1) Erdan, PA agree: Increase water cooperation /

Source: Jerusalem Post by By SHARON UDASIN

Environmental protection minister: Negotiations must occur on basis of “need” instead of “rights.”

While clashing on most issues fundamental to the Israeli-Palestinian water crisis, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Palestinian Water Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili agreed that today’s operations must change and that cooperation between the two entities must grow stronger, at a conference in Ashdod on Tuesday.

Since the Oslo Interim Agreement of 1995, the Joint Water Committee has served as the body responsible for allocating water to the Palestinians and managing the treatment of West Bank sewage.

For the Palestinians, this means submitting extensive plans for JWC approval – and usually not receiving it – every time they want to do something as simple as rehabilitating a village spring, according to Attili.

On the Israeli side, Erdan said that he has never been invited to a JWC meeting, and has instead spoken recently with an ambassador who may be willing to mediate Palestinian-Israeli water issues.

“We are looking for every possible way to expand cooperation with our neighbors on environmental issues, and especially with our closest neighbor, the Palestinian Authority,” Erdan said.

Attili, beginning his speech with a plea to the audience not to storm out of the room, added, “Whether Israeli, Palestinian, American or European – we are the water people.”

Arranged by Friends of the Earth Middle East, the ministerial discussion occurred during the opening session of the first-ever Ashdod Sustainability Conference, organized by the Ashdod Municipality, the Municipal Environmental Association of Ashdod-Tel Yavne, Sami Shamoon College of Engineering, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Haaretz group.

“For the very first time you heard an agreement between an Israeli and a Palestinian minister,” Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, told The Jerusalem Post after the session. “[They] agreed that the current mechanism that is managing shared water is failing the interests of both people, and that the JWC needs to be changed. That’s a political breakthrough.”

One issue that the two ministers could not agree upon, however, was whether the political situation and water situation must be intertwined – for Erdan, the answer was no, while for Attili, it was absolutely. Rather than discussing water “rights,” Erdan argued, the two parties should focus on water “needs,” because each side has such fundamentally different viewpoints. “Water should be kept out of the conflict,” Erdan said, noting that Israel is willing to share its water expertise with its neighbors. “Water can, and should, be the basis for cooperation.”

To Attili, however, cooperation isn’t that simple, as it requires a level of equality where the parties are not “occupier” and “occupied.” “The Palestinian water people see the water conflict as a political conflict,” Attili said. “But I’m with Minister Erdan that we have to promote cooperation.”

According to the 1995 agreement, Erdan explained, Israel was only required to supply 31 million cubic meters of water annually to the PA in the West Bank, but currently supplies 51.8 million cubic meters.

But to Attili, Palestinians should not be starting off with only 10% of the shared water – what he called an “inequitable allocation of resources.”

Regarding preservation of these resources, however, Erdan argued that while Israel only experiences approximately 11% water loss from pipe leakage, the PA is still at 33%, and continually sends sewage back to Israel. “Israel has no interest in providing fresh water to Palestinian neighbors, and in return receiving sewage,” he said.

Although Attili agreed that Israelis have certainly worked hard to develop desalination and wastewater- treatment facilities, the Palestinians do pay for the additional 21.8 million cubic meters that they receive, and their applications to build such plants are denied time and again, according to Attili.

Organizations worldwide continue to offer money to West Bank water rehabilitation projects, but the plans repeatedly get rejected, he continued. “If [Israel] prevents our projects, the sewage will come in your direction,” he added.

One plan recently refused was a desalination project for a brackish water spring in Ein Feshkah near the Dead Sea, Attili told the Post after the conference.

“I’m not intending to revive the Dead Sea while our people are dying in the Jordan valley,” he said. Only now, after 15 years of blocking applications, has the JWC even begun to approve any Palestinian projects – including a wastewater treatment plant on the Palestinian side of Alexander River. “We would love to build these facilities and the JWC is a huge obstacle for us,” Attili told the Post.

As far as bureaucracy goes, however, Erdan argued that Israeli applicants, too, must deal with the same arduous processes of acquiring permits.

“Shaddad should tell me if the IDF stopped him from doing this and that and I can call the general in charge and demand answers,” Erdan said. “But that doesn’t happen because they boycott us.”

Although each party had differences as to what the basis of future cooperation should be, both agreed that continuing to speak was essential. Confident that a solution would eventually prevail, Attili lightheartedly promised to build desalination plants that would compete with their Israeli counterparts. “We will be your neighbor and you will be our neighbor and we will live in prosperity,” he said.


2) Source: friends of the earth middle east BLOG | December 13, 2011

A heated discussion took place on Israeli Palestinian water issues today (Tuesday, December 13) at the Ashdod Sustainability Conference between the Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection, Gilad Erdan, and the Palestinian Minister of Water, Dr. Shaddad Attilli. This was the first time the Ministers met in Israel publicly to discuss issues in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, such as water allocation, responsibility for pollution of shared streams, and more.

The discussion took place as part of the panel “Cross-Border Waters and Regional Sustainability” with the participation of Ministers Gilad Erdan and Shaddad Attilli, and moderated by Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, who invited the Palestinian Minister to the conference. The discussion focused on the five principles of sustainable management of cross-border waters, in the context of a Draft “Model Water Agreement between Israelis and Palestinians” published by Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Minister Erdan said that: “There is need for cooperation and joint work on environmental issues. When our water sources are contaminated, your water resources are contaminated, and vice versa. I believe that the issue of water needs to stay out of the conflict; water can, and should, be the basis for cooperation. Focusing on water rights is focusing on the conflict. Focusing on water should be around solutions.”

Palestinian Water Minister, Dr. Shaddad Attilli: “It is clear to everyone that water is an issue that hovers above politics….  We just want an equitable amount of the shared waters, not all the waters of the Israelis.”

Dr. Attilli focused his criticism of the poor functioning of the Joint Water Committee (JWC): “Israeli policy prevents us from dealing with sewage problems and water pollution. Even when the Joint Water Committee approves a project, then the bureaucracy of the Civil Administration detains us for many years. We must change the structure an operation of the committee so that we Palestinians get an equitable share of water.”

In response, Minister Erdan called on the Palestinians to engage in a daily dialogue with him in order to reach specific solutions to problems that arise in the field: “If we want to overcome the problems, we have to meet. If Minister Attili tells me what the problems are, we can help solve them.”

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, and moderator of the panel concluded: “What is clear to all sides is that the Joint Water Committee has failed both peoples.” Bromberg announced the panel a great success, bringing with it a good omen: “The Ministers have agreed for the first time that the Joint Water Committee is not working for the good of both peoples, and agreed – each in his own way – to promote a change of the committee’s structure / operation.”

For more information: Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, Friends of the Earth Middle East