Israel’s Monopoly over Water Distribution in the West Bank: Supports Illegal Settlers, Impoverishes Palestinians

lllegal settler gets more than 4 times as much water as Palestinian neighbor — and US signed off

Lauren Gelfond Feldinger in Haaretz reports on water distribution in the West Bank and says that the Palestinian Authority has gone along with the apartheid system of inequitable division because of the Oslo Accords.

The figures:

On average, West Bank Palestinians have access to about 70 liters a day per person, although in some areas availability is as low as 15 liters, depending on the season. In contrast, Israeli citizens inside the Green Line or in West Bank communities utilize around 280-300 liters per person a day year-round, according to rights organizations, water NGOs and the Palestinian Water Authority.

Feldinger says that EWASH (a coalition of 28 international NGOs working locally on Palestinian water issues) along with the Middle East Children’s Alliance, started a program to get international volunteers to use only 24 litres of water for one day, so as to dramatize the inequality.

Those who volunteered to limit their water usage ranged from college students to retirees, and included Christian clerics, and Jewish, environmental and social-justice activists, recruited by the participating water organizations, via mailings, word of mouth, and social media. Semi-retired factory worker Jenefer Israel, 52, of California, said 25 liters was the bare minimum she could use, even though she gave up her shower and asked a family member to tend to her animals and vegetable garden. She used 14 liters to flush the toilet twice, nine liters to disinfect her goats’ milking equipment, and two liters for drinking, washing hands, preparing food and brushing her teeth….

Eleanor Roffman, 69, a professor of psychology and counseling at Lesley University in Massachusetts, had to give up her daily shower, laundry and dish-washing she said. Roffman and Israel said it was manageable − but only because it was for one day.

Here are the politics of the matter:

Since 1967, Israel has controlled the major underground West Bank water sources. The 1995 Oslo II agreement allocated specific amounts for West Bank Palestinians, based on estimated annual use and projected future use. International transboundary water consultant David Phillips, who has advised Palestinian negotiators, charges that the Oslo agreement expired in 2000, and was always inequitable.

Phillips wrote in an e-mail to Haaretz from Africa that Palestinians signed the agreement “because of the power asymmetry in the mid-1990s, coupled with the inexperience of the Palestinians in negotiations and the failure of the US ‘facilitator’ to demand a more equitable outcome.” Phillips urges Israel to “negotiate in good faith with Palestine to attain an equitable and reasonable allocation of the shared fresh water resources, taking into account any other water resources to which either party has access.”

Articles by: Philip Weiss

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