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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
(Refutes Palestinian claims) New BESA Center Study now Online: The Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict

The full study is online.

New BESA Center Study Published
The Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict: An Israeli Perspective
by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman

This important new study by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, based on previously
classified data, refutes Palestinian claims that Israel is denying West Bank
Palestinians water rights negotiated under the Oslo Accords. The study also
proposes a practical plan for Israeli-Palestinian water sharing in the

In this BESA Center study, hydrologist Prof. Haim Gvirtzman of the Institute
of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University examines Palestinian water claims
against Israel by presenting detailed information about water supply systems
presently serving Israelis and Palestinians. He also discusses international
law and shows that the Palestinians have little basis for their water

Gvirtzman relies on previously classified data, recently released for
publication by the Israeli Water Authority – 15 years after the signing of
the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. The data shows that currently
there is almost no difference in per capita consumption of natural water
between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

But contrary to Palestinian claims, Gvirtzman demonstrates 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. The PA
currently consumes 200 MCM of water every year (with Israel providing about
50 MCM of this) – which, under the accords, is more than Israel is supposed
to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement

Gvirtzman shows that large difference in water usage that existed in 1967,
when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to
Israel, has been reduced over the last 40 years and is now negligible. As
well, the per capita domestic water consumption of the Palestinians is
significantly higher than the minimum human needs defined by the World
Health Organization.

In contrast, the Palestinians have violated their part of the agreement by
drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 MCM/Y of water,
and 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

Palestinian famers also routinely overwater their crops through
old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Gvirtzman says that at least
one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians
(again, in violation of their accords with Israel) is wasted through leakage
and mismanagement. No recycling of water takes place and no treated water is
used for agriculture.

In fact, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the
Palestinians each year is not treated at all. Only one sewage plant has been
built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500
million international donor fund available for this purpose. “The
Palestinians refuse to build sewage treatment plants,” Gvirtzman says. “The
PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage

Gvirtzman further shows that the Palestinians have little basis for their
water demands according to international legal norms. First, the signed
water agreement overrules all other parameters. Second, Israel's historical
possession of the Mountain Aquifer was established in the 1940s. Third, the
Palestinians should not exploit groundwater from the Western Aquifer, which
is fully utilized by Israel, before first exploiting groundwater from the
non-utilized Eastern Aquifer. Finally, the Palestinians should be preventing
leaks in domestic pipelines, implementing conservative irrigation
techniques, and reusing sewage water as irrigation.

The fact that the Palestinians have taken none of these steps and have not
adopted any sustainable development practices precludes their demands for
additional water from Israel, writes Gvirtzman.

Israel believes that the water issue could be transformed from a source of
controversy and tension to a source of understanding and cooperation.
Gvirtzman’s study suggests a plan that can efficiently and quickly solve the
current and future water shortages on both sides. The plan, based on
sustainable development and advanced technologies, would supply the
sufficient quantity of water needed at least until 2030 and still leave some

The full study is online.

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