Palestinians and water

 

Sir, – In response to Éamonn Meehan’s letter (July 20th) regarding Palestinians and water, the Ireland Israel Alliance would like to give a considered response.

Water is a very precious resource in the thirsty Middle East and the issues surrounding its distribution are complex. However, rather than Israel using water as a “weapon” against the Palestinians, as Mr Meehan suggests, the issue of water rights and its availability is exploited by anti-Israel NGOs for political gain, as part of their delegitimisation and anti-normalisation campaigns against Israel.

Israel’s involvement in the disputed Palestinian Territories’ water sector, supplying water to some Palestinian communities and to all Israeli communities, is entirely dictated by the Joint [Israeli-Palestinian] Water Committee (JWC), established in 1995 by the Oslo Accords. Also, a central tenet of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty stipulates that “co-operation in water related subjects would be to the benefit of both Parties and will help alleviate their water shortages”.

The water agreement provides for Palestinians to dig and maintain their own wells, and the majority of wells in the West Bank are owned and operated by the Palestinians.

However, despite receiving enormous sums in international aid, the Palestinian Authority refuses to develop its own water infrastructure, build sewage treatment plants, fix massive leaks from their water pipes or bill their own citizens for water consumption, leading to enormous waste.

By contrast, most of the water used in Israeli agriculture in the West Bank is either treated sewage wastewater, saline brackish water or flood runoff, and this water is provided to Israeli communities in accordance with internationally binding agreements.

Moreover, Israeli water supply to Israeli communities is part of Israel’s allocation of water and does not affect supply to the Palestinians in any way. In fact, Israel supplies less water to Israeli citizens in the West Bank than stipulated in the Oslo Accords and transfers the remaining quota to the Palestinians.

With regards to Gaza, the Oslo Accords dictated the management of the water sector was handed over in its entirety to the Palestinians, with the exception of Israeli communities. As such, following Israel’s 2005 Disengagement, the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority bear full and sole responsibility for the situation in Gaza. Even so, despite continuous rocket attacks into Israeli territory by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Israeli water authority continues to repair and maintain the water supply to Gaza, and to facilitate equipment for water projects to enter Gaza.

We would suggest that rather than using water as yet another weapon with which to delegitimise and isolate Israel, anti-Israel NGOs and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza have much to gain by working with Israelis, instead of against them. – Yours, etc,

JACKIE GOODALL,

Executive Director,

Ireland Israel Alliance,

Dublin 2.