Israel has recently confirmed that they cut back water supplies to the Palestinians two weeks ago.
The Palestinian people have been suffering due to a drastic cut-off of water from Israel’s Mekorot water company, a 100% government owned organization. According to Haaretz, the Salfit region in the West Bank and three villages east of Nablus have had no access to running water for over two weeks. Their factories have been shut down, agriculture is ruined and animals have either died or been sold to regions with running water.
The Palestinian Water Authority have stated that the Mekorot water officials said the supply cuts were going to last the entire summer. Haaretz sources said that “there is a water shortage and everything must be done to assure that the local reservoirs in the settlements stay full so that the necessary pressure can be maintained to stream the water through pipelines leading to other settlements and Palestinian communities”.
There seems to be two sides to the story, as Israeli officials state they cannot send the settlements an increase in water because their old pipes will not support the water transfers.
But the Palestinian Water Authority officials deny these allegations, stating that the pipes do not need to be upgraded. USAID, for example, just finished the new pipeline in Deir Sha’ar to serve the population in Hebron and Bethlehem. He states that if Israel increased their pumping rate from this pipeline, more than half a million Palestinians would receive the necessary water supplies.
Why does Israel control Palestine’s water?
The 1995 Oslo II Accords established agreements on the Western Aquifer Basin that included licensing of wells and changes in water allocations. Currently, the basin is being slowly depleted. Israel controls 100% of the aquifer and extracts 94% of its water, while the Palestinians only get 6%.
Using water as political leverage is not a new concept in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Due to increasing desertification of the Middle East, it has become a major point of contention. Before the official creation of Israel, the Jewish people used land appropriation in Palestine, but after 1948, it was used as a strategy to assure Israeli security and to wage terrorism against the Palestinian population.
A QUICK HISTORY ON WHERE THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN LAND DISPUTE BEGAN
In a short explanation of hundreds of years of land disputes between Israel and Palestine, the Zionist settler mission to establish an Israeli state was based on a “constructed myth of Palestine as sparsely populated”. The native Palestinian population was completely disregarded and was sold as empty territory to be taken by the Jews. The Jewish people’s major overseas funding legitimized their cause and thus, the segregation of Arab and Jews was allowed. In reality, a lot of the benefits the Zionist colonization during the British mandate could have easily increased and revived the Palestinian economy and had a positive impact. Unfortunately, the Jewish people chose to segregate the Arabs, not allowing them to work on Jewish-owned land and boycotting all of their agriculture. Over many years, the Palestinian-owned land slowly depleted until now they are only legally allowed in settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
DESERTIFICATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The only reason Israel can use water supply as a means of political leverage, to begin with, is because the Middle East is one of the driest places in the world right now; they are experiencing major desertification. Most of Israel is arid land, with limited water quantity and low quality available. According to Amnesty International, a 2009 study called Troubled Waters (there are a few great infographics in this pdf, it’s worth checking out) found that between 90-95% of the water is not fit for human consumption.
Israel, as well as the Palestinian settlement, are all facing the threat of land degradation because of overgrazing, intensive cultivation and expansion of urban areas according to the Israeli Embassy. The country is working to create long-term sustainable programs to reverse the process and improve the country’s quality of life.
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