made in the Oslo Declaration of Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters that states that water projects be environmentally sound. There are currently five sewage treatment plants located in the West Bank. Of these, the Palestinian Authority has only managed to keep one functioning. The Palestinian population in the West Bank exceeds 2 million. The one plant the Palestinian Authority has managed to keep functioning has the capacity to service 50,000 people - a huge disparity. In light of the Palestinian Authority's inability to serve its own people's water needs, one can understand Israel's reluctance to share more precious water resources.339 Still, Israel has offered to supply Palestinians with desalinated water but, due to political posturing, Palestinian leaders have refused.340
The issue of water in the Middle East is a serious issue for both the Palestinians and Israelis – one not easily resolved, and was therefore reserved for negotiation among the other final-status issues. The Amnesty Report does little to explain the complexities of the problem, but rather opportunistically and unproductively shovels mud on Israel. It is perhaps no coincidence that the release of the report coincides with the start of a speaking tour on U.S. university campuses entitled “Israel’s Control of Water as a Tool of Apartheid and a Means of Ethnic Cleansing,” organized by the Palestinian Cultural Academic Boycott of Israel movement.341
It is ironic that Amnesty would choose to focus on the issue of water, as it is an issue on which Palestinians and Israelis have demonstrated a tremendous amount of cooperation. In 2001, for example, Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued a joint statement declaring their shared intention to “keep the water infrastructure out of the cycle of violence.” When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, Israel left the Palestinians all of the water treatment utilities they had built for Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.342 As recently as 2007, Israeli and Palestinian municipalities released a joint memorandum declaring their shared interest in protecting water resources.
334 Ehud Zion Waldoks, “Water Authority Blasts Amnesty Report,” Jerusalem Post, (October 27,2009).
336 “Snapshots: A Camera Blog,” Camera.org, (October 28, 2009).
337 Bard, Mitchell, Will Israel Survive?, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007, p. 95.
338 Ehud Zion Waldoks, “Water Authority Blasts Amnesty Report,” Jerusalem Post, (October 27,2009).
339 Bard, Mitchell, Will Israel Survive?, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007, p. 95.
340 “Response to Amnesty International's Report on Israeli-Palestinian Water Issues,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (October 27, 2009).
341 Ehud Zion Waldoks, “Water Authority Blasts Amnesty Report,” Jerusalem Post, (October 27,2009).
342 “Israel Turns Over Gaza Water Processing Facility to Palestinians,” IMRA, (November 21, 2005).
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