Monday, February 04, 2013

How Palestinians Use Water As A Weapon Against Israel

Yochanan Yisser, a freelance journalist and the director of Missing Peace Information, writes about How water became a weapon in Arab-Israeli conflict, noting that until now people have been content to believe claims made by Palestinian Arabs that Israel has been deliberately withholding water:
However, a thesis titled “The Politicization of the Oslo Water Agreement,” written by Lauro Burkart, a Swiss graduate of the Institute of International and Development studies in Geneva gives a more accurate and impartial picture of the topic of the scarcity of water in the Palestinian Authority. [see embedded copy of the thesis at the end of this post]

Burkart interviewed many key players in the water conflict, Palestinians and Israelis as well as representatives of NGOs and the donor countries. He also examined many original documents such as the minutes of the meetings of the joint Israeli Palestinian Water Committee (JWC).

Here are some of the most important conclusions in Burkart’s thesis:

  • The goals of the Oslo II water agreement have been reached regarding the quantities of water provided to the Palestinian population (178 mcm/year in 2006). The Oslo water agreement estimated that demand would eventually reach 200 mcm/year.

  • The JWC functioned well in the first years following signature of the agreement, but since 2008 cooperation has come to a halt.

  • The facts disseminated by the Palestinians, international organizations and donors about the root causes of the water scarcity in the West Bank are incorrect.
According to Burkart himself:
It is not the Israeli occupation policy but the Palestinian political resistance against joint management and cooperation that is responsible for the relatively slow development of the Palestinian water sector and the deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories...There is convincing evidence of mismanagement within the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).
For example, as a result of its mismanagement, the PWA has failed to control many municipalities where Israel has no control, because those in power did not want to lose control of the water systems which are one of the main services provided by the municipalities.

Because the water supply is not centralized, illegal drilling is rampant and since the PA pays most of the water bills of the Palestinian population, there is no incentive for saving and an excessive use of water both domestically as well as in the agricultural sector.

Lauro Burkart interviewed the head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili, who is responsible for the de facto ending of the cooperation with Israel, in an effort to bolster Palestinian water rights claims. The abundance of donor money has allowed Atilli to pursue a noncooperation strategy which has brought water negotiations during the past five years to a standstill. As a result, almost all of the 52 mcm of waste water generated by the Palestinian population flows untreated into Israel and the West Bank, where it contaminates shared groundwater resources -- yet Israel is blamed.

Read the whole thing.

Visser concludes that the fact that the EU has blindly accepted the Palestinian explanation of events is odd, considering the information that that Burkart was able to collect from available resources. Instead, the EU appears content to throw money at the problem and blame Israel for general Palestinian incompetence and corruption that extends to water management as well, which in the end only aggravates the conflict and harms the interests of the Palestinian Arabs as well.

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