Israeli spokespeople have three answers ready to pull out when they respond to questions on the water shortage in West Bank Palestinian towns – which stands out starkly compared to the hydrological smugness of the settlements: 1) The Palestinian water system is old, so it suffers from water loss; 2) the Palestinians steal water from each other, and from the Israelis; and 3) in general, Israel has in its great generosity doubled the amount of water it supplies to the Palestinians, compared to what was called for in the Oslo Accords.
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“Supplies,” the spokespeople will write in their responses. They will never say Israel sells the Palestinians 64 million cubic meters of water a year instead of the 31 million cubic meters agreed to in the Oslo Accords. Accords that were signed in 1994, and that were supposed to come to an end in 1999. They will not say that Israel sells the Palestinians water that it first stole from them.
Bravo for the demagogy. Bravo for the one-eighth portion of truth in the answer. Water is the only issue in which Israel (still) finds it difficult to defend its discriminatory, oppressive and destructive policy with pretexts of security and God. That is why it must blur and distort this basic fact: Israel controls the water sources. And being in control, it imposes a quota on the amount of water the Palestinians are allowed to produce and consume. On average, the Palestinians consume 73 liters per person per day. Below the recommended minimum. Israelis consume a daily 180 liters on average, and there are those who say even more. And here, unlike there, you will not find thousands who consume 20 liters a day. In the summer.
True, some Palestinians steal water. Desperate farmers, regular chiselers. If it was not for the water shortage, it would not happen. A large part of the thefts are in Area C, under full Israeli control. So please, let the IDF and police find all the criminals. But to justify the crisis with theft – that is deceit.
With the Oslo Accords, Israel imposed an outrageous, racist, arrogant and brutal division of water sources in the West Bank: 80 percent for Israelis (on both sides of the Green Line), and 20 percent for the Palestinians (from wells drilled before 1967, which the Palestinians continued to operate; from the Mekorot water company; from future wells to be drilled in the eastern basin of the mountain aquifer; from agricultural wells and springs. Many of the springs, by the way, dried out because of Israeli deep wells, or because the settlers took them over. The ways of theft know no bounds.)
Twenty percent is actually good, because now only about 14 percent of the water from the mountain aquifer is accessible to Palestinians in the West Bank. Technical reasons, irregularities and human error, insufferable Israeli bureaucratic foot-dragging, whose entire goal is to delay the development of the Palestinian water infrastructure and the upgrading of what now exists; unexpected difficulties in producing water from wells in the allowed places, old wells that have dried out or whose production has fallen, and which Israel does not allow to be replaced by newly-drilled wells – all these explain how we have reached 14 percent instead of what was signed in Oslo, and why Israel sells the Palestinians more water that it committed to back then. After all, it has been left with more water to produce from this natural resource, which, according to international law, an occupying country is forbidden to use for the purposes of its civilian population.
During the summer, the problem becomes worse, of course. The heat rises and the Palestinians’ demand for water rises, not just the settlers’. So in the Salfit district and east of Nablus, Mekorot reduces the amount of water it sells to Palestinians. The spokespeople will not state it that way. They will say “regulating,” they will say, too. that in the settlements “there are also complaints about a water shortage” (it seems I missed the report on Arutz 7 about it).
But in Farkha, Salfit and Deir al-Hatab people describe, on the verge of tears, how humiliating it is to live for weeks without running water. And we have not even spoken about the dozens of Palestinian communities on both sides of the Green Line that Israel, a light unto the nations, refuses to allow to connect to the water infrastructure.