Gidon Bromberg, FoEME’s Israeli Director, responds to recent comments by Israeli officials regarding water in the West Bank:

Comments made recently by Israeli Minister of Infrastructure, Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu), that water supplies to Palestinians will be cut off if they do not treat their sewage, deserve condemnation.

First, the Minister ignores the fact that Palestinians have a right to a fair share of water resources in the region, a human right that should never be subject to someone else’s censorship.

Second, he seems to suggest that Israel is generous in supplying water to Palestinians – ignoring the fact that Israel shares her natural water resources with her neighbors. In the case of the Mountain Aquifer, Israel takes 80% of the water leaving only 20% to the Palestinians and in the case of the River Jordan, since 1967, preventing all Palestinian access to the river’s waters.

Third, the Minister ignores the fact that in Israel and in the occupied territories there hundreds of settlements and army bases, which have no sewage treatments facilities, contaminating shared water. Also, the Minister ignores the fact that the largest single source of sewage flowing in the West Bank is from the city of Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods, under full Israeli government jurisdiction.

The Israeli Minister is unfortunately not alone in issuing populist statements that only do damage. Palestinian Authority officials have also used the water crises for short term political gain.

There is an urgent need not to hold water, a life source issue, hostage to the conflict. While water issues are very much political, the fact that most of our natural water resources are shared with our neighbors necessitates that we maximize cooperative efforts over water, if nothing else, out of self interest. The demise of the Dead Sea, the lower River Jordan and increasingly the Mountain Aquifer are harsh examples of lack of cooperation.

If Minister Landau is truly concerned about reducing quantities of Palestinian sewage seeping into the Mountain Aquifer, which he should be, than more fairly allocating the shared waters of the Mountain Aquifer with the Palestinians, would be the more effective action to take to increase the Palestinian incentive to prioritize the issue.