This article was first published by The Jerusalem Post on August 28th 2011 http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=235772
On June 15th 2011 the Jerusalem Post published an article about the Palestinian water crisis, written by the head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr Shaddad Atilli.
In his article Atilli wrote that Israel’s ‘discriminatory policies’ are to blame for the lack of water in the Palestinian society. He claimed that Israel used the Joint Israeli Palestinian Water Committee (JWC) to veto and to delay Palestinian water projects. He also wrote that Israel illegally exploits 90% of the shared water sources, allocating only 10% for Palestinian use.
Furthermore, he claimed that because of the Israeli policies such as theft of water and the destruction of water wells and treatment plants, people realized that the two state solution was rapidly fading.
His libelous article, that was full of distortions, outright lies and false accusations, was yet another proof of the intransigence of the Palestian Authority.
Recently our organization Missing Peace obtained authentic official papers documenting meetings of the Joint Israeli Palestinian Water Committee (JWC) and correspondence between Colonel Avi Shalev, head of the International relations branch of COGAT, and Dr.Atilli.
Those documents give an entirely different picture about the root cause of the Palestinian water crisis.
Contrary to Atilli’s outrageous accusations, it has been the Palestinian Authority that has been sabotaging the two state solution by preventing the development of an independent water infrastructure for the future Palestinian state.
Let’s examine some of the claims in Atilli’s article and compare them with the picture that emerges from the JWC and COGAT documents.
‘Israel delayed and vetoed Palestinian water projects’, says Atilli.
First of all, article 40 (14) in the Oslo accords clearly states that all JWC decisions about water projects in the West Bank need mutual agreement.
Once approved, JWC projects for the territories under Palestinian control (Area A and B) do not need any further Israeli involvement.
Projects in Area C, where Israel is in control need approval from the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA).
Since 2000 the PWA submitted 76 requests for permits to the office of the Civil Administration. Subsequently 73 permits were issued by ICA and 3 denied because there was no master plan.
In a letter of June 8th 2009 Shalev responded to Atilli’s complaint that ICA did not honor a PWA request to issue 12 of these permits. Shalev wrote that these permits were already issued in 2001 and that ICA wondered why the PWA did not execute these projects.
Another 44 JWC approved projects, the majority in Area A and B, like the construction of a waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in Jenin that received approval in 2008- have not been implemented. The German government even withdraw a plan to build a WWTP in Tulkarm when it came to the conclusion that the PWA could not handle the project.
When back in November 2009, the PWA complained about a lack of funds, the Israeli government officially offered to finance water projects for Palestinian communities. The PA has yet to respond to this offer.
‘Israel allocates only 10 % of the shared water sources to the Palestinians’ claims Atilli.
The water quota for the West Bank were mutually agreed upon in the Oslo accords. As a result 33% of the water in the aquifers under the West Bank is allocated to the Palestinians.
In 1993 the Palestinians could pump up 117 million m3 and Israel would provide an additional 31 million m3. In 2007 200 million m3 water was allocated to the PA of which Israel provided
51,8 million m3.
However of those 200 million m3, only 180 million was actually used.
The main reason for this, is that the PWA did not implement projects in the Eastern aquifer that would have solved much of the Palestinian water crisis. More than half of the wells approved for exploitation of the Eastern aquifer have not been drilled until now. The permits to drill these wells were issued in 2000.
In a letter written on April 4th 2001 the civil administration urged the PWA to execute these projects. A letter from June 8th 2009 repeated that request.
Atilli also lied about the Palestinian water consumption. In the JPost article he claimed that Palestinians are ‘limited to an average of just 60 liters. However, in 2009 his own PWA published a report that mentioned an average supply of 110 liter per capita per day.
Atilli’s level of chutzpah is best shown by his third claim about Israel stealing water and destroying Palestinian water projects.
In fact Palestinians steal millions m3 of water per year by drilling illegal holes in the water pipes of the Israeli water provider Mekorot.
The Civil Authority fixes 600 of these illegal taps each year.
Furthermore, since 2008 Israel has asked the PA to re-establish the joint JSET water patrols that fought water theft before the El Aksa intifada. The PA refused.
Another reason for the loss of water is the poor maintenance of the Palestinian water infrastructure.
A staggering 33% of the fresh water supply gets lost because of leaks, theft and poor maintenance.
Other documents provided solid evidence that the closing of 250 illegal wells was agreed upon in the JWC meetings.
For example, minutes of the JWC meeting on November 13th 2007 show a consensus decision to destroy ‘illegal drillings and connections’.
Nevertheless Atilli acted as if he never attended these meetings and had never co-signed the joint decisions to close illegally drilled wells.
He even had the gall to write urgent appeals to the international community as soon as ICA, after numerous appeals to the PWA to follow up on the agreed closure of illegal wells, finally took action and closed those wells.
These are only few examples of the overwhelming and shocking evidence of the way the Palestinian Authority neglected the basic needs of its citizens and cynically used water as a weapon in a PR campaign against Israel.
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By Missing Peace