Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Two weeks ago I noted how the PLO was successfully using water as a weapon against Israel.

Here is the beginning of a must-read paper by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman showing the truth about the water situation in the territories.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Water shortages in the Palestinian Authority are the result of Palestinian policies that deliberately waste water and destroy the regional water ecology. The Palestinians refuse to develop their own significant underground water resources, build a seawater desalination plant, fix massive leakage from their municipal water pipes, build sewage treatment plants, irrigate land with treated sewage effluents or modern water-saving devices, or bill their own citizens for consumer water usage, leading to enormous waste. At the same time, they drill illegally into Israel’s water resources, and send their sewage flowing into the valleys and streams of central Israel. In short, the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is not interested in practical solutions to solve the Palestinian people’s water shortages, but rather perpetuation of the shortages and the besmirching of Israel.

A significant public debate has been sparked by the assertion of European Parliament President Martin Schulz that the amount of water available to the average Israeli unfairly overwhelms the amount of water available to the average Palestinian. The main issue that should be discussed – and has not been sufficiently analyzed – is: What are the causes of Palestinian water supply problems?

The discussion must be informed by the following basic facts:

1. The Oslo agreements grant the Palestinians the right to draw 70 million cubic meters from the Eastern Mountain Aquifer (ground water reservoir). Yet this water resource is not currently being capitalized on by the Palestinians; the waters spill untapped underground into the Dead Sea. As per the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, some 40 sites were identified for drilling into this aquifer in the eastern Hebron hills region, and permits were granted to the Palestinians by the Israel-PA Joint Water Committee. Nevertheless, over the past 20 years, the Palestinians have drilled at just one-third of these sites, despite the fact that the international community has offered to finance the drilling of all sites. If the Palestinians were to drill and develop all these wells, they could have completely solved the existing water shortage in the Hebron hills region. But the Palestinians have preferred to drill wells on the Western Mountain Aquifer, the basin that provides groundwater to the State of Israel. Instead of solving the problem they have chosen to squabble with Israel.

2. The Palestinians do not bother fixing water leaks in city pipes. Up to 33 percent of water in Palestinian cities is wasted through leakage. Upkeep on the Palestinians’ urban water infrastructure has been completely neglected. By comparison, leakage from Israeli municipal water pipes amount to only 10 percent of water usage.

3. The Palestinians refuse to build water treatment plants, despite their obligation to do so under the Oslo agreement. Sewage flows out of Palestinian towns and villages directly into local streams, thereby polluting the environments and the aquifer and causing the spread of disease. Despite the fact that donor countries are willing to fully fund the building of treatment plants, the Palestinians have managed to avoid their obligations to build such facilities. (Only over the past two years has Israeli pressure moved the PA forward a bit on this matter.)

4. The Palestinians absolutely refuse to irrigate their agricultural fields with treated sewage effluents. By comparison, more than half the agricultural fields in Israel are irrigated with treated waste water. Irrigating Palestinian agricultural fields with recycled water instead of fresh water would free up large amounts of water for home usage. This would greatly reduce the water shortage in many places.

5. Some Palestinian farmers irrigate their fields by flooding, rather than with drip irrigation technology. Drip irrigation, as practiced in Israel, brings water directly to the root of each plant, thereby reducing water consumption by more than 50 percent. Flooding fields causes huge water evaporation and leads to great waste.

6. The international community has offered to build a desalination plant for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have refused this gift. A desalination plant could completely solve the Gaza Strip’s water shortages. The Palestinians refuse to build this plant because they claim they have the right to access the fresh groundwater reservoir in Judea and Samaria, and they are prepared to suffer until they realize this dream. In the meanwhile, Gaza residents suffer from severe shortages of water.

These basic, undeniable facts are extremely important because they have wide-ranging consequences.

Today, the Palestinians consume some 200 million cubic meters of water per annum in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians could easily raise that amount by at least 50 percent, without any additional assistance or allocation from the State of Israel. This would require several simple actions:

If the Palestinians were to begin drilling the Eastern Mountain Aquifer, at the sites already approved for drilling, they very quickly would secure an additional 50 million cubic meters of water per year.

If the Palestinians were to reduce urban water waste from 33 percent to 20 percent by fixing the main leaks in their urban water pipes (something that can be done without great effort), they would immediately benefit from 10 million additional cubic meters of water per annum.

If the Palestinians were to collect and treat their urban waste water, they would gain at least 30 million cubic meters of water a year. This would free up 30 million cubic meters (per annum) of fresh water, currently used for agriculture, for home usage. This would allow them both to improve their urban water supply and to expand agricultural lands.

If the Palestinians were to adopt drip irrigation technology, they would save 10 million cubic meters a year. This would allow them to expand their irrigated lands.

In the Gaza Strip, too, the Palestinians could easily double the amount of water available, without additional assistance from the State of Israel. If the Palestinians agreed to build a desalination plant on the Gaza coast (funded entirely by the international community), they would increase the amount of water available by 60 to 100 million cubic meters a year. If they fix leakages, treat and recycle sewage, and adopt drip irrigation, they would double their water allocation, as well.

...The sum total of the situation described above is that the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is more interested in reducing the amount of water available to Israel, polluting natural reservoirs, harming Israeli farmers, and sullying Israel’s reputation around the world than truly solving water problems for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians are not interested in practical solutions to address shortages; rather, they seek to perpetuate the shortages, and to blame the State of Israel. 

Unfortunately, President Schulz’s Knesset address, with its seemingly straightforward but baseless accusations against Israel, suggests that the PA is succeeding in this effort to befuddle international observers and besmirch Israel. 

An astonishing 150-200 million cubic meters of water a year are available to Palestinian Arabs, virtually for free, with only changes to policy and accepting help from the West. They are refusing to take it.

This proves two things:

  • Palestinian Arab leaders don't care about their own people.
  • Rather than act as a peace partner, Palestinian Arab leaders prioritize demonizing and damaging Israel in the international arena.
The water issue is merely a symptom, albeit a very important symptom, of a much larger problem, a problem that the international community refuses to recognize. Every single action that the Palestinian Arab leaders - namely, all of their "red lines" in negotiations with Israel -   adhere to these same two principles.

And the world closes its eyes.



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